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September 20, 2012

Is Negative Feedback a Fly in the Ointment of Social Media? — A SPN Exclusive

These days, you are really getting the hang of this social media stuff. You’re utilizing the carefully-chosen medley of social media sites that altogether complement your business. (Congrats!) You’ve been posting to each of these sites regularly and you’ve even been blogging consistently. (Sweet!) And, finally, you’re getting the steady community-interaction you had long hoped for. (Yippeeeee.)

Your online social media marketing plan is working superbly and your SEO results are reflecting your efforts. You are so proud of your flawless online reputation, and especially fond of all of the positive feedback you’ve been receiving from your customers. (Is that a ubiquity of harmonious music I’m hearing in the background? And, what is that I see? You and your coworkers dancing in sheer joy and excitement of this newly-found, online utopia!?)

Aaah, all is seemingly going so well and so perfectly until, all of a sudden… the unthinkable happens. You visit one of your social networking sites only to find, glaring right at you, SCREAMING AT YOU IN BLACK AND WHITE… *AIR HORN!!! AIR HORN!!! WOOOOOOOP!!! WOOOOOOP!!! WOOOOOOP!!!* Someone has posted a negative comment about your business! You do a double-take. Yep, it’s right there. Splattered all over your once flawless page for the whole world to see, disgracing your online reputation… (How dare they!)

“They didn’t!!!,” you whimper! (Oh yeah, they did. And, sorry, putting your hand over your screen trying to hide the negative comment won’t help the situation. Nice try though.) Yep, it’s the black mark on the soul of your brand!!! A mad hindrance on the successes you have worked so hard to achieve!!!! A fly in the ointment of your social media efforts!!! “NOOOOOOOOO!!!”

Okay, you get the point. So, yeah, you’ve received a negative comment. And, right now, it might seem like the end of the world, but, don’t panic, it’s not. It’s actually an opportunity for you to show off your customer servicing capabilities. (No, seriously, hear me out.) Even with the best of products, services and customer service, this was bound to happen sooner or later, because, as hard as you try, you can’t please all of the people all of the time. It’s the nature of doing business. The important thing is turning that negative feedback you received into a positive experience and to do it quickly and respectfully.

Here’s how:

– Again, respond to the complaint in a timely manner. The faster you remedy the situation, the better. You will want to do so before the comment gains momentum with other customers. And, a timely response shows you are genuinely concerned about the issue and are eager to fix the problem.

– Be respectful and empathetic about the person’s complaint, even if the complaint is rude or inaccurate. (What’s that weird noise? Are you growling?) Sometimes, it’s very tempting to lash out a response in defense of your company. After all, this is your livelihood and your pride is at stake. But, it’s important to ALWAYS REMAIN POSITIVE. Negativity will only reflect poorly on your business. (Save the complaining for later. You can vent your true feelings to your coworkers, friends or spouse. Hehe.) Sounding angry in your response will do your business more harm than good. To be sure you’ve written in a professional (anger-free) tone, try walking away for a minute, come back and re-read your response before hitting the “Post” button. Or, have a coworker read your response for an objective point-of-view to help weed out any lingering negativity.

– Thank the customer for taking the time to write a comment. (Ouch, do I have to?) After all, negative comments can occasionally benefit you. (Say what?) Sometimes customers will offer specific suggestions which can be used in a way that can make your product or service even better. (Or, maybe the idea was a stupid one and, in that case, you should quietly toss it out the window. Either way, it would be polite to thank that person for their time.)

– Offer a solution. If you have a solution, of course, share it. If you don’t have an immediate explanation for the problem, be honest. Let the customer know you are looking into the issue and will be getting back to them shortly.

– Add an additional layer of “remedy” by gaining positive reviews from other customers. Having more positive feedback will minimize the effects of any negative comments. Do this by explicitly welcoming feedback. Let customers know their opinions are appreciated. Sometimes a simple prompt will do the trick. (Psst… getting lots of feedback will also create a boost in your organic search results. Bonus!!) Or, if you already know a customer is happy with your business, don’t be shy, ask them to write a review.

Other customers will appreciate your efforts in very kindly, and professionally, handling the negative feedback you had received.

So, there ya go. You’ve publicly displayed your fantastic customer service and problem solving capabilities! (Yay, you!!!!) That means, you can continue celebrating all of those wonderful social media successes you’ve been having, because the benefits will certainly outweigh the costs. (*Queuing ubiquitous music… * “Haaaaaallelujahhhhh!” Keep up the good work!)

Heather Kyle is the Creative Director for Pilot Fish, an Akron, Ohio, SEO marketing and web design company that specializes in B2B.