Online feedback is great. It helps provide validation for the work we do, it helps us to course correct in areas where we can improve, and it gives us a general idea of how we are doing in the market. It’s direct feedback from the client base that has valuable applications as we run and grow our businesses.
The problem is that sometimes online feedback isn’t great. Negative feedback, while helpful in the right context, can damage a business’s reputation, it can harm relationships that business has cultivated with the public, and sometimes, it just be unpleasant in general. According to ZenDesk, 90% of consumers’ buying decisions are influenced by online reviews. Fortunately, there are several ways businesses can take negative online reviews, social media comments, or negative articles and mitigate the damage. It’s even possible to turn the situation into a net positive.
Types of Reviews
Not all types of negative feedback are equal. Some negative comments are genuine and well-deserved, while others are intentionally destructive. Learn to distinguish between the types before you move forward:
1 – Actual Problems and Constructive Criticism
Some feedback addresses an actual problem that a customer, patient, or user has found with your product or service, and often meant merely to bring it to your attention. While a public comment exposing a weakness in your organization does not paint you in the most ideal light, these reviews and comments can be genuine opportunities for your organization to improve and to engage with the public. Some users may even include potential solutions to the problems themselves. Take these suggestions with a grain of salt, because often, the public are missing key information about the industry. Still, listen to each suggestion and consider whether or not in can work. Often, this kind of feedback can provide effective solutions.
2 – Attacks with a Basis in Fact
Sometimes, if a customer’s experience is not ideal, they will respond in anger, actively attacking the organization. While the attack itself may not be merited, the issue that upset them in the first place could be very real. If there is a problem that can be solved, take the message to heart without taking the criticism personally. Situations of this sort can go very poorly, but if handled properly, they can also do a lot to build goodwill.
3 – Trolling or Spam
As the saying goes, “Some people just want to watch the world burn.” Some people have no valid reason to be upset, but they will attack an organization just because they get a kick out of stirring the pot. In fact, 28% of Americans have admitted to trolling. In a similar category, some unethical companies will post negative feedback about a competitor, even if it’s untrue, as an opportunity to build public opinion own product or service as a competitor.
How to Respond
After determining what sort of negative feedback you’re dealing with, it’s easier to determine the best course of action. If the negative comment or review was merited, always make sure to respond—but be careful how you do. Make sure that you respond in a positive, constructive fashion, and never in anger. Keep the conversation polite, and if the situation warrants it, offer to take the conversation offline. This way, you can delve deeper into the issue without allowing things to escalate online, as well as preserving the customer’s privacy.
When you respond, keep your response brief but personal. In the case of a negative review, acknowledge any mistakes you have made, and if there is a reasonable way to make things right with the customer, attempt to do so. While a business shouldn’t feel obligated to apologize, a polite response and a willingness to go the extra mile can turn an upset customer into a loyal one who may even become an advocate for your organization. Once the situation has been resolved, indicate so on the site where the review was made in a comment.
In the case of trolling, on the other hand, the situation changes. Usually, a troll is trying to bait you into a conflict, which never helps your image. They generally don’t care about fighting fair or even being honest. One more time, do not engage with a troll. Ignore this sort of feedback and, if necessary and possible, simply remove this sort of comment as soon as possible. If the comment or review is on a third-party site, contact the site owners and present your case. Just know that sometimes, sites will refuse to remove content, in which circumstance, the best option is to just ignore it and move on.
Whatever the reason for the feedback, keep one thing in mind: the Internet is fairly permanent. Make sure that your responses are rational, polite, and diplomatic. If you keep your interactions with the public as positive as possible, you can turn the negativity around and build strong relationships and a loyal customer base.