In our previous post, we discussed the fun and relaxing topic of online negativity directed towards professionals and small businesses online, including negative online reviews and postings. Of course we’re joking – there’s nothing fun or relaxing about discovering that someone has left a negative review and/or portrayed you or your business in a negative light online, in fact it can be one of the most unsettling and distressful events a small business owner can experience, apart from an extreme event such as a robbery.

Most professionals that have worked in customer-facing positions have experience dealing with customer issues and complaints in person, in fact you may have extensive experience deescalating these situations and resolving them to the mutual satisfaction of you and your customer. However, online negativity can be anonymous, impersonal, vitriolic and permanent, as customers often react more radically behind both a keyboard and the anonymity of the Internet. You, however, are not anonymous, and reacting impulsively or emotionally can turn an already bad situation into a disastrous one. Simply put, you must respond the right way to both mitigate the existing damage to your business and prevent the situation from escalating further.

We previously discussed the basics of responding to online negativity, and in this post we will now discuss a few of the more nuanced ways you can resolve the situation to both your satisfaction and, hopefully, the satisfaction of the dissatisfied customer.

The Importance Of Evaluating The Context Of The Conversation

When you are forced to deal with the reality of a negative review, comment or post online directed towards you or your business, it’s important to study the context of the review, comment or post in relation to the platform or service as much as the content. The most important thing to note is how likely the dissatisfied customer will be to open a line a dialogue, as this will determine the importance of addressing the customer directly or directing your response more to your customer base and online audience as a whole. It is vital that you address any questions or complaints that the original poster makes, but if it is clear that they are unwilling or unlikely to respond to any efforts you make to resolve the situation, it is more important to address your response to other current customers and prospective ones, who all may come across both the original complaint and said response.

Openness And Honesty

You already know that responding to online negativity in an unprofessional manner has the potential to be disastrous, but it is also important to know that responding in a manner that gives readers the impression that you are hiding something or being less than honest can be disastrous as well. Whether the situation is fair or not, the integrity of you and your business are on the line, and the only way to mitigate or even reverse that damage is to be as open, honest, empathetic and proactive as possible. If you or your business are at fault, don’t try to hide it or deflect from it – instead, acknowledge your responsibility and apologize as quickly as possible in your response. It is important to note that if you believe that you or your business maybe legally liable, it would be best to consult an attorney before responding at all.

Actually Fix The Problem!

If the online negativity or complaint stems from an actual mistake or problem made or created by you or your business, you must fix it as quickly as possible. When an online review, comment or post is made that exposes such a problem, there’s nothing worse than a follow-up review, comment or post from another customer that confirms they’ve experienced the same, as it establishes a pattern of problems with you or your business and delegitimizes your earlier promises to fix the problem.
Don’t try to cover up the problem and hope that no one else complains – instead, take the time to fix it once and for all!