For professionals and businesses with an online presence, there are few topics more controversial and misunderstood than maintaining a positive online reputation, proactively responding to customer feedback and effectively dealing with both valid and invalid online reviews, critiques and criticisms. What can your business do to counter negative reviews and comments in a positive and productive fashion?
The Dreaded Negative Review
For many small business owners and some professional social media marketers and administrators, it is literally a nightmare scenario – after months or even years of carefully cultivating a positive, effective online presence and reputation, a single negative review or comment can negatively influence blog readers, social media users and potential customers and clients. Discovering and effectively countering negative online reviews and comments is a difficult process that must be handled carefully, passionately and with professional tact. While a negative review or comment may be perceived as damaging to a business’s reputation, the situation can be made worse with a heated emotional and/or unprofessional response.
Keep A Cool Head!
When you first discover a negative review or comment online, it is important to not react improperly by immediately replying back. This may sound obvious to some, but the emotional response to discovering and reading negative reviews and comments can be gut wrenching for some small business owners who feel personally attacked by the review or comment. Immediately posting an emotional response or reply to the comment or review can exacerbate an already difficult situation, further damaging the reputation of your business and turning a minor disagreement or difficulty into a significant public relations disaster.
Take A Step Back
It is important to understand that posting to the Internet is often permanent – even if a blog platform or social media service provides a way to delete a comment or message, users and readers can make their own copies of your response and continue to distribute them. If you feel yourself becoming angry at a negative comment or review, walk away and discuss it with a co-worker or manager, or take a short break away from your entire workspace. Take as much time as you need to ensure you approach the situation calmly, objectively and professionally.
Assessing The Situation
Next, it is important to review the negative comment and determine the most effective way to address the criticism or complaint. But wait, what if the negative review or comment is completely invalid or unfair? For the vast majority of negative reviews and comments posted online, it doesn’t matter – a business that argues with a customer, refuses to acknowledge the validity of a review or comment, or simply offers a quick rebuttal can face negative consequences and almost never positively resolves the situation. To start, you must determine if the review or comment adequately conveys the entirety of the customer’s dissatisfaction and all interactions between your company and the customer. If not, it is important to apologize and move the conversation to email, where you and the customer can freely discuss the situation in a more private setting without character constraints.
Removing Factually Incorrect Content
Under very specific circumstances and as a last resort, it may be necessary to seek out a way to remove a negative comment or review. You should never seek to remove a comment or review that contains an opinion of your company, no matter how unfair you believe that opinion to be. In the United States, opinions are protected speech and most websites, blogs, forums and social media services will not remove or censor such posts and comments. However, if statements are made that are factually untrue, you may have grounds to request that a comment or review be removed or hidden. If such comments are posted to your website, blog or Facebook page, it is easy to remove them yourself. Other websites, blogs, forums and social media services usually have a reporting mechanism in place.
Learn, Improve and Grow!
Finally, and most importantly, you should consider negative reviews and comments that include valid opinions and complaints as opportunities to improve your business. A customer with a valid criticism or complaint can provide you with a unique gift – an outsider’s perspective that can reveal a flaw in a process, an employee that needs of further training, or an opportunity to simply improve a product or service.