Because people have become accustomed to doing so many things online, it only makes sense that businesses follow suit. But increased accessibility can be a double-edged sword.
While the Internet, mobile technology and social media have simplified several aspects of running a business – such as sales and marketing – they have also made it easier for people to respond to your business in negative, and sometimes hurtful, ways. These days, leaving a bad review or comment can be done with a click of a button; for better or worse, word of mouth has never had the potential to travel so fast – and so far. And while negative attention online can be incredibly damaging to your business, there are ways to deal with it. By acting quickly and creatively, you can even turn setbacks into opportunities. Here are five of our best tips for responding to online negativity.
Don’t Delete: Seeing a negative review or a complaint about your business can create anxiety and panic, but you must resist the urge to erase it. Not only does transparency make you look like a responsible business owner who accepts criticism, but it also gives you an opportunity to publicly address the issue. By making amends in front of an audience (whether or not you believe you’re in the wrong), you’ll show your unhappy customers that they’re being heard and understood. Interacting in front of an audience also adds a human element to your company and reminds people of your unique position as an independent retailer.
Act Fast: Because the digital world has made communicating so much faster and easier, people expect answers and replies as soon as they fire off a question or complaint – especially when they’re unhappy. So when you receive a negative review online, address it is as soon as possible; the last thing you want to do is make an already-unhappy customer feel like they’re being ignored.
Own It: As a small business owner, we know you’re familiar with the term ‘The customer is always right.’ When it comes to dealing with any complaint, whether in person or online, it’s a valuable mantra. While it can be easy to get defensive about the customer’s complaint or refute a bad review from behind a keyboard, you must remain professional and not let emotion take over. That means apologizing and making things right, every single time. Your reputation and repeat business depend on it.
Redirect: While all complaints are different, one of the simplest solutions for dealing with online negativity is to redirect the conversation to a more private setting. After publicly addressing the issue and/or apologizing, you don’t want your entire communication visible to anyone with a Smartphone or Internet connection. Unless it’s a general question or a complaint about a common issue, these conversations are best kept private. Dealing with unhappy customers “behind closed doors” will also show that you see them as individuals (instead of just another customer) and give you a better chance of winning them over.
You can’t please all people all the time: If you’ve apologized about the problem (both publicly and privately) and are still not able to please an unhappy customer, remember that it’s impossible to make everyone happy. While it’s unfortunate to potentially lose a customer, you have to accept that some minds simply can’t be changed. Instead of losing energy (and sleep) over one unfortunate situation, learn what you can from the experience, move on and focus on the positive.