How to handle online negative comments like a pro

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The Internet is full of wonderful things. It’s an entertaining place for cat videos and celebrity memes to roam free in harmony. It’s an educational source where we find out breaking news from around the world. The Internet even allows us to search for the answers to our silliest questions without judgment.

However, where there is good, there is evil. To counterbalance the greatness of the Internet and social media, there are people who leave nasty comments that (more often than not) spread like wildfire.

This is especially true for businesses.

When customers have an unhappy experience with a product or service, many of them furiously type away on their keyboards to notify others. It’s like a warning that’ll affect your business, but you don’t know it’s coming. Unfortunately, no business is perfect, so these comments are inevitable. To get ahead of the game, here are a few exclusive tips:

Take it personally (kind of).

When someone leaves a bad review about your business, it means that your product or service didn’t perform up to his or her standards. While it’s important to take accountability and think about how you can do better, don’t let one bad apple spoil the whole bunch.

Respond with integrity.

Seeing someone say something bad about your business can hurt, but don’t respond by lashing out. Take the high road, and respond with an apology. People pay closer attention to the reaction than the action. Think about it: Leaving bad reviews for a restaurant isn’t unheard of, but if a restaurant bans that customer or responds inappropriately, that’s what people will remember. If you respond with a cool head, you’ll earn a little respect from other online reviewers.

Make it personable.

Canned responses are frustrating for an unhappy consumer. When people are upset, they want to at least know that someone noticed. They want humanity and genuineness, so begin with a salutation and their name, followed by an apology. This can change a customer’s whole perspective on the way you handle your business.

Don’t wait.

This may be the biggest problem with answering negative comments. Typically out of fear, forgetfulness, or spite, people wait to respond – or worse, don’t respond at all. Like I mentioned before, unhappy customers want to know that someone noticed. The next step is they want a change. If you wait too long to give them either of those satisfactions, it’s only going to keep their blood boiling and their fingers typing.

Extra Tip: Automate the process by setting up social media notifications. It will alert your email or text you when someone sends your business a direct message, posts on the Facebook wall, gives a review on Google or Yelp, and more. This will keep your responses timely.

Be positive and constructive.

Apologies are good, but next steps are better. Use negative criticism online to educate or offer advice. Send a link to a page where the unsatisfied customer can find more information or offer suggestions for improvement, or give them a phone number or email address where they can contact a management team or customer service. Tell them about your business positive qualities. Now, you’ve taken control of the situation.

Keep it simple.

Keyboards are the catalyst for word vomit. Because of the screen, people feel more comfortable sharing, but I advise you to keep it short and sweet like this:

“Good morning, (insert customer’s name). We’re sorry you had a negative experience with our company. We appreciate your feedback and are always looking for ways to improve. If you have any further suggestions, feel free to share them at (insert hyperlink), or call our management team at (insert phone number). Thank you.”

It’s important to keep in mind that the people leaving reviews, good or bad, are customers, but they’re also human beings. They’re vocal and need the satisfaction of being listened to and understood.

Before responding to a negative comment, take a deep breath and think about what you want to say before you start typing. (We’ve all had the accident when we hit send before we’re ready – and it never ends well.) Use this as a chance to educate, advise, or help your customer instead of putting the blame on them or lashing out. By properly responding, you can build a genuine, human relationship and possibly even change their mind about your business.

If you’d like help with your business’ social media game, contact Illumine8 Marketing & PR today. We’d be happy to help.

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