Reputation Management: Handling negative comments

Dealing-With-Negative-Comments-300No one likes getting them but, believe it or not, negative comments are often disguised as a golden opportunity! We all work hard to build and protect our online reputation. We follow the advice of the experts, we do our homework and try to follow our guts. Sadly, we cannot always control the internet when our businesses come under fire.

So what went wrong? Did you offend someone? Was it bad service? Was it a member of your staff that was rude? Did an order not show up on time – or not show up at all? There are so many variables that can lead to someone leaving a negative comment about your company. No matter what the issue, it’s important to help the customer immediately so you can repair any damage your business has had online.  

The feedback online businesses receive normally falls into four categories: a business error, a misunderstanding, a negative comment or spam. Once you identify the kind of complaint it is, it will be easier to come up with a positive solution that will address it. 

It’s time for damage control. 

It’s best to repair the damage yourself 

Sometimes you have to go that extra mile to keep your audience and customers happy. It is possible to turn a negative into a positive. To build trust, it’s important to speak openly, honestly and directly to your public. Use your own words, be fair, honest and be yourself. Remember, there is a human being on the other side of your computer that wants to be taken seriously just as much as you do. 

Address the comment sooner than later

It’s important to act immediately to help repair it. Most of the time it’s a misunderstanding, a mistake, or a missed communication. Take some time to assess the issue so that you can address the negative comment the best way you can. Start with an apology and go from there. 

Put your defenses down

When faced with a negative comment, it is a good idea to take some time to read it over and inspect the whole situation. If we jump too soon, we run the chance of being defensive. Walk away from the computer for 30 minutes so you can think it over and calm down. Negative feedback is always jarring and upsetting at first. When we step away, this gives us a chance to settle it in our minds. From here, you can see that it is not a reflection on you personally or on your business. 

When we break it down, it’s a comment that needs to be addressed and that is part of doing business. A defensive reaction from you can quickly escalate the issue which in the end, is very bad for business. Start by being accommodating, be polite and truly listen to the person complaining. Little by little, you can get to the bottom of the situation and so you can begin to make amends.

Own up to the mistake

If your business made a mistake, admit it. This happens so the best way to get past it, is to deal with mistakes head on. It’s a bad practice to delete or ignore a comment. Recognize the complaint, apologize publicly and then take the conversation off the social media page to resolve the issue. You have to start somewhere, so start up a conversation.

Offer to help 

When it comes to handling complaints, we often have to set aside a lot of time and patience to get to a positive outcome. That work is worth it because word of mouth still exists. The way you handle negative comments can make or break a possible review of your business. What happens if the person isn’t satisfied with your explanation? Try offering a business service or a discount to calm the situation and, hopefully, convert the complainer to a satisfied customer. Go the extra mile. 

Ask questions

Asking for an explanation and additional information is a great way to open up dialog. It’s best to do this in an email away from Twitter or Facebook. Ask them for their honest opinion about why they feel upset and what went wrong. You can also ask the customer what would be a positive resolution—again, it comes down to basic customer service. If the customer isn’t satisfied with any proposed resolutions, apologize once again and offer a refund, a coupon, a discount or any other service that may help the situation.

Read the information carefully 

Sometimes we cannot always speak directly to our audience so we need to read carefully what we are being sent online. It’s easy to misunderstand the tone of a comment or email. A good rule of thumb is to read it over 3 to 4 times to make sure you have a full grasp of the situation. If not, ask what them to clarify the issue. Take the time to get the right information if needed. 

Avoid hiring someone to help your reputation. People can see right through that

We live in an age of fake Facebook pages, fake twitter accounts, and fake online lives. If someone leaves a complaint, step up and own the situation. Being real online has a certain way of being evident when we write online. If it’s not your voice and does not sound genuine, your audience will know. Always take the high road and communicate with your audience directly. They will thank you for it in the long run. 

Don’t forget to deal with spam too

If it’s a random comment that has nothing to do with you or your business, then ignore it. If it’s an attempt by someone associated with a competitor to damage your business’s reputation then address it. If this happens, treat it as a legitimate complaint, apologize for the perceived mistake and take the conversation offline to address the issue. 

Negative comments are a challenge and an opportunity to flex your problem-solving skills. We cannot always please everyone, but when we take the time to let others know we care and we want to listen, that in itself can leave a lasting impression. It’s a great way to show what matters and that you want to be involved with your public. Staying connected online is more than just posting information, it’s also a chance to grow your business reputation and to grow your skills too.