So we all know that social media is a great – and cost-effective way to share our positive news stories, promote upcoming events, help with new product launches and get customer reviews.

However, it’s also a great way for your customers to have their say when they’re unhappy, or have had a bad customer experience. No matter what you sell or what industry you’re in, you’re going to experience negative word of mouth at some point. Things break, your delivery was too late, the food wasn’t up to your normal standard, and employees have bad days.

We always tell our clients that negative feedback is an opportunity – remember it’s better to hear the negative feedback, at least you can do something about it – if a customer simply walks away, you’ll likely never have the chance to win them back. We also tell them to not ignore the feedback in the vein hope that it will magically disappear! And NEVER delete the post from your social profile. That will do nothing but make the complaining customer even more angry, and it will look to your other followers as though you have something to hide. It’s how you handle the negative comments that makes you stand out.

A great response can convert angry or upset customers into loyal advocates who continue to buy from you and recommend you. Generally speaking, most customers understand that things can go wrong and really just want you to listen, apologise for the problem and address it in a timely fashion. They’re not there to put you out of business, they just want to have their say and to be heard.

Here are our top 8 tips to responding to negative feedback.

#1 It’s time to man up and swallow that bitter pill
By this we mean be mentally prepared to read negative feedback about your business. If your business is your ‘baby’ that can often be a bitter pill to swallow. But if you bury your head in the sand those conversations will still happen and you’ll be doing nothing to combat the negative comments. Remember, you’re not alone – all companies – no matter what size – receive negative customer reviews from time to time. Even the best loved brands.

#2  You can’t respond to negative comments if you don’t know about them!
Being on top of any negative commentary means you’ll be better placed to proactively respond, make changes to your business if it’s an ongoing issue, or set about creating a positive vibe about your business to offset the negativity (it’s always great to be able to handle a prospective customer’s objections with something positive before they even realise they have an objection!). Here’s how:

  • Set up Google Alerts for your company name to be in the know when you get an online mention.
  • Monitor all your social profiles (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc) to instantly see any negative feedback you receive – either directly posted to your page, if you’re tagged in a comment or as a DM.
  • If relevant to your business, read reviews (Yelp, Trust Pilot, TripAdvisor, etc).

#3 Decide whether or not to respond
Despite our earlier comment about not ignoring negative feedback, not all negative comments are worth a response, and not all critics are worth trying to win over. Sometimes, trying to respond can bring an onslaught of more negative feedback if it’s a blatant attack that’s rude and outrageous – anyone reading it will see that it’s just personal If responding to someone that you’re never going to change the mind of means that more of your customers will have the opportunity to see the poor feedback, it’s probably best just to move on.

#4 Act quickly
The longer you wait to respond, the angrier the customer will get—and the more likely others will pick up on the issue and spread the negative buzz – respond in as timely a fashion as possible. Even if the most you can do is let them know that you’re looking in to it, when you expect to be able to come back to them and how to contact you if they wish to discuss it further. This will serve to cool a little of their anger – they’ll feel heard and know that they’ve got someone to talk to directly if they still wish to raise anything.

#5 Be human, not a faceless corporate
It’s easy to vent at an anonymous company, much less so to a named individual who has been considerate and friendly. They’re more likely to accept that it’s not your fault personally, the anger will fade, and you’ll often get a much calmer response.

#6 …and apologise
A strong, genuine apology will earn you more kudos than a half-hearted attempt at an apology – this will be seen through immediately and will likely create an even angrier response.

We all make mistakes, it’s what we do as a result and how we fix them that people remember.

#7 Never get into a fight
Fighting online does nothing for your credibility. All anyone remembers is that you’re argumentative and you don’t listen to your customers. It’s difficult to not take criticism personally, but it’s important to remain calm and professional at all times. That’s not to say you can’t correct a misconception, or explain your side of the story, but stick to facts.

#8 Don’t hide
As long as you take on board all the above advice, don’t worry about other customers seeing the conversation. Remember, they may already have seen the customer’s complaint, but if you respond directly (or offline) to the complaint, no-one else will all the effort you put into fixing the problem.

If you keep the conversation open online, many more people will see that you actually care about your customers and that you’re doing everything possible to rectify the situation. If you don’t let them see how you handle complaints, they’ll assume you’ve not done anything, which will leave a bad taste.

If you’re looking for help with your customer communications, we’d love to hear from you.