Any entrepreneur who has been in business for any length of time knows just how brutal and honest customers can be. And with the internet providing a voice for everyone, there are more opportunities than ever before for customers – and even random bystanders – to target your brand with negative comments and reviews. Preparing yourself to handle critical feedback will ensure your brand isn’t negatively impacted in a substantial way.
7 Tips to Deal With Negative Feedback
We live in a world where social proof plays a significant role in the average customer’s decision-making process. In particular, customers turn to the internet to research products, compare brands, and make decisions.
“Research shows that 91 percent of people regularly or occasionally read online reviews, and 84 percent trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation,” entrepreneur Craig Bloem explains.“And they make that decision quickly: 68 percent form an opinion after reading between one and six online reviews.”
Customer reliance on online reviews can be good or bad for brands. If all of your online feedback is positive, then it bodes well for you. But if you have a handful of negative reviews and comments, it can hurt your chances of converting customers.
The key to this conundrum is to have a system in place for dealing with negative feedback. A shoot-from-the-hip approach won’t work. There has to be some real strategy for how you deal with this friction and overcome adversity. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Take a Deep Breath
The very first piece of advice – and arguably the most important – is to take a deep breath. When you read a negative comment or harsh review, your human instinct is to fire back with a quick retort. But hasty replies are rarely tasteful or beneficial. They may feel good in the moment, but you’ll regret them later on.
You must train yourself to have a controlled reaction to negative feedback. It’ll feel unnatural, but it’s critically important. As a rule of thumb, never respond to a negative comment or review without first taking 10 minutes to settle your mind and think clearly. Walk away from the computer, take a deep breath, and try to remove your emotions from the equation. Realize that this isn’t a personal attack on you. Once you remove the personal aspect from the equation, it becomes easier to control your response.
It’s also a good idea to consult with someone else – a coworker, employee, or business partner – prior to typing up a response. It’s easy to write something condescending or inciting without realizing it. When there are two sets of eyeballs on a comment, it’s harder for something to slip through the cracks.
2. Valid Complaints vs. Cowboys
Most people are familiar with the idea of internet trolls. But sometimes this label is too harsh. Most of the time we view trolls as people who are blatantly mean and verbally abusive. They’re looking to attack people and don’t need any excuse to do it. While you’ll occasionally run into these people, they’re few and far between. You’re much more likely to encounter what entrepreneur Yaro Starak calls “cowboys.”
Cowboys are people who have loud mouths and pessimistic attitudes. They don’t necessarily go out looking for trouble (like trolls), but will respond to certain triggers with negativity.
“The anonymity of the Internet gives cowboys freedom because they don’t feel the social restrictions or expectations they might impose on their communication in the real world,” Starak notes. “In other words – because they can be anonymous online or feel safe behind a computer, they are comfortable to attack people in ways they would never do so in the real world.”
It’s imperative that you’re able to differentiate between cowboys and customers who have valid complaints. You handle cowboys with a grain of salt. Customers with valid complaints, on the other hand, command a more sensitive approach. The latter group has a reason to be frustrated and you don’t want to ignore or patronize them.
3. Don’t Delete (Most of the Time)
Talk to most social media experts about how to handle negative comments on a Facebook post, Tweet, or blog post and they’ll tell you that it’s rarely a good idea to hit the delete button. As tempting as it might be, it’s just not a good look.
Most angry customers are going to check back to monitor your response to their comment. If they notice that you’ve deleted their comment, it’ll only heighten their frustration. Most will leave another scathing comment. This time it’ll be even worse.
Now, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, you’ll find that blog posts often get spam comments. If you notice a blatant spam post, it’s totally fine to delete. If you’re a children’s company that caters to a younger demographic and someone posts a profanity-laced comment, this may be another time to hit delete. (In this instance, you’ll want to contact the individual privately so that they can receive the attention they need.) But as a general rule of thumb, leave the comment as is and take the time to address it.
4. Respond Correctly
When responding to a negative comment, it’s a good idea to keep your response short, articulate, and unemotional. It doesn’t matter how “out of bounds” or untrue the comment is, it’s best to avoid getting defensive. It’s simply not a good look.
Remember that people are watching. This isn’t a private exchange between you and the customer – it’s something hundreds or thousands of people will see. For many of them, it’ll be the first exposure they have to your brand. If you come across as rude or inconsiderate, you’ll miss a chance to win over a customer. On the other hand, responding with poise can establish a positive first impression.
5. Respond Publicly, Then Privately
Never ignore a comment. Unless it’s a comment you’re deleting – for one of the aforementioned reasons – you need to provide a response. In some cases, this response should be followed up with a private reply that goes into more detail.
The benefit of a private response is that you’re able to further investigate an issue without opening your business up to further negative exposure and criticism. It’s also a more personal way of interacting. The customer will feel less exposed, you won’t have to worry about onlookers, and the situation can be resolved with greater efficiency.
6. Go Above and Beyond
If you’re smart and strategic, negative feedback can be turned into a positive thing for your brand. In order to flip the script, you’ll need to go above and beyond to overcome the negative underlying factor and deliver a positive interaction between the brand and the user.
For example, let’s say a customer purchases a product and it arrives damaged. They leave a scathing review and call you out for being a lousy brand that’s ruined their week. Instead of simply offering to send a replacement product – which would be the bare minimum course of action – you could respond by promising to send a replacement product with expedited overnight shipping, refund the original purchase price, and offer a discount code for a future purchase. Not only does this make the customer happy, but it raises everyone else’s eyebrows (in a positive way).
Going above and beyond will cost you some money, but think about how much it costs you to do nothing. A negative review could ruin your chances of earning future sales from new customers. That’s far costlier than refunding a single purchase and paying for overnight shipping.
7. Learn From Your Mistakes
Finally, use every negative comment or review as an opportunity to learn from your mistakes. Assuming the feedback is genuine, there’s always a nugget of truth packed inside. When confronting one of these posts, ask yourself what the lesson is. Over time, these experiences will strengthen your brand and make you a better business leader.
Control Your Brand Image With Quality Content
At the end of the day, you have a decision to make. Are you going to let other people – including customers and trolls – control your brand’s online image? Or will you be the one to dictate how your brand is perceived in the marketplace?
You can’t control every aspect of your online image, but you can take charge. And out of all the various weapons you have at your disposal, active link building and content marketing are some of the best tools for overcoming these issues. With the power of content, you can make your voice known and reach customers on your terms. Instead of letting people view your company through the lens of third-party reviews and comments – which may not be true or consistent with what your brand stands for – you set the table and clearly convey who you are and what you stand for.