As a business owner, you must have thick skin to protect yourself and your sanity from bad reviews and less than favorable comments about your brand (products and services included). Unfortunately, criticism – and not always constructive criticism – comes with the territory of being in business. It’s not always the negative comments that make the greatest impact on your business, but HOW you respond to them.

The age-old saying of, “there’s no such thing as bad press,” comes to mind when I think of various obstacles businesses encounter. Although I don’t entirely agree with the above statement, I do believe you can turn bad press into something positive. Now, more than ever, social media and online reviews have immense influence over brands and their success. Subsequently, it’s become easier for brands to reach out and respond to disgruntled consumers, immediately.

In this post, we’re going to explore the following questions: Why and how should brands respond to angry and negative comments? Doesn’t this just add fuel to the fire? And, can social media help solve customer service and satisfaction issues?

Why and how should brands respond to angry and negative comments?

Let’s start with the why. If you’re active on social media, why wouldn’t you respond to any comment- positive or negative? Do you ignore customers who call into your company and express their concerns? I highly doubt it. Therefore, if you have social media profiles and pages, it’s best practice to not only keep them updated, but to create and engage in conversations, and respond to comments.

Social media is a wonderful thing that has the potential to spread word about your brand like wildfire. It also has the ability to crush a brand. This is why it’s important to respond to all comments, both positive and negative ones. Even if a negative comment has no support, you should still respond. Consumers trust transparent brands. Stay transparent (at least to some extent) and negative comments won’t necessarily hurt your brand’s reputation.

One example of a brand who effectively responded to a disgruntled customer is Liberty Bottleworks. Courtesy of Adweek, here’s a screenshot from the company’s Facebook page (which was removed):

liberty-response-2013

This response was brilliant. However, it probably wouldn’t work for every business. It’s clear that Ryan Clark is passionately invested in his company, his employees and their core values of “family first, product second.” While we would all like to believe this is the case for every business, sadly, it’s not. Clark took a huge gamble in responding honestly and candidly. It worked for his brand, and in return, he received an outpouring of support and praise from Liberty Bottleworks supporters. What we all can take away from this is to use concrete information and details to uphold your response. I do suggest being careful with the information you choose to share with the public; for example, do not show full phone numbers or addresses.

How you respond to negative comments is your prerogative. Just be careful and mindful of how your responses will be perceived. Many companies decide to use an understanding tone while offering further assistance or resources without resolving the issue. This is where it gets tricky…

Do responses that don’t solve the issue just add fuel to the fire?

Here’s the thing, if you’re going to respond to a negative comment or review, make sure you’re not just spouting out words without any intention of remedying the problem. There’s nothing worse than a company that’s all talk. If you say you’re going to resolve the issue, you had better follow through.

If not, you run the risk of losing the trust of that customer, and potentially many more. Positive reviews and comments are what all businesses strive for, but there’s always going to be some people who aren’t satisfied and turn to the web to air their grievances. This is one reason your response and reaction is so important.

I came across a great infographic that offers some insight into how people perceive online reviews. Here are some of the statistics that stood out the most:

  • 95% of unhappy customers will return to your business if an issue is resolved quickly and efficiently
  • 82% of consumers considered user generated reviews valuable
  • 83.8% of respondents said they would trust a user’s review over a critic’s
  • 70% consult reviews or ratings before purchasing
  • Reviews drive 18% higher loyalty and 21% higher purchase satisfaction

As illustrated, consumers read and trust reviews. Don’t ignore them. Don’t even ignore the most ridiculous ones; find a way to resolve them or respond to them, it will go a long way in creating and reinforcing your brand and its reputation.

Can social media help solve customer service and satisfaction issues, while preserving a brand’s reputation?

Social media has given brands more personality. Through their posts, brands are able to speak directly to their audience by sharing the content they want to see. This is no different from a customer service standpoint.

When people post a customer service or satisfaction issue to a brand’s social media outlet, it makes the brand that much more responsible for taking care of the issue. As I mentioned, consumers trust transparent brands. Social media and online reviews are forcing brands to own the issues and resolve them. Social media has this amazing ability to unite people from all over the world, and as we’ve seen, people who share a commonality – namely dissatisfaction with a brand – tend to band together, sharing their negative experiences and commiserating together.

When it comes to reputation management, social media and online reviews are a powerful thing. When brands acknowledge and remedy a situation, it doesn’t go unnoticed. If executed properly, a brand’s reputation will weather the storm.