Social media has become a forum for debate and discussion, laying the groundwork for any kind of comments to be written. If you own a business or author a blog, realize that people will always talk about you. You need to come to terms with the fact that for as many positive comments written there are probably just as many, if not more, negative ones, The Internet makes it easy for people to make fake profiles in a matter of seconds, encouraging them to lose all inhibition and good manners just as fast.
As much as you may want to hide your head in the sand when you get a negative comment or erase all evidence that it happened, you have to ignore your bruised ego and tackle the naysayers. Unlike dealing with bullies in the school yard, the worst thing you could do is ignore the comments. Your best strategy? Tackle the complaints head on, and kill your opponents with kindness.
There are different strains of complaints, as well as various ways to deal with them. Here’s a list that can help you identify what you might have to face:
Someone has an issue with your product or service and has been explicit in what went wrong. They’re not necessarily negative in their delivery but their feedback still shines a bad light on your business. The upside is that these comments can help expose real problems that need to be dealt with. These are often the easiest sort of negative mentions to deal with, as they’re not opinionated complaints but logistical ones.
These can be the best kinds of feedback, whether they’re negative or positive. Any negativity is usually offset with some type of suggestion or solution. These are always worth taking into deep consideration. These comments have the potential to make your business even better than before, as the commenter could have suggested something that you had never considered previously. No business is 100% perfect and can always use improvement.
Whether the attack may or may not be merited, these are strains of negative feedback that do occur and need to be handled with care. A customer is clearly upset with you and/or your product and they’re making a lot of noise to make sure that you and your prospective customers hear what they have to say. Often they don’t have any suggestions that could help you or their overall experience. If these types of comments are broadcast in a public forum such as a review site, don’t be afraid of how often they’ll be read – anyone who’s looking for a true review of a business will see right through their idiocy.
Most of the time, trolls aren’t as cute as this.
Spammers use negative comments in order to promote a competing service. It’s similar to trolling, except there’s less of a personal aspect to it. These comments are probably the most ignorable, and no one would fault you for deleting them.
Have you identified the type of complaint that you’re facing? Good. Are your feelings hurt? Most likely, but to obtain any progress you have to get over yourself and rise above the negativity. Make lemonade out of those lemons. Let this be an opportunity to show how professional you can be in handling these comments.
First and foremost, the problem needs to be dealt with promptly. Letting the comment remain unattended will only fuel the negative feelings that the commenter already had towards you and might influence other potential customers’ opinions as well. Unless the comment is clearly spam, you need to take action. Here are some strategies to consider:
1) Be human and honest in your reply
If you don’t immediately know the answer to a question, do not make something up. Acknowledge the commenter and let them know that you’re looking into their inquiry and will be in touch soon. You could even use a little self-deprecation and humour.
2) Be apologetic
When responding to the complaint, integrate “I’m sorry” and “thank you.” Admitting you were wrong isn’t a sign of weakness and can only help you grow if you take ownership of your mistakes and express the desire to improve.
3) Use social media
Using social media is a great way to publicly apologize or address an issue to show your followers that you’re not ashamed of the situation and hope that other people who might have a similar complaint see your response and perhaps prevent a vicious circle.
4) Deflect to a more positive discussion
How can you help your customers to the best of your abilities? Focus on moving forward and making desired changes.
5) Follow through
This may seem obvious, but if you say you’ll do something to improve the commenter’s experience, act on it. Talk is cheap and all the apologies in the world won’t make up for a lack of follow-through on your part.
6) Get personal
Although publicly addressing issues is helpful, when a problem persists with one particular commenter, contact them privately. This adds a personal element and dissuades them from potentially launching a personal attack on you.
7) Don’t impersonate your staff and speak on their behalf, if applicable
These sorts of posts have a certain contrived tone about them, making this action incredibly transparent and dishonest. This just digs a deeper hole for yourself as it shows that you don’t trust you own staff enough to not spread negative comments on forums. You are not perfect, nor does anyone expect you to be, so take responsibility for your uncharacteristically indecent behaviour. You may still get some flack for awhile, but in time people will recognize your self awareness and eagerness to remedy the situation in an honest fashion and will eventually move on.
The key to succeeding in all of this is in your ability to deal with negative confrontation. If dealt with properly, you have the potential to show your audience how helpful and diplomatic you are and the powerful opportunity to change the opinion of a negative commentator into a positive one.