Negative comments online stem way back to the very first electronic discussion boards in the 1970s, when computer scientists observed an “escalation of critical comments”, an exchange they labelled “flame wars“.
A cold reality you have probably realised in business is that you cannot please everybody. Eventually, the chances are, you are going to receive negative feedback. How you deal with such an occurrence can be crucial in terms of business development and profit.
So, what do you do when your business becomes involved in a ‘flame war’?
1) React and acknowledge promptly
90% of consumers read online reviews before using a business. While we appreciate this fact may tempt you into simply removing or masking a bad review should one appear on your timeline, we strongly advise you DO NOT DO THIS.
Why? Because by ignoring a consumer’s feedback, you risk frustrating them and escalating the issue. Be objective and try putting yourself in their shoes: how would you like it if you had a problem with a particular product or service you invested in, but were being denied the opportunity to speak to someone about it? Not only that, but your voice and opinion was being silenced?
Be sure to acknowledge the comment as soon as possible to let the person know that you hear them and reassure them that their feedback is not being ignored.
2) Don’t go on the offensive (or defensive!)
89% of consumers read businesses’ responses to reviews, so make sure you get yours absolutely spot on.
Remain balanced and neutral in your response, without sounding robotic. Remember that classic phrase: people buy from people. Call them by their name, apologise for the fact they have not had a satisfactory experience and, if needs be, reiterate your brand values, without being salesy or scripted.
3) Take the conversation offline
The last thing you want is for an aggravated customer to vent their frustrations on your page for all of your followers to see. How do you avoid this while still getting to the bottom of the issue (and hopefully solving it)? Take the conversation offline.
Calmly reply to the comment or review asking the person to supply their preferred contact method and info via private message. Alternatively, give them a phone number to call directly.
Pass all of the details at hand to the most relevant person in your department and make sure they get in touch with the individual as soon as possible.
Use the following as a template but remember to customise it specifically to the person and issue at hand:
“Hi Peter, we’re sorry you’ve not received the excellent customer service we strive to provide. Could you please send us your contact details and any more relevant information via private message? We will then be in touch to ensure your feedback is dealt with asap.”
The power of the response
A careful and considered response to a negative review actually has the power to potentially grow your business. If you deal with a complaint in such a way that turns the upset customer into a happy customer, they may remove the negative review and replace it with a glowing one.
People can often tell genuine feedback from unfair, unbalanced and unfounded criticism. If someone leaves an unreasonable review and you remain cool, calm and collected, it can actually raise your profile in the eyes of others.
Some businesses have even gained national media coverage through their comical responses to reviews!
The power of the review
Sometimes, you can’t avoid a bad review, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from them. Don’t take a negative comment personally, use it as a means of progressing your business. If you believe a review is inaccurate or false, you can report it and request its removal.
84% of people trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations, so why not actively encourage your customers to leave feedback? If your timeline or website is populated with glowing reviews, your brand loyalty, engagement and sales are bound to increase!