It doesn’t matter whether you are a company or an individual in business. Eventually, someone will leave a negative comment or review on your blog, on your website, or some other public forum. The natural response is avoidance to these kinds of comments. Sometimes they get ignored and other times they get erased. Neither of these are a good course of action and we have outlined several tips to help you manage your online reputation.
Worse than having a negative comment or review floating around is not responding to it for a long time. You must have a way to monitor your web properties whether its your blog, your Facebook page or something else. Set up email alerts to let you know when someone leaves a comment. If you are trying to keep your inbox to a minimum, set up some other alert to remind you to check your blog or accounts for comments and /or reviews. Most of the time, it probably won’t destroy your credibility if you can’t get to something very fast but the sooner you get out in front of negative publicity, the better.
A prime example are a couple of negative reviews left on an auto mechanic’s place page. Not one response in over a year to either comment.
When owners or employees don’t respond to negative comments, then people reading reviews only get one side of the story. Even if the reviewer has no ground to stand on, prospects will not know the difference and may take any information they read as truth. In the world of online reviews, no response to negative comments is essentially saying “yes you are right.”
Be Cool and Kind
No matter how old you get or how many successes you have in your life, it still stings when someone points out your flaws. The knee jerk reaction is to throw up your guard, defend yourself, then attack! Not a good approach in these kinds of situations. When responding to negative feedback, always keep a cool head. Look at the comments objectively and search for any trace of constructive criticism (most of the time there is some). Always be polite, even if the reviewer or commenter is being unreasonable. If the person has a point, let them know. If you have done something wrong or made a mistake, acknowledge that. These are perfect instances to use customer service skills. Not only will you make a positive experience out of the whole thing but you will show others that you are a bigger person and willing to grow.
Below is a perfect example that comes from a retail store and a customer that had a bad experience with a return. Note that the same person the reviewer mentions as being rude in the review is the same person responding.
Offer Opposing Viewpoints
Sometimes when customers leave negative reviews or comments about things, they do so because they had a uniquely bad experience. You should acknowledge any truth that there is to their claims however don’t be afraid to offer alternatives that could help them in the future. Sometimes reviewers have a point but their opinion is not representative of all customers’ experiences. It could be that there was information they were unaware of.
Have an action plan
While not always necessary, it can be helpful to outline a contingency plan in the event you have negative feedback. This is especially effective if you have a large and active social media presence for a large brand. A plan of action on who should be contacted and how a negative conversation should be handled will help you respond to a situation as fast as possible. Your action plan should contain detailed steps on what to do for as many scenarios as you can think of. It should also have contact information for key stakeholders who may need to be involved in a response.
Your reputation in the online world is just as important as offline. Just like in real life, anyone can say anything they want about you whether it is true or not. The only different with the internet is that it is easy to publish words on a page that stay floating around out there for a long time.