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Keeping it Positive – Responding to Negative Online Reviews

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By Barbara Beauregard   |    July 10, 2014   |    3:14 PM

Tips on Reacting to Negative Online Reviews and Social Media Posts

Social media and online reviews offer amazing ways to get some free publicity about a business. But the Internet can be a double-edged sword: Patrons that the love the business will talk about it – but so will those who have had a bad experience.

The first time that a business receives a negative review or mention online can be jarring. Oftentimes, the business owner or staff members may make it a bigger deal than it needs to be. Entrepreneurs and small businesses can frequently take this as a personal attack against them. They want to defend their business, which can result in a very public war of words. (See Amy’s Baking Company for how bad this can get.)

Knowing how to respond to negative feedback isn’t an innate trait, but it can be learned to prevent overreaction to online negative press.

Tips on Responding to Negative Posts

The goal here is to not become hysterical. While that may be easier said than done, it’s better to take a step back and think. Do not react immediately. Most people aren’t thinking straight when they first come across a bad review.

Instead of immediately posting a response, think about what the writer is actually saying. Are they upset about a bad experience? Did they reach out for help and not get a response?

Once the cause is determined, it’s time to craft a response. A response should be:

  • Positive: Never respond in a negative way or accuse the customer of the issue. Stay positive. Do not get involved with name calling or an online rant.
  • Considerate: Thank the customer for contacting the organization regarding the situation. Say that the company is working on improving____(the food, the service, etc.) Businesses could even ask the customer for their assistance in improving the situation. Ask them for advice. Consumers love giving feedback to businesses. Never reply to a complaint in all caps.
  • Genuine: The reason that most consumers complain online is that they didn’t get an adequate response from the company in the first place. They just want to know that they’re being heard. If a business shows that it’s genuinely interested in the problem and wants to help resolve it, this could provide an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive. Plus, other consumers reading the response will appreciate the business for trying to work with the consumer.
  • Sometimes taken off-line: If a person insists on going back and forth online, invite the person to contact someone at the organization directly to talk it over.

Dealing with Trolls

Trolls are consumers that aren’t happy no matter how hard a business tries to please them. These people will constantly respond with bad comments and maybe even spam social networks or forums. To deal with these people, Hostgator recommends having a social media policy in place that is publicly available. If someone continually violates this, then remove them.

Create a Response Plan

Most organizations have a PR plan of action to deal with negative press or disasters. Few have an online reputation response plan. Putting together a plan will help businesses know what to do when a bad review or social media post occurs.

This plan should include:

  • A few canned responses: Many consumers complain about the same types of subjects. Put together a plan of responses that can be used in this situation. While a business doesn’t want to just respond with a standard message, these canned responses can be used as standard language. Then someone can personalize it based on the situation.
  • List of responsible parties: The person who sees the message online may not be the person responsible for responding to it. Put one or two people in charge of responding, and make sure the rest of the company knows who those people are.
  • List of phone numbers: If a consumer does need to be directed to a particular department to deal with the complaint, then these numbers should be readily available in the response file.

Negative online mentions don’t have to be completely disastrous. A company that knows how to adequately respond may have a better chance of out-living them

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