Positive feedback is always nice but more often than not you’ll also encounter the flip side: negative comments on your website or social media profiles. Then what do you do? Ignore them? Probably not the best idea. We explain how to master tricky situations with the right strategy.
As a business owner, you probably appreciate the direct contact with customers. At least most of the time. Online, the world looks a little different. Criticism can be rudely formulated and posted anonymously, or with half-truths that are publicly posted and misleading for other customers.
If you have a Facebook page for your business or commenting enabled on your website, you’re probably already aware of this. There are generally two different types of negative criticism:
- Criticism from disappointed customers. Your customers publicly post about what they disliked. This can be constructive and some may just be irritated with their experience.
- Comments by “trolls.” This refers to users whose sole aim is to provoke a response in your network and “stir the pot.”
So what’s the best way to deal with these comments, without breaking off the nice part of customer contact?
Some companies and especially the media have become known in the digital world for their particularly clever answers on social media.
As a small business or freelancer who responds directly to comments from their own customers, however, it’s good to be cautious. If you aren’t dealing with politically emotional “trolls” but with actual customers then you should respond to any criticism as constructively as possible.
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Reply to comments: do’s and don’ts
Here are some easy guidelines to stick by when answering on social media and your website:
- Keep Calm. Take some time to compose your answer. Measured responses are always more constructive and help you provide the user with necessary help. This will also make you look good!
- Distinguish between criticism and ranting. Try to figure out whether the comment is concrete criticism or blanket complaining.
- Show understanding. Don’t react emotionally but show understanding for the problem of the user.
- Offer solutions. Is there a problem? Then show solutions. The answer “write me a PM and I’ll take a look at that for you” can work wonders.
- Be transparent. Has your product/service failed the user? Or was there a defect? It’s ok (and even appreciated) to admit mistakes as long as you apologize.
Mistakes you should avoid:
- Attacking the user. Is the customer wrong? Describe your point of view constructively, but not emotionally.
- Using jargon. Write a clear and constructive answer that they can understand. Try to avoid being condescending.
- Taking criticism personally. If you’ve built your business from the ground up, you’re probably emotionally involved in your project. But don’t let your passion negatively impact your responses.
Only delete comments in exceptional cases
Don’t panic if you see negative comments. With thoughtful answers, you can usually dissolve the situation and show your customers that you take their feedback seriously. Not only does your response show the customer you care but it will also serve to convince other potential customers to take a chance on you if they’re undecided. This is much more effective than simply deleting negative feedback.
Granted, sometimes it can get critical. For example, when a negative comment starts an uncontrollable discussion. You can then consider hiding the comment. On Facebook, for example, this works with one click (and the user won’t even know).
Bad reviews? Ask why
More often than not, customers choose a service based on reviews via comparison portals like Yelp, Google or Trustpilot. Restaurants, for example, rely heavily on good reviews.
A 2-star rating can really dent your hard-earned reputation. But don’t despair. On many platforms, you can respond to reviews. So ask the customer publicly or via PM what happened to cause such a low rating. Can you explain the situation? Do it politely but confidently and apologize for any mistakes.
It can help to “invite” the customer again and ask for a correction of the rating. This also shows other users that customers are taken seriously and the negative rating was probably just a one-off. It will also help clear up anything standing in the way of promoting your business further via social media channels like Facebook.
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Positive feedback? Show your appreciation!
Negative reactions are (fortunately) only one side of the coin. You’ve probably also received praise for your service in your guestbook, blog or social media!
When this happens, make sure to show your appreciation. Answer your users and enter into a conversation with them. This will make not only make the user happy but help build loyalty to your brand. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to show prospective users you care.
What are your experiences? And how do you generally deal with criticism online? Tell us in the comments!