Social Media is imperative for any business hoping to survive in today's digital age but as highlighted in last week's article, "Your online reputation can determine the success or failure of your business and a single negative review or experience can severely damage your reputation."
It's impossible to please everyone and it's quite probable that at some point over the course of your business you will receive at least one negative social media comment or review.
Our aim with this article is to teach you how to deal with these comments in the best way.
Create a Comment Policy
Before waiting for a negative comment or feedback to appear, it's a good idea to have a plan in place to help you deal with them, before anything actually happens.
This should include a comment policy. This only has to be a short statement that you include on your website/blog and social media profiles stating that certain language and threatening behaviour is not tolerated and will cause offending users to be blocked.
Initially, this is a good start to help prevent any bad language being used on your social media sites and blog comments that will offend you and your other visitors.
You Can't Respond If You Don't Know
Regardless of negative comments, you should always have a hand on your social media sites and blog to be aware of any new activity and comments.
Customers who leave negative comments are likely to continue with their 'business bashing' if you never respond to them, which will only damage your online reputation further.
It's also best to consider that people might be circulating negative feedback about your business elsewhere on the web. You can monitor this using a service like Google Alerts, which we'll explore with you in greater detail next week.
Plan Your Response
Dealing with negative feedback can be unpleasant, after all, you love your business, you work hard at it every day and you want everyone to be happy with it and that's completely understandable but because of this, it's really easy to retaliate with a harsh or defensive response.
Whilst you may feel justified in doing this, it's not the best way to represent your brand and so we'd recommend that you take a step back and consider a few things before doing anything.
It is generally a good idea to leave a holding message with the unhappy customer so that they are aware that you've seen their message and that you're not ignoring them. Something quick like, "Thank you for your comment. We/I will review this and get back to you as soon as possible." will suffice.
Once enough time has passed for you to calm down and rationally assess the comment it's now time to write your response.
It's best not to do this directly within the social media platform but instead draft it elsewhere so that you can review and edit it as necessary without accidentally sending it.
Take It Offline
If the customer is willing to cooperate, it's usually best to take these conversations offline and out of the public eye.
Ask the customer to private message or email you to discuss the matter further, as it will allow you to try and resolve things without the influence of comments from other customers or offer to call them to sort it out first hand.
TIP: Just being listened to is often all it takes to calm an angry customer down.
Create a Positive Spin and Say Sorry (If It's Your Fault!)
The best way to resolve negative comments is to try turning the customer's negative experience into a good one. This can involve a great many things including; how quickly and how you respond to their original comment, if you can understand their point of view and if you apologise if the issue was in fact your fault.
When you talk to your customer, see if you can resolve their problem for them quickly or perhaps you could offer them a refund or discount as a tangible apology for the situation.
This method has in the past led customers to leave a more positive comment in the light of helpful customer service in that their issue has been resolved, that they have received a refund/replacement of their product/service or they've been offered a discount for any inconvenience caused.
The last one is a double bonus as it also encourages customers to come back and use your business again in future, giving you a second chance to improve their perception of your business.
Don't Play Their Game
Unfortunately, some people are simply out there to cause trouble and replying or attempting to work with them will only encourage more negative comments to follow.
In cases like this, whilst you can't ignore them entirely, it's best to issue one clean statement explaining that their claims are incorrect, provide the facts to support this and simply state that because of this there is nothing more that you can do.
At the very least, this will explain to your other valued customers that you do respond to negative comments and help where you can but as this particular comment is inaccurate, there is nothing more to be done. After which, you're free to ignore the customer and as a further measure you're entitled to block them if they become abusive.
Following the advice above will allow you to keep a cool head whilst turning a negative comment into a more positive customer experience to further protect the online reputation of your business.
Next week we'll be exploring the ways that you can use Google Alerts and HootSuite to monitor your online reputation.
If you have any feedback or questions for us please feel free to comment below.