Social media platforms can be a double-edged sword for small businesses. On the one hand, it gives happy, satisfied customers a broad, public platform to express their positive experiences with a business and sing its glowing praises. But at the same token, it gives dissatisfied or disgruntled customers the SAME opportunity to express negative and even hate-filled reviews, especially if they feel they have been mistreated or done wrong in some way.
Such is the love-hate relationship we all have with social media! That's why its SO important to know HOW to handle both positive AND negative reviews on your social media pages.
Let's face it - by nature, people are MORE likely to post a BAD review than they are a GOOD one, and unfortunately, some don't "hold back" when expressing their discontent and scorn when they've had a bad experience. Social media has made it incredibly easy and gutless for anyone to sit behind a computer screen and maliciously attack another person or business - either WITH or WITHOUT just cause, and then justify it by screaming "free speech". And while everyone IS entitled to express their opinion in any way they choose, most people do not have the social skills to know how to do it tactfully on social media. Therefore, there are certain steps you MUST take immediately when you get a bad review, which we'll discuss in a moment. But first, let's briefly talk about how to handle the GOOD reviews, of which I hope you have many MORE of!
When someone takes the time to express their gratitude or satisfaction with your product or service, it's extremely important that you take the same time to THANK them for their kind words! Knowing that you acknowledge and appreciate their remarks shows humbleness, respect and just plain good manners - as well as fosters a good business relationship with that customer, which may help bring in MORE referrals and new business. You should NEVER let a positive comment go unnoticed or acknowledged, even if its just in a small way by saying "thanks - we appreciate your kind words". This also gives other visitors a chance to see how well you treat your current customers, and may encourage them to post their own positive reviews if they, too, have been one of your satisfied customers. Responding to positive reviews also builds trust and confidence, reflects a professional business attitude, and shows you are "in touch" with your customer base. Any good business person knows in order to build a strong customer base, you need to appreciate the customers you currently have, as they are your BEST form of future business!
Taking On Negative Reviewers
It's EASY to respond to a positive review about your business, but what about when someone posts a NEGATIVE review? The same rule of thumb exists - you need to make sure you address those comments too - only its even MORE critical that you address negative reviews AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, and in the most professional manner possible!
A negative review may surprise or even anger you, and your first response may be to immediately defend yourself against the attacker. First of all, TAKE A DEEP BREATH! A negative review, while certainly NOT pleasant, is an excellent opportunity for you to learn more about your customers, and how to possibly improve your customer service habits to reach even MORE customers in the future. It can be a great learning experience and keep you "on your toes" as to any needed changes in your business! Going into a negative review situation takes patience, understanding, professionalism and a clear, calm state of mind. Jumping head first into a confrontation with a disgruntled customer without mentally preparing for it, is just plan business suicide!
I'll admit, it's unfair of someone to immediately go on social media and start blasting a business when they haven't even taken the time to contact the business owner FIRST to try and resolve the matter privately, but for some reason, people just LOVE to bring negativity into the public eye to get attention, sympathy, out of anger or just for spite. You can't always avoid these surprise reviews, but you CAN control how you respond to them. Below are some tips to help you "counter the attack" with professionalism and respect, and without falling to the level of your attacker, and that will hopefully resolve the matter without any long term damage to your business reputation!
1. Try to contact the attacker OFFLINE first, by phone, email or even private message, to arrange a meeting to discuss their concerns in private. Express your willingness to hear them out and let them know how important it is that you know all the details of their particular complaint, as well as how you can make it right for them.
2. If a meeting in private is not possible, respond to the person PUBLICLY on the particular social media site they've chosen to express their review and ask them if they would CALL YOU about their concerns.This shows other social media viewers that you are acknowledging their complaint, taking the time to try and find out WHY they are unhappy, and addressing their concerns - not just ignoring them. It puts the "ball back into their court", and forces them to acknowledge YOUR response. All eyes will then be on them, and not YOU, as other viewers wait to see how the negative reviewer is going to respond. Just by publicly addressing the situation, other viewers will automatically hold a higher opinion of you, and expect the negative reviewer to respond with fairness and respect. Trust me, this is a "show" that many viewers will be watching, and you want to make sure everyone sees your "best side"!
3. DON'T argue with them on social media. If they are incorrect in any of their statements and you can prove it without much effort, do so, but do not try to justify your stance or defend yourself against their complaints. If they are upset or angry, they may not be receptive to any justification or reasoning until they've had a chance to cool down. Arguing with them only fuels the fire and makes them more defensive. Simply state why they are incorrect, and apologize for any misunderstanding or conclusions they came to in error, and then invite them back in and promise to personally attend to them to make sure they have a better customer experience. Try to maintain your composure, and speak kind, clearly and calmly.
4. If THEY have undeniable proof they have been mistreated in any way, or you already know they have been wronged, ask them to come to your place of business so that you can offer them a formal apology, refund, exchange, credit, etc. If its not possible for them to come to you, publicly apologize online, and then offer to send them a refund, gift card, etc. - whatever is appropriate for the situation. Make sure you FOLLOW THRU with your offer, along with a HAND WRITTEN apology on a small note card. This lets other social media viewers see that you are truly sorry for that customer's bad experience, and that you are trying to make things right. I've seen this work first hand for one particular local business who was blasted on social media for a lack of attention when the reviewer visited their store. The store owner immediately responded to the complaint on the social media platform, apologized for the customer's bad experience, and then invited them back into the store with a generous discount! The scorned reviewer immediately softened their attitude and agreed to give the store another chance to make them happy. You can be sure this customer will NOT forget the kind way in which the owner treated them to retain their business!
5. Let a negative reviewer know that you APPRECIATE them bringing a complaint to your attention, and ask them what you can do to correct the situation, or make it better. Again, letting them see that you are acknowledging their complaint, and your willingness to try and make amends, will go a long way in turning a negative into a positive, and save face with other potential viewers.
6. Finally, after you've had an opportunity to resolve the negative review, ask the reviewer if they would be willing to remove or update their initial review, if they are satisfied with the final outcome. This may or may not always work, as most people do NOT like to admit they were wrong or "take back their words" - even after things have been made right for them. It's embarrassing for them to admit fault, and makes them feel foolish for publicly expressing their feelings. However, when you go OUT of your way to "right a wrong", most people are willing to give you credit and are happy to adjust their reviews, or at least update it with a better one!
7. Above all, handle any review with the same utmost professionalism, respect and fairness you would expect if YOU were the injured party. You don't have to adhere to the old adage that "the customer is always right" (because alot of times they AREN'T), but there's still one old saying that works almost EVERY time, and especially when it comes to dealing with negative social media reviewers:
There's no doubt social media is a strong and powerful marketing tool, and can be your business' best friend, as well as your worst enemy. Make sure you are actively involved in any social media platform you're a part of, and take the time to interact with your visitors on a daily basis. This insures that if any negative comment is made, you can catch it early on, address it, and resolve the matter to the satisfaction of all parties involved. On the same note, if you don't have the time to monitor your social media pages, make sure you have someone you can trust that does, and that can report to you when any negative reviews arise. Having an unattended social media page can be a dangerous and destructive business habit, and can do your business more harm than good!
LT Web Designs offers social media marketing services to its customers as part of our website maintenance package, or as a standalone service. Visit our Social Media Services page for more information!
Website designer, social media consultant, nature photographer and published author, with over 10 years experience in business advertising and marketing!
LT Web Designs specializes in website design and social media marketing for small and local businesses in Eastern North Carolina.