In a digital world where everything is shared and spread online via every portal and social media site in existence, reviews and feedback are floating around everywhere, at every minute, at almost every location. Some of these are constructive, cheerful and positive, and an effective organisation views these as a fantastic form of free publicity.
However, not everyone is nice online. Every single person and organisation has a hater out there, no matter what he, she or they do. It’s quite a harsh world, especially in the digital sphere where most of the time, the people leaving comments don’t even have to identify themselves, thus removing the risk and fear of repercussion when posting. And with social media now a staple in society, more emotionally charged customers are taking to these platforms to let companies know exactly what they think, whether it’s justified or not.
Regardless of our opinions about negative feedback and reviews, especially within the business world, they are there none-the-less, and learning to deal with them in the optimal way is an ideal approach to ensure that the feedback is acted upon in a professional way to ensure they are not derailing your organisation by spreading the wrong message to your potential customers. After all, people trust another person’s review on a product or website far more than they do any other form of marketing.
So here are a few tips:
1. If a website or social media portal allows you to take a negative comment down, do it.
While some may disagree, often it’s best to delete the comment, and address the person privately. This way, you avoid a horrible comment right in the middle of a page where your business is expecting a high amount of traffic, and you can assess the legitimacy of the comment. After all, you don’t want potential customers dwelling on it, especially if it’s not fair.
2. Respond to every complaint and negative feedback
Regardless of if you delete the comment, choose to keep the complaint public on a website or social media platform, or you have no way of removing it, it must be responded to. Most of these sites allow for a right of reply, so spend time crafting a personal, positive response to address the issue and tackle it head on. It’s very important that regardless of how nasty the post is, that you do not meet fire with fire- remain professional and show other customers that you are addressing whatever the concern of the poster is. Usually, you’ll find that the writer was just venting and has calmed down by the time you reply (and may even apologise or remove the comment themselves), or are happy just to be noticed and respected. It may even be the right opportunity to thank them for the feedback, should it make you aware of a weakness in your organisation.
3. Keep your eye on other external websites
There are many external websites, like Trip Advisor, True Local, Rate My Agent and Yelp that are literally portals facilitating all reviews by the public. Even though a business usually cannot directly impact or run their own page on those sites (or have limited control), it’s best to keep an eye out for negative comments so you are addressing concerns from these customers out in the market, beyond your own websites. Then, as in step two, if there is a right of reply (which there usually is), craft a response and deal with the issue.
4. Don’t take comments personally
In a business world, things must remain professional, even if the person leaving feedback is making their comment a personal attack. Often, you will not know the real reason behind their comment and so, again, address the post positively and open up a dialogue so that you can be seen to be correcting the problem and at the same time, taking it on board. Offer your customer a public apology for their negative experience, or you may even believe that compensation may be justified in certain cases. It’s best to use your own careful judgement- don’t admit to fault unless you really are at fault!
6. Not all negativity is bad
If you are continually receiving the same complaint, or some of the feedback really is ringing true, perhaps it’s time to review that part of your business to work out why. Sometimes the negative feedback isn’t just people being petty- there may be a legitimate concern that you should be addressing in the way you do business. Keep tabs on the legitimate cases and perhaps seek to improve or act upon the feedback to stem the tide and bring things back to a positive for your customers.
Dealing with online negativity and customer complaints is never a simply task, however instead of viewing them all as an intimidating and daunting inevitability, instead, try seeing it as an opportunity for improvement. Acting in a calm and professional way will see your organisation shine, no matter the type of review you’re receiving, and let’s hope that the positive ones continue to outweigh the negatives!