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4 Cool-Headed Strategies for Responding to Negative Comments Online

4 Cool-Headed Strategies for Responding to Negative Comments Online
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Small-business owners spend good money on advertising, media relations and other promotional materials to increase brand awareness and control the conversation surrounding the business. Although these tactics can be effective, one of the biggest factors that sway consumers’ opinions is feedback from others.

Years ago, word of mouth was a very literal expression that meant one person shared their experience with their friends and colleagues and then those people shared with their network and so forth. These days, when a customer is upset with their experience, the first thing they do is announce their opinion on social media and web forums.

Related: Got a Bad Yelp Review? Here's How to Defend Your Business Online. (Infographic)

So what do you do when you get a scathing Yelp! review about the terrible service and cold soup at your family restaurant or a horrible post on Ripoff Report about your gym’s cancellation policy? The tips below will help answer these questions and outline some of the best practices for handling bad reviews. 

1. Know that time is of the essence.

To gain back trust after a scathing review, make sure you say something as soon as possible. A quick response shows that the business has nothing to hide. It’s important to note, however, that the messaging needs to be thoughtful and accurate, since the audience may already be aggressive and you don’t want to fuel an already existing fire.

Sometimes, the best response is something simple, such as “We are very sorry for the inconvenience and frustration that you’ve been experiencing. Please contact me directly at [email address] and we’ll get this figured out.”

2. Admit wrongdoing and apologize.

If the complaint is legitimate and truthful, it’s important to step up and take the blame. People often respond negatively online to businesses that are trying to evade the blame or pass it off on someone else. Conversely, customers are more likely to forgive and forget if the owner apologizes sincerely and then tries to make amends.

Related: Don't Make These Customer Review Monitoring Mistakes

If the angry customer who received poor service and cold soup wrote on the local restaurant’s Facebook page, then the restaurant could respond back by saying that they truly apologize for the negative service, and would like to make it up to them by offering a meal for them on the house. A business owner should then go to their employees and pinpoint the problem, so the issue does not continue.  

3. Don’t feel obligated to respond to everyone.

Often times, online comments can be crude or vulgar because people are more courageous when hiding behind a computer screen. If the comment is a personal attack or vague, don’t engage. Only respond to specific complaints about your service or the customer’s experience. Acting defensively or engaging in the foul play can make you and your business look petty and childish.

4. Ask yourself, do you want to be right or rich?

Your objective is to have a successful business. Don’t sabotage yourself by turning current and prospective customers off with an emotional or defensive response to an online comment. Keep the big picture in mind and ask yourself if your response is going to help or hurt your business. Never respond out of emotion or argue over details, and always keep in mind that the best way to go about responding to negativity is to take the conversation offline.

Related: 5 Predictions About the Growing Power of Online Customer Reviews