Lukas Perrott and Callum Lee from Spinifex Communications explain how best to deal with unfavourable online reviews. 

As business owners, negative feedback is certainly not something we ever enjoy dealing with, and often times we’ll ignore it or try to avoid it altogether in the hope that maybe it will disappear on its own.

Unfortunately, this is not a sustainable method of dealing with negative feedback from your customers. The reality is that feedback in any form is a gift, as it presents an opportunity for you to discover more about your service offering, how it’s perceived by your customers, and it may even allow you to make adjustments to improve the overall experience of interacting with your business.

Be that as it may, in the 21st century the bulk of negative feedback seems to be making its way further and further into public forums, as individuals around the world become more and more connected, consumers no longer rely on businesses to be the sole conduit of information regarding their products and services.

So what does this mean?

It means that if someone is going to bad-mouth your business or a service that you’ve provided, you can bet that they’re going to do it in a place where everyone can see it. So where is the best place to yell about something that’s upset you so everyone will see it?

Social media

This means that as business owners, we need to have negative feedback policies and procedures in place that will allow us to:

  • Reduce the effect of the feedback on other potential clients
  • Respond calmly and professionally in a public forum without further inflaming the situation
  • Take the conversation offline to a place where it can be settled in private
  • Retain the individual as a customer where possible.

A good social media policy should split out negative feedback into categories and design responses appropriately.

Here’s a rough guide as a jumping off point:

  • Customer with issues: This is very common on Twitter, usually with people voicing their concerns or frustrations with a product or service. It can often be something as simple as a customer with questions about a treatment, previously carried out. It is vital to respond to these quickly, especially in service industries. If the complaint is made in a public post, making a direct public reply is a good idea, usually directing the customer to communicate further in a more private manner.
  • Customer with negative feedback: The authors are usually consumers who are less interested in getting a resolution and more interested in publicly shaming a company. Complaints often come in the form of large wall posts on a business page or large posts with the business page tagged in it. Be very cautious about dealing with these because the entire point of these posts is to go viral, which can be deadly to small businesses.

Do not try to silence these posts; do not respond flippantly or sarcastically. That is how posts like this gain the attention of individuals with much more reach and power online.

Try to placate and minimise damage. Make sure that individual employees do not interact unless feedback is directed at them.

  • Troll comments: Occasionally designed to look like negative feedback, these posts seek to do nothing but cause damage. Do not interact. Much like juvenile bullying it’s designed purely to get a reaction. Deleting or removing troll comments is the best way of dealing with them. If a person posts three or more troll comments, block them. The most important thing about troll comments is not to give their posts enough time to gain traction.

So remember, keep calm, minimise the impact, take the conversation offline and move on.

Lukas Perrott and Callum Lee, Spinifex Communications