By Pol Arellano
It’s not always sunny and rose-colored in the comment section of your social media pages. Yes, from time to time, you’ll encounter Negative Nancies making their appearance on a post or two — complaining about a poor service experience or a product flaw.
Today, negative comments have become easier to make. Within seconds, anyone can post a negative feedback online, for the world to see. It’s easy to get carried away and respond instinctively — which is defensively — but everyone knows that it’s not the right route to take.
Essentially, these Negative Nancies are reaching out to you and they want their voice to be heard. And you, as a business owner, understand that. But how can you effectively handle all the negativity?
Here are ten tips on how to handle negative comments online:
Work fast. But not too fast.
Responding too late will give your audience the impression that you don’t care about their feedback, but reacting too fast may not give you enough time to process the comment fully and figure out the best plan of action. Also, if you’re too hasty on your responses, you may not be able to control your emotions and respond in a not-so-accommodating tone — which is the last thing you’d want to do.
It’s a good idea to wait an hour or two to mull the comment over and strategize. But don’t let it go unanswered too long. A timely response is a good way to let everyone know that you’re dedicated to your community.
Acceptance is key.
Accept the comment. Even if you find the comment to be minor, faulty, imprecise and even downright strange and kooky, you have to take it as constructive nuggets of wisdom that you can use to your business’s advantage.
Accept and appreciate the effort people put in to make you know what it is exactly that they need help with, or an experience that wasn’t too pleasant — that you can consider to improve. People want to be heard, and sometimes all it takes is for them to know that you’ve listened to their concerns.
Which leads us to the next tip.
A negative feedback is not necessarily bad feedback. You would just have to listen to what the criticism is about because this is the bedrock of a sound response. Listen to each comment and determine whether it is factual or opinion-based.
And while you’re listening to the feedback, mute out the coarse manner in which it is delivered (the callousness and harshness, among many others), and focus on whether it is correct or otherwise. It’s best to train yourself to focus on the advantageous information you could use to respond properly and use to propel your business or product forward. The comment may not come from an absolute saint, but that doesn’t mean that it’s automatically of no merit.
Check the source.
Sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between Negative Nancies and plain ol’ bullies. Evaluate the comment. If the comment is not factual, and after determining that you cannot extract any useful information from it, then you can just ignore the comment. However, it’s not a bad idea to keep tabs on the commenter. Sometimes you would just have no other option but to pick your battles and shake off the illegitimate negativity.
No matter how awful a comment is, resist the urge to attack a commenter. Always take the high road and remain respectful. Don’t get defensive when you read negative comments. Even if you can prove a commenter wrong (and oh boy, is it temmmppppttttttiiiiinnnnng), it’s not the best to do that immediately.
Instead, respectfully ask useful questions about their experience to direct them into communicating their concerns better.
And don’t forget an important part of your end of the dialogue:
Say sorry. (But don’t go overboard).
A sincere apology — that’s what you should give anyone who’s commented negatively about your brand or company. It won’t help your business if you’re being lukewarm or unconcerned with your responses.
Remember, a negative comment made online is a dialogue that’s open for the world to see. And fighting with a commenter is not the most strategic move. Plus, apologizing will put you in good light with your audience. They’ll see that you’re a responsible business and that you’re trying your best to address all concerns.
React Online, then Offline.
Always keep in mind that you’re not just responding to a negative comment seen just by one pair of eyes– but possibly thousands. Or hundreds of thousands. So it’s important to make sure that you respond in the same channel the negative feedback was made. This will show not just the commenter that you’re taking their concern seriously, but whoever else will stumble upon the comment as well.
Once you’ve done that, take the conversation privately. This is where you can ask more specific questions to find out more about the concern and figure out the best way to act.
Promise to help and deliver.
Once you’ve identified the legitimate constructive point underneath a negative feedback, promise to take action and actually do it. Focus on what needs to be corrected, actively communicate with the client, and act on it.
Not all concerns can be remedied with a flick of a switch or a push of a button, so don’t be afraid to ask for more time if you need it. Be transparent with your time frames and save yourself from further online negativity.
Go easy on the freebies.
Yes, you’d want to be on your angry client’s good side. But pace yourself with the freebies with the goal of appeasing your clients. First thing’s first — get to know what the real issue is and do your best to resolve it. It’s not that it’s something that’s totally discouraged (because from time to time, it is warranted) but don’t get carried away with rewarding clients with free stuff.
With every negative comment you receive, your goal is to not only respond properly and solve issues, but to ultimately, be a better company.
There will always be negative comments to sift through so you can find chunks of constructive criticism that will help propel your company be the best that it can be. In a world where negative feedback is in constant supply, keep an open mind and ear, and strive to raise the bar. Keep going forward and work hard to be better — not just in the eyes of one Negative Nancy, but the world.