You may find that certain customers or contacts really champion your company, whether on your Twitter feed, your Facebook page or via your business blog. But what happens when you get negative comments and you find yourself the target of criticism or even bullying?
Well first of all, don’t panic. It happens to every company at some time or another. Mistakes happen and we can’t please everyone all of the time, there’s always going to be someone who doesn’t share your point of view. Huge corporations regularly suffer their fair share of flak and there always seems to be some social media story about how a complaint has been handled poorly. This recent one about KFC in America shows how things can be turned around.
Whether your company is large or small, it is imperative that negative comments are dealt with in the right way, so here are some hints to prepare you for criticism in case you experience it.
1. Don’t respond in anger
It may be tempting to produce a quick-fire response that puts the commenter in his or her place, but this will not endear you to the original commenter or to other readers. Wait until your blood pressure has returned to normal before crafting a response. If necessary, post a polite holding response assuring the complainant that their comment has been seen, noted and is being dealt with.
2. Avoid ‘aggressive’ symbols
While you may not mean them in an offensive way, the use of caps lock and exclamation marks can get people’s backs up and may make them feel as though you are shouting at them.
3. Stick to the facts
Depending on the situation you may well feel like tearing the person limb from limb, but don’t be tempted to embellish or twist the truth in an attempt to paint your company in a better light or to make the person look stupid. If he or she is in the wrong, the bare facts should easily expose this and remember, don’t get into a public slanging match; take the conversation off line if necessary.
4. Apologise where necessary
If the person has a genuine grievance, it may be appropriate to apologise and explain that their experience was not the norm. Make amends by offering a discount or voucher, or simply invite them to sample your product/service again and report back. However the apology is made, make sure that any mistake is rectified and take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
5. Be prepared to agree to disagree
You’re not going to agree with every customer or reader, and if you can ‘walk away’ with your dignity you will maintain the higher ground.
Negative comments may seem like your worst nightmare, but it is possible to turn a negative into a positive by responding in a constructive way. Everyone is looking to convey a perfect image to their customer base, but this isn’t attainable. You will make mistakes and some will complain even when you don’t.
The key is to be gracious and hope that your negative commenter changes his or her mind. Whether this happens or not, responding in a positive way will speak volumes to your loyal customers and may even win you new ones.
If you make sure you have policy that details how such things are handled by everyone in your team or office, then you’ll ensure a consistent approach and be well prepared.
Have you had to deal with negative comments or criticism online? How did you deal with it and is there something you definitely wouldn’t do again?