Every online business will, at some stage or other, receive negative feedback on Facebook or Twitter, whether that’s from customers who are genuinely aggrieved, or keyboard warriors who have little else to do and like be the centre of attention. You may like to think your business will be immune from this problem as you deliver such an exemplary service, but sooner or later it will catch up with you. According to a social media benchmarking survey by J.D Power and Associates back in 2013, 67 per cent of consumers contacted businesses through social media channels to make an online complaint. Social media has exploded since then, so the issue is only likely to get worse.
How does your business deal with negative feedback? Do you have a strategy in place should bad reviews come your way, and do you know how to deal with negative feedback positively – that is in such a way as to turn criticism into positive feedback? The chances are the answer is probably not. Most online businesses would prefer to bury their heads under the sand and hope the problem will go away. The problem with that kind of philosophy, is that it only compounds the problem and makes matters worse.
So what should you do if your business doesn’t have a strategy for dealing with negative social media feedback?
Well, sadly there’s no simple answer to that. The only thing you can say definitively is that you shouldn’t fight fire with fire and get too defensive. Even if you feel the criticism is unwarranted, just remember the customer is always right. That attitude might grate with you, but it’s the only one that will pacify your critics.
What should your business do to placate the critics?
The simple answer to that is settle the matter to the customer’s satisfaction as quickly as possible. Dealing with the issue promptly will set the customer’s mind at rest and inspire confidence in other potential customers. If businesses react to negative remarks in a positive and pro-active way, it will not only improve their reputation, but also build a greater sense of trust and respect with the customer. Reputation is everything in business, so it’s worth going the extra mile to satisfy even the harshest critics.
5 tips for turning negative feedback into positive outcomes
Never ignore criticism
If you ignore negative feedback it will not miraculously go away. It will fester. If a customer makes a complaint and doesn’t get a satisfactory answer, you will lose that customer for good, and he or she will probably take a good number of family and friends with them. Address the issue, answer the question, find out what the problem is and do all you can to resolve the dispute.
Be prepared to tear up the script
No-one likes to hear off-pat answers, particularly when they’ve experienced a problem. If you ever tried to contact a railway franchise operator with a complaint you’ll know exactly what we mean by that – ‘we apologise for the delay, but …’ You never get answers just scripted replies, which make you feel unappreciated. If you tear up the scripted answers and engage with customers personally, you’ll make a connection and that is the first step along the road to winning back their confidence.
Empathy and listening carefully can go a long way to solving problems
Complaining customers want to have a voice and to be heard. So read what they say, listen to their problems and show empathy for the predicament they find themselves in. Accept fault where due, and try to resolve the dispute as quickly as possible. This will build a bond of trust and that will go a long way towards building a longer-term sense of brand loyalty.
Speed is essential
Not only do customers want their problems solved; they want their problems solved quickly. So don’t drag your heels or look for excuses. Deal with the problem in a reasonable time frame. Acknowledge the problem and tell the customer you’ll deal with it as quickly as you can. If it’s going to take longer to resolve, contact the customer and keep them informed. Tell them that you will eventually resolve the problem. They will then see their negative experience positively.
Criticism needn’t be negative if you learn from the experience
If you deal with negative criticism positively, you’ll retain the trust of your customer. The important point is to make sure you learn from the experience and use it going forward. If you get further criticism about the same problem from other customers, it shows that your business is not doing enough to fix the problem.