The Secret to Responding to Negative Comments

June 16, 2011

 

He bruised your brand. She played with your customers’ hearts. They busted the lip on your smiling community. The pen is mightier than the sword but it felt like one.

I’m talking about negative comments. Whether they appear on your Facebook page, blog or a cursing reply on Twitter they can hurt and confuse the people on the other end. Here are the secrets to turning sticks and stones to diamonds and becoming a hero in the situation.

Understand where the negativity is coming from.

When a person says something negative about your brand it’s typically for one of three reasons:

  • Failure of Delivering the Brand Promise
  • Lack of Resolution
  • People are Crazy

I’m not kidding about the last one. We all have a little bit of crazy in us, some more than others. And if you’ve ever worked in a public facing job you know what I’m talking about. My first job was at Burger King and I can’t tell you how many times I said the words “You can have it your way” to people who could barely get slippers on with their worn out pajamas to drag themselves into my line to scream at me for not carrying Coke instead of Pepsi with one curler hanging off their hair. Yeah, I lasted two weeks. Let’s move on now…

The point is, you can’t please everyone all of the time. You can investigate this persons experience with your company (product, service) to be accountable to its role in their dissatisfaction.

Be objective.

Part of getting to the root of the problem requires taking your emotion of the equation. I’ve said this of restaurants and I think it applies to everyone, the closer you are to the creation the harder it is to not take harsh words personally. Sometimes the cook is not the best person to take feedback on their food. Just keep in mind; it’s not about you or the brand, it’s about the customer. Focus on your customer’s best interest and it will pay off in a positive way. If not with positive follow-up comments, with I hope good karma.

Determine if a response is warranted.

In most cases a negative post about a brand deserves a response. The key word here is most, not all. There are a few other factors that come into play to determine this:

  • Going back to the root of the problem, determine if the comment is really about your brand/product/service.
  • Is this person a ranter and repeat offender?
  • Have you already exhausted solutions to the problem in previous responses?
  • Is the person aggressive, done with it, to the point of no return?
  • What’s the impact of their post in the social graph? How many comments, views, sharing is their negative content getting by others? What’s their influence?
  • Is it your competitor? Or evangelists of?

If you ask yourself these questions you might come to the conclusion that a response is not warranted. There are some situations where it’s best to take note and step away.

Respond in the same place.

Hold the conversation in the same medium it was started in. If you can take it to full resolution that’s a big win. As service oriented brands in the 21st century, we must understand that a person doesn’t tweet a company with their problem to be told to call their 800 number. They would have done that in the first place.  Keep in mind their comment is public and a private response will appear that the brand ignored it to outsiders. If the conversation is too private or complex to resolve right then and there, first respond publicly with a general acknowledgement. Then provide another option such as an email address, phone number or use the network’s private messaging to continue the conversation.

Make them feel heard.

It doesn’t matter if they are right or wrong. This is a relationship after all and if you think back to marriage counseling what’s the first thing you learned? OK, not everyone’s been in marriage counseling so I’ll tell you – listen and acknowledge their feelings, repeat back what you heard. It might look like this “I’m sorry you experienced <xyz> Jane” or “I understand what you’re saying about <xyz>”.  You’re not admitting fault, it’s an acknowledgement. Thank them for their feedback. Assure them it will be passed onto to the powers that be in company.

Be a problem solver.

If you go into combat, you’ll never win and you’ll make your company look like a jerk. Rather, consider yourself an ambassador between the company and its audience. Be resourceful, collaborative and nice.  Look! You’re a hero.

Turn sticks and stones into diamonds.

Listen and learn. What you do with negative feedback is the real secret. Share feedback about problems or feature requests with your product managers. Look for trends. Share issues popping up in specific locations with store managers to empower them. Escalate problems to the proper people in PR, management and even the CEO if it’s critical. Don’t forget to share the good stuff too, like compliments on product features, kudos to customer service, and requests to bring the product to new locations. If they’re smart they’ll use this information as a secret weapon to innovate, become more competitive and increase overall performance. Uncensored feedback empowers a company to be awesome.

The secret to responding to negative comments:

  • Negative comments will happen, whether or not you participate in social media.
  • Understand the root of the problem.
  • You can’t please everyone, all of the time.
  • Focus on your customer’s best interest and it will pay off in a positive way.
  • There are some situations where it’s best to take note and step away.
  • A person doesn’t tweet a company with their problem to be told to call their 800 number. Resolve problems in the same place the conversation began.
  • Make them heard. Listen and acknowledge their feelings, repeat back what you heard.
  • Consider yourself an ambassador between the company and its audience. Be a hero.
  • What you do with negative feedback is the real secret. Turn feedback into innovate to increase your company’s performance.
  • Negative comments are a gift. Uncensored feedback empowers a company to be awesome.
  • Empower the right people in your organization to monitor and reward customer feedback good and bad.

 

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