Consumers can be quick to share negative thoughts or experiences online -- and seeing that negativity go public is a jarring experience for any business owner. But a knee-jerk reaction on your part could escalate things even further.
The next time you receive an angry tweet or a rude comment, instead of going on the defensive, try to find a solution that will both solve the problem for the customer and protect your company's online reputation.
Twelve entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) share their top recommendations for how business owners should address negative customer feedback online.
1. Be objective.
Nobody likes a defensive CEO. Accept the criticism with an open mind and show your willingness to change. It's hard to be objective, but a response that conveys that will make you look good in the long run.--Elliot Bohm, Cardcash.com
The best way to improve and grow your business is to listen. When someone is complaining in a public forum, you need to listen and figure out the reason why. Then fix the problem and win the customer back.--Syed Balkhi, OptinMonster
3. Know when to comment and when to walk away.
When looking at a negative comment or posting, try thinking about the motive. Is this person simply trolling the company, or did they have a negative experience? If it is the latter, move forward much like you would if a client expressed concerns in person. If the negativity isn't based on experience, try ignoring it and moving on.--Chuck Cohn, Varsity Tutors
4. Remember to follow up a week later.
Even after the initial response, follow up a week after: "Just checking in! It looks like we were able to [issue resolution] for you but if there's anything else we can do to help you out, let us know." This shows the disgruntled customer that you care about their entire experience, not just addressing the specific complaint. It also publicly shows that your company follows through.--Roger Lee, Captain401
5. Take it offline.
If a negative piece of content from a customer is discovered, start by acknowledging the post. Then, politely ask for their contact information (or provide your own direct email address or phone number) to take the issue offline. The last thing you want is to work out the issue publicly. If the comment is simply one from an internet troll, ignore it, or if it's potentially damaging, work to have it removed.--Wesley Mathews, High Level Marketing
6. Take the high road.
Be polite and gracious no matter how angry the post is or how malicious the tweet. Your responses should be professional and not show that you are personally offended. Don't give into what they are doing because they might be trying to bait you. Keep it short and to the point on the public stage, and then seek more dialogue offline.--Andrew O'Connor, American Addiction Centers
7. Wait to investigate.
If you see a lot of these negative comments, tweets or posts, you need to investigate why so many people are unhappy and resolve the underlying problem. If it's a one-off, ask yourself if responding publicly will achieve a positive result. Will the customer be any happier than before they posted? Will it make you look defensive? Will it accomplish anything? Put ego aside.--Alisha Navarro, 2 Hounds Design
8. Don't escalate the situation.
Here's the decision tree: If someone in your company doesn't know the commenter, then ignore. Otherwise, contact that person by phone or in person and listen. People are much more conciliatory offline. I learned the hard way. A troller called me a "square-jawed scammer" and labeled us a "subscam." The ensuing conversation I initiated catapulted that from the seventh page of Google search results to the first.--David Mainiero, InGenius Prep
9. Use it as an opportunity.
It's important not get too stressed about it or take it personally. Some people use Twitter almost exclusively to sound off against brands that have "wronged them." Try to treat it as an asset. A negative situation in business is always a learning opportunity to make things better. Own it and be frank when you've messed up. Consumers respond when you're honest and transparent.--Jonathan Shokrian, MeUndies Inc
10. Respond, respond, respond.
Every luxury hotel wants to be No. 1 on TripAdvisor within their particular area. TripAdvisor ninjas know never to leave one comment unanswered, be it positive or negative. If it's positive, leave genuine thanks. If it's negative and true, give a brief apology and a public offering to right the wrong. If negative and false, politely explain how you tried to solve the problem. Bottom line: Responding is caring.--Derek Hunter, Long Live Luxury
11. Stick to the talking points.
There is no upside to debating on social media. However, tempting it may be. If a complaint has some legitimacy,--meaning it isn't simply trolling--I'll respond with the company's position on the issue and invite the commenter to contact me privately. Don't get sucked into an argument--you'll almost always end up looking worse than if you'd said nothing at all.--Vik Patel, Future Hosting
12. Keep your cool.
Your goal should be to get emotion out of the way and consider what a follower would want you to explain. It's important to not respond to every comment (good or bad). If you do respond, your goal should be to only comment once. If an apology is owed, offer it, but don't get into a debate. After you leave your comment, follow up with positives the next day. The number one rule is to keep your cool.--Peter Boyd, PaperStreet Web Design