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"I Can't Believe They Said That!" 7 Steps to Responding to Negative Comments

Written by Guest Blogger Written by Guest Blogger Katie Woods July 8, 2014

Fear of negative comments or reviews often gives our clients cause to pause when considering whether or not to start a blog or participate in social media. Here’s the thing: If people are extremely pleased or displeased with your product or service, it is likely that there is already internet chatter brewing… You just aren’t aware of it.

Don’t leave your brand to fend for itself. The fact is, if you leave a negative comment or review unaddressed, readers will assume it is true. But by joining the conversation, you can combat negativity and establish a brand personality that will leave a lasting impression. Below are a few tried-and-true steps to respond to negative comments that will apply to most scenarios.

1 - Be Prepared

Have a plan for addressing negative comments in place before you receive one. Don’t wait for a negative blog comment or Google+ review to appear to think through how to best react. Depending on the nature or size of your business, these plans could range from general guidelines to extremely detailed response scenarios. If you have past experience dealing with a negative comment, use it as a case study for how you would like to address any future issues. If not, dedicate a staff meeting to brainstorm points of vulnerability or worst case scenarios, using that discussion to frame a standard response protocol.

Bonus Tip: Add a comment policy for your blog to lay ground rules and let commenters know the approval time and process for comments. For an example of this, check out our policy at the bottom of this page.

2 - Respond

Many companies are afraid that they will agitate the situation, making it worse rather than better. The fact is, you need to respond quickly and calmly. An online poll by Harris Interactive shows that of customers who posted a negative comment:

  • 68% got a response
  • 34% deleted the negative review
  • 33% posted a new, positive review
  • 18% became loyal customers

From antagonist to advocate – responding makes the difference!

Bonus tip: If a negative comment is getting lots of additional comments, your response could get lost in the fray. If appropriate, post your response to the comment as a reply AND as a new status or post so visitors to your page are sure to see it.

3 - Thank Them

“What? But they said…” I know. And yes, thank them. Remember the #SageAdvice of Bill Gates, "Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning." While the old adage “The customer is always right” may not always ring true, this shocking stat from Lee Resources International, Inc. proved for every customer complaint there are 26 other unhappy customers who have remained silent. So, thank them for bringing the issue to light and remember this is a great opportunity to correct other mishaps you may not even be aware of. You can take this opportunity to politely and respectfully correct any misinformation on the part of the commenter, because truthfully, the customer isn’t always right but they are always important.

4 - Be Personable

If company policy allows, include your name and role in the company with your response. This small act can have a humanizing effect and reminds commenters that every business is made of people. Also keep in mind that the commenter is a person, too. Recognize and apologize for any inconvenience caused – and mean it. Be genuine. Even if the commenter doesn’t show appreciation, other readers will recognize your efforts, and often come to your defense!

5 - Make Up

I know your silent prayer is for the unhappy customer to just go away and the comment disappear, but in reality a lot of people – customers and potential customers – are looking to see how you respond. Be sure to address each and every comment or question in your response, then encourage further discussions offline. Provide a way to connect with you or someone with authority who has been briefed on the situation so that a resolution can be reached. On that note, it never hurts to be extra prepared – consider having predetermined solutions (gift cards, reimbursements, etc.) and be open to customer-suggested alternatives by empowering employees to make decisions when situations like these arise.

6 - Stay Cool

Hopefully this goes without saying for our sage readers, but there are some company “No they didn’t!” examples out there. So remember to take a breath, be polite, and stay away from overly defensive language. And never, NEVER attack back. The company always looks worse for doing so. In case you need proof:

nestleimage

Not cool, Nestle.

7 - Stay Engaged

As we discussed earlier, often the commenter will return with a positive review after you address his or her negative comment. If this happens, be sure to follow up on the new comment or review by again thanking them and encourage them to always stay in touch. Other readers will see the efforts you are making and will award mental brownie points that will hopefully convert to future purchases.

We Can Help

Still anxious about starting a blog or participating in social media? Red Sage offers coaching for social media and blogging best practices, responding to negative comments, and can lead your company in developing online guidelines for your business, marketing team, and employees.

 

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