When you put yourself out there and open your blog, Facebook page, or Twitter account up to outside comments, it is not without risk. Let’s be honest – it can be downright scary to see what your audience has to say about you, and negativity naturally puts us all on the defensive.
While you may be tempted to lash out at these comments and fight fire with fire, so to speak, please don’t. Relax, take a deep breath, and follow these suggestions to actually turn negative comments into a positive for your business.
Reasons for Negative Posting
Negative comments run the gamut from a polite complaint to downright vitriol, depending on the person doing the posting. Before we can discuss how to deal with these comments, we really need to first identify the reasoning behind them. In general, we can divide these posters into a few well-defined categories:
The Constructive Criticizer – This person has a legitimate problem with a product, service, or something else related to your company, such as a bad experience with an employee. They want to let you know what happened without being rude or over the top about it.
The Overreactor – This person also has a legitimate problem with a product, service, or something else related to your company, but the post that they create is totally out of line with the offense. It may contain foul language, additional complaints that are illegitimate, or attacks to your character.
The Instigator – Perhaps the most irritating type of post, this usually has nothing to do with any service or product you provided; instead, this person tries to exact some sort of revenge on you for one reason or another. He or she may be someone who is in direct competition with you, an ex-friend, or even a disgruntled ex-employee.
Just as your grandmother used to tell you, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This is so true when it comes to dealing with negative comments! There are actually quite a few different things that you can do to prevent negative comments in a legitimate way.
First of all, require anyone who is going to post a comment on your site to provide some sort of login information. This is one way to keep the Instigators at bay, because a lot of them won’t bother to create an account or risk your identifying them.
Additionally – and this is somewhat obvious – you should always strive to provide your customers with a high standard of service, even if this means going above and beyond what is comfortable or easy on your end. Always keep your relationships with your employees and your competition professional to prevent them ever having anything bad to say about you.
Dealing With a Negative Nellie
No matter how well you follow the preventative measures I just listed, you will inevitably get at least a few negative comments. Some of these comments may be on your website; others may be on national review sites, such as Yelp! or Google.
Wherever they are, the way you handle them requires a level of professionalism and perhaps a little crow eating on your part, but trust me: it’s well worth it for the benefit of your business. Here are the rules for dealing with negativity the right way.
Rule #1: Don’t Ignore It
When you find a negative comment, you should not just leave it out it cyberspace without some sort of response. A Constructive Criticizer is the easiest to handle; you should thank them for their comment, apologize for any mistakes on your end, and offer to rectify the situation in some way. You should also offer to follow up with the commenter by phone or in person.
Overreactors can be handled similarly, but you probably should not expect much in the way of a response to your response. That’s OK. The point in this case is to show that you are a reasonable human being who attempts to solve problems in a timely and reasonable way. The Instigators are a bit trickier. Some should be handled in the same manner, but others may need to be removed (if they are offensive and on your site) or reported (if they are inaccurate and on another site).
Rule #2: Don’t Take It Personally
It can be hard to handle someone saying something bad about you, especially if you put your heart and soul into your work only to have it dissed by someone else.
Don’t take it personally. Instead, evaluate the comments carefully, looking for the truth in them and ignoring the emotion and/or lies. You don’t need somebody’s personal life drama or anger issues affecting your work, your mojo, or your confidence.
Rule #3: Turn a Negative Into a Positive
Sometimes those negative comments can be a great wake-up call for you if you look at them the right way. Did you get a complaint about an employee? Maybe the person you thought was performing well is not doing what you expect of them behind your back.
A complaint about turnaround time may force you to take a good, hard look at your productivity and scheduling. Did someone tell you that your product didn’t perform as advertised? This is worth looking into to see what might need to be changed in future versions.
The point is, if you remain calm, rational, and non-defensive, you can use negative comments to make yourself, your business, and your product better than before, which is most definitely a good thing.
Rule #4: Use Recourse if Necessary
If someone tell blatantly false lies about you or your company on a review site, should you just leave it out there for the whole world to see and possibly believe?
Absolutely not. If this happens to you, you need to contact the owners of the site and explain your concerns. In some cases, there are moderators who will take down comments pending an investigation of the claims, and others will allow you to respond in such a way that others can see both sides of the story.
Most sites do not tolerate foul language, so if this is the case, request for the offending comment to be immediately removed.
You can do this yourself if it is on your site.
Rule #5: Don’t Fake It
A lot of businesses are tempted to fluff their reviews with fake positive reviews written by themselves or a paid proxy. Don’t fall victim to the temptation, because most readers will be able to see right through your false flattery.
That being said, don’t hesitate to ask your loyal customers to add their two cents on a review site. A few genuine kind words go a long way toward building your reputation online.
Negative reviews are going to happen, and taking them in stride but with a proactive approach will help you make lemonade out of lemons.
Don’t sweat the small stuff, fix the problems that these comments bring to your attention, and make sure that you don’t let the bad attitude of others bring you down. Remember this, and you are well on your way to greatness.