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Social Media: Why You Should Respond to Negative Comments

You’ve worked hard to grow your business and your reputation, and someone has just started complaining about you via one of the many social media channels available.

Unhappy Customer likely to Post Negative Comments
If Fluffy is about to post a review, it's not going to be pretty.

Unfortunately, there are endless examples to draw from. In fact, they follow a formula, and you can fill in the blanks (like MadLibs… brings me back!):

(name) is on (website), and (he/she) is unhappy because (reason).

For example:

Joe is on Twitter, and he is unhappy with the flowers he ordered for his girlfriend’s birthday because they were late. He’s using those 140 characters to explain that the bouquet was note only late, but also dried out, and overall a major disappointment. And he’s naming names. In fact, soon he’ll be blaming all of his relationship problems on this one bad bouquet.

Problem is, you’re the florist. So…

What do you do? Should you respond?

Yes, respond! You want the opportunity to connect with this person. This is why you monitor social media sites and the internet in general, to manage your reputation and keep up with the latest buzz about your business and offerings. Hopefully you can right the situation, and if not, you can at least communicate your side of the story, and show that you have addressed concerns.

But doesn’t engaging look bad, like the person is right? Shouldn’t you just ignore it?

No! Not responding to a negative comment is worse than engaging in an honest conversation. Social media has drastically changed our landscape. Now, I’m not one for absolutes, so there may be exceptions to this, but I’m tempted to say you should always have a response. An exception would be if a court order tells you not to, or if you have a certain history that lets you know it’s not worth your time. But here’s the thing: A person who is ranting about something you or your business has done, whether or not that individual has any merits to those claims, can create buzz. Bad buzz. You don’t want that.

So what should you say? The truth.

Show what you’ve done right, and admit what you’ve done wrong. This sounds basic, but it’s a simple principle that isn’t frequently followed.  If you made a mistake, admit it. Apologize. Offer to remedy the problem. Sometimes people need a little rant, and a cool, calm answer makes them feel heard. An answer says you’re there, and you care. It shows other customers and potential customers that you’re engaged in the latest social media platforms, and that you care what they think. Even if the situation isn’t resolved, others will see your response and will make their own opinions.

What if it works?

You’ve just salvaged a relationship, and shown a community of people that you care about customer satisfaction. It’s an action, and if actions speak louder than words, you’ve taken a group of people who may have left with a bad view of your brand and instead created a group who recognizes your commitment, and hopefully does business with you.

What if the person is just crazy?

That’s trickier, of course. Most businesses have a method of dealing with problem customers, usually starting with various channels of customer service, where hopefully it is resolved before it ends up in the legal department. Unfortunately you can’t make everyone happy. It’s worth trying to resolve the situation, and if a customer remains unhappy, you can point them to your internal methods of resolving conflicts. If that doesn’t work, you can wish them well and send them on their way. Hopefully they will go quietly.  Consider referring them to a competitor. I’m serious. Tell him/her that you are sorry you cannot meet his/her needs, but that this other business might be able to, and if appropriate, facilitate the intro. Imagine how much happier you will be working with your other customers, or working on your business.

Did it! What’s next?

  • If you or your team made a mistake, is there anything you can learn from the situation? Was there a hole in your process, or something you could better track? Adapting to avoid future problems could really help improve customer experiences all around.
  • Try to anticipate problems before they arise, and address them before they explode.
  • Keep monitoring — if you saw a negative comment, it’s because you’re doing something right! Staying engaged and involved with your customers and potential customers online is key.
  • Share your good news — make sure there is positive (real) buzz about your company online, whether its recent news about new offerings, awards, or customer testimonials, having positive affirmation that you’re good at what you do helps outweigh any leftover bad sentiments floating around online.

Check back soon for a follow up post with additional real-world examples. What are your experiences handling less-than-pleasant comments?

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