How to Handle Negative Online Comments

Even if your business has never been vilified online, you likely know someone who has that can testify to how detrimental negative comments can be. Whether or not the complaints are valid, they’re now on the record for all to see.
When faced with this situation, you have three options. One is to ignore it and hope it goes away. It won’t.
The second option is to respond online by calling out the customer as irrational. Before you do that, know that caustic comments reflect more on the sender than the receiver and there’s really no delete button in cyberspace.
Your third choice, and the one that’s best for your business, is to publicly acknowledge and address the situation immediately. How you go about resolving the issue will make all the difference when it comes to maintaining your reputation and increasing customer loyalty.
Here’s a three-step process to solving the problem. 

1. Don’t remove negative comments. Since it’s likely that others have seen the comments, removing complaints causes more harm and creates unnecessary suspicion. It’s best to respond online by asking the customer to resolve the issue with you offline.
Still concerned about those public posts? Take heart. A recent Harris Interactive survey found that one-third of customers who posted negative comments and received a response from the company ended up posting a positive review after the issue was resolved. Also, around the same number of those customers deleted their original remark. Alternatively, when that unhappy customer is satisfied with how you’ve handled the issue, you can ask them to update their post.
2. Acknowledge the complaint. Customers want to be heard so allow them to vent. Once the customer has gotten the issues on the table, respond with, “I see why you may feel that way.”
While you may disagree with some points, restate the issue so you’re on the same page and can move toward a resolution. Of note, 96 percent of customers who complain will do business with your company again if the issue is quickly resolved.
3. Focus on the facts and be grateful for the complaint. When you separate the harsh delivery of the message from the facts, you’re left with a precious gift. Without that complaint, you may never know why great customers suddenly disappeared.
While it’s impossible to please everybody, you can learn to appreciate complaints as warning signs and opportunities to build even stronger ties to your customers.

Gina Watkins is a leading expert on e-marketing for small business – and has a real passion for helping businesses to succeed. Her ongoing series of dynamic lectures are filled with real-world examples, humor and results-driven wisdom garnered from more than two decades of sales, business development and marketing experience. In addition to owning her own business, she is an award-winning direct marketer, has been featured on WUSA Channel 9’s Mind Over Money show, Dr. Gayle Carson’s Women In Business radio show, Morgan State’s Briefcase Radio program, and in numerous other media. In her role as Constant Contact Regional Development Director, she’s presented to more than ten thousand seminar attendees about the keys to success with easy, affordable, highly effective technology tools that grow trusted business relationships.