Social media has become one of the world’s most powerful marketing and communications tools. In its most positive incarnation, it gives businesses the ability to authentically connect with their audiences, gain new followers, and increase their revenue. For customers, it gives them a golden opportunity to share their thoughts and experiences with a business or their services.
While this two-way communication empowers both businesses and customers, things can go awry. Every business—no matter how large or small—has had to deal with negative feedback from a customer at one point or another. Before the days of social media, this was usually done via phone call or email (i.e. in private) but today, negative comments left on social media or review sites are there for the world to see.
Sooner or later, a negative comment is bound to happen. When they do, you need to know how to handle them in a way that will reflect positively on your brand and reputation.
Read on to find out X ways you can deal with negative comments in a way that not only diffuses the situation at hand, but creates a positive impression for anyone who may be reading.
Firstly, Cool Off
Dealing with a negative comment can be highly emotional, upsetting, and embarrassing. It’s natural for a business owner to want to get defensive, especially if the review leaves out important context or information.
Before you even think about responding, take some time to shake off the emotional energy. Go for a walk. Make a cup of tea. Do whatever you need to do to make sure you’re able to approach the situation calmly.
Ready? Let’s go.
Always Respond, Even if You Don’t Want to
If you’ve ever received negative feedback and wanted to stick your head in the sand and pretend it never happened, you aren’t alone. Although it can be challenging to respond to negative feedback, staying quiet simply isn’t an option.
Ignoring negative comments creates the impression that your brand simply doesn’t care. Not only will this make an irate customer even more upset, it also creates a negative impression for anyone who stumbles upon the review in future.
Responding to a negative comment shows your customers that you genuinely care about their experience, and are willing to listen to feedback to improve your products or services. Most comments will simply require an apology and accepting responsibility for the issue, but a potentially damaging comment will require a thought-out and well-crafted response to protect your brand’s reputation.
Take it Offline
This is a classic tactic in the community management handbook. Not only does it give you the opportunity to talk to the customer directly, it also means you’re able to mitigate the risk of having a back-and-forth with an annoyed customer on a public platform.
Taking the conversation offline is as simple as providing the customer with an email address or phone number to reach you on, or sending them a private message requesting their details for a call back. In some industries—for example, insurance or finance—you will need to take the conversation offline because sensitive issues often can’t be solved on public platforms without the complainant divulging information that compromises the security of their accounts.
If you take the conversation offline, make sure that you’re contactable on the phone number or email address provided. Staying on hold for half an hour or waiting a week for an email response can upset an irritated customer even further, sending them right back to social media to expand on their initial negative comment.
Be Professional, No Matter What
We get it. It can be tempting to lash out, especially if the negative comment on social media leaves out information or important context. For example, a customer might publicly blame you for a late delivery—while you know very well that your team attempted to make contact with them multiple times to confirm the delivery date.
Remember, everything you say on social media can be used against you. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t defend yourself or your business, but make sure you do it in a way that is respectful, honest, and doesn’t damage your business’s reputation.
Using the example above of a customer who blames your business for a late delivery, you might want to try a response similar to, “We’re sorry to hear about your negative experience. Our team did try to contact you to arrange a delivery date, but unfortunately we couldn’t get hold of you. Please DM us your updated contact information so we can get in touch and get your delivery to you as soon as possible!”
Be Positive, But Don’t Make Light of the Situation
When responding to negative comments, it’s crucial to use positive language—this means focusing on finding a resolution, while avoiding dwelling on the negative. For example, rather than saying, “We’re sorry for our employee’s rude behaviour,” you could say, “Thank you for bringing this to our attention, we’ll be looking into further training to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
While you want to set a positive tone for the conversation and show that you’re committed to reaching a resolution, you don’t want to come across as flippant. Even if your brand voice is usually upbeat and positive, don’t use slang, emojis, hashtags, or memes in your responses to negative comments.
Don’t Be Afraid to Say Sorry
Customers who take to social media to voice their complaints are often doing so because they feel ignored by the business they’re dealing with. Sometimes, the quickest way to diffuse the situation is to simply apologise.
Of course, you don’t need to apologise for something that isn’t your fault. It’s natural to not want to take the blame for something out of your control, but there are still ways to frame an apology without taking responsibility for the situation. Some examples include:
- Thank you for bringing this to our attention
- We’re sorry you feel this way
- This isn’t the kind of experience we want to leave our customers with
- We’re committed to streamlining this in future
Don’t Try Hide Negative Comments
Hiding or deleting negative comments may seem like a simple solution to avoid dealing with them, but it can often make things worse.
The customer who left the comment may notice that it has disappeared, and they could take to other platforms to voice their grievances. While you can delete a negative Facebook review, you won’t be able to delete a negative Google Review—and it will make your business look deceitful if the customer mentions you’re deleting reviews on other platforms.
If a review is abusive or spam, it’s okay to delete it, but use your discretion when differentiating these from valid negative reviews that deserve a response and a resolution.
While no one likes getting a negative review, in the long run they can be beneficial for your business. If you find you’re getting an influx of negative reviews centred around one aspect of your business, it can be a sign that you need to improve your products or services.
As a business owner, growing and continuously improving are part of the game. Unfortunately, sometimes negative views are a crucial part of your business’s growth.
Next time you get a negative review on social media, take a deep breath and refer back to this blog. Every negative review is another opportunity to leave a good impression, so use it to your full advantage!