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Responding to Negative Online Comments

As much as we want to receive all-positive comments, feedback and reviews, people are more likely to share negative experiences than positive ones, and they often use our online platforms to do so.

Whether they’re from people your organization serves or someone just wanting to cause trouble, negative online comments can be harmful to your organization’s image. A bad service experience reaches twice as many ears as a good experience does and it takes 12 positive experiences to make up for that one bad experience.

While you can do everything in your power to offer superb service, it’s hard to please everyone. When someone your organization serves has a negative experience, it is extremely important to treat that person in a positive, caring way to maintain a good relationship. Additionally, when dealing with a negative comment online – something that anyone can view – it is important to show your network that you are willing to do what it takes to solve the problem. Here are a few tips for doing that:

Act quickly. Did you know 42% of your customers expect you to address their negative comment within just 60 minutes? While this is a pretty tight timeframe, the longer you wait to respond, the angrier your customer might become. Even if you are unable to provide a solution right at the moment, acknowledging the person’s concern and learning more about the situation can help prompt a smoother resolution and turn a negative experience into a positive one.

Step into their shoes. The first instinct when you see a negative comment is to go into defense mode. You may have thoughts such as, “it’s their fault” or “they are overreacting.” While in some cases it may truly be their fault or they may be overreacting, many times the issue may be a result of poor service or communication from your organization. Take a moment to see the other person’s side of the story. If this situation would have happened to you, how would you feel? Understanding where others are coming from can help lighten the situation and bring forward a better resolution.

Take the conversation offline. You already have a negative comment posted to your page for everyone to see, so don’t make it worse by giving your audience a front row seat to a back-and-forth conversation, which can sometimes get ugly. Believe it or not, customers will form opinions about your organization based on how you handle complaints from others, and if the situation goes downhill you might get a bad reputation. If a complaint is made to one of your public pages, let the person know you are addressing the situation and provide him or her with a direct phone number (not a customer service line) or email address to follow up.

Pro Tip: Never ask a commenter with negative feedback to fill out a complaint form – this will likely anger the person more. Complaint forms are insincere and don’t always solve the issue. Instead, confront the commenter directly and work with him or her to solve the issue.

Don’t be afraid to apologize. Just like we all learned in preschool, if it’s your fault, you need to apologize. Simply saying “we are sorry for the inconvenience” or “we sincerely apologize for your negative experience,” will show others that you recognize that your organization made a mistake and that you are sincerely sorry for the inconvenience it caused them. This may help calm the commenter down and, in some cases, could resolve the issue.

Keep your promises. While you may tell the commenter that you are going to solve their problem, it won’t be beneficial unless you actually do it. If you resolve the complaint, 70% of the time the customer will likely do business with you again. Retaining your network is important, so stick to your promises and follow through until the issue is completely resolved.

Ignore troublemakers. Sadly, some people may just be looking to cause trouble and will do so by attacking your online platforms. If you are sure a commenter doesn’t have a legitimate complaint, then sometimes the best thing to do is ignore the comment. Replying will only feed the fire and can cause a messy, unwanted situation.

Create a social media policy. Having specific procedures and guidelines for your social media channels can help you manage negative comments. In this policy, you should have guidelines set on how you should respond to negative comments (who will, what will they say, when will they respond), as well as guidelines on determining if you should delete comments (e.g. when they are offensive, inappropriate, use foul language or are spam). Additionally, it could be beneficial to designate a point-person to manage your social media accounts. This person can monitor each site so that comments don’t go unnoticed and can be the person to respond to comments when needed.

Welcome praise. Don’t be afraid to ask the people you serve to share their positive experiences on your online platforms. These positive comments can help negate the negative comments and can add credibility to your reputation.

SOURCES: GuideOneSalesforce | Adweek | Helpscout