Identifying & Addressing Negative Feedback
It inevitably happens to everyone. You’ve got your social media accounts set up, you’re paying attention to your review sites, and you’re proactively marketing your business and asking for customer reviews. Then one morning, after all your hard work and your honest efforts, you arrive at work and check in to find a negative comment left on one of your social media accounts.
It would probably be an understatement to say that you’re a little peeved. It’s upsetting. More than likely, you feel anger. Frustration. Disappointment. Maybe you wonder if you should shed the apron, close up shop, and go find a “normal” job and stop being a business owner.
Before you become overwhelmed, take a deep breath and relax. Negativity is out there. Don’t let it get to you. We’ve all experienced it on some level, and no one can completely avoid it. Some people are more susceptible to negativity, and everyone reacts differently to it regardless of their sensitivity. That’s okay. What’s not okay is ignoring an online negative comment or review. You must respond – ignoring negative feedback is almost as bad as responding with a “We don’t care” comment (not quite, but it’s close). So what do you do?
First, you’ll want to identify what the point of the critique is, who the person is, and what the “flavor” of the negative feedback is. For a great post to read about the three main types of negative feedback, which includes concern for an issue, destructive criticism, and spam, click here. Some questions to help you figure out the type of negative feedback and who is posting it:
- Read between the lines – how bad was it really, and how are they treating you? Are they respectfully pointing out some issues that they experienced and their displeasure? Or, are they just spewing hate, completely blowing up and blowing an incident out of proportion? Maybe some of the comments don’t make sense and may indicate a troll. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t have a legitimate issue, but it may not be as bad as it initially seems. Knowing how bad the experience was can help you to address it realistically and professionally.
- Is this person actually a customer? You’d be surprised how many will honestly mistake your company for another company or, worse yet they are intentionally defacing your company. There have been reports of companies actually hiring people to post negative reviews and comments against their competitors.
- Have you heard feedback from this person before? Is this a person that has complained once before? This should spark a warning signal – either you have an on-going issue, or this may be a trouble client.
These aren’t reasons to not answer or to not take action with a complaint. However, you’ll want to have the right perspective on the complaint and on the person posting, and define what type of negative feedback this is. When you finally define the negative feedback and you have a plan of action on how to respond, here are some reminders to consider as you craft your response:
- Apologize for their bad experience. This is best to do regardless of the type of negative feedback, even if you are positive it is spam. It just shows that you can see past yourself and sympathize with them.
- See it from their perspective. Don’t just react to their words. Think about what they said. Did they feel mistreated? Slighted? Ignored? Imagine if you were in that position, how they would feel.
- Check and double-check your textual tone. There’s no body language or tone in written text. Think about the words if you were to read them without context of intention. Did you use rough words? If you spoke it out loud, did it come across as snippy, or even worse, sarcastic? As an example: “I am so sorry you experienced trouble with our perfectly good product” as compared to “I am so sorry you experienced trouble with our product.” In this case, adding the qualifiers “perfectly good” creates a textual tone that seems sarcastic, as you are implying that their complaint is nonsensical. Don’t do this.
- Take it offline. A great point by WebsiteMagazine.com is to try and take the conversation offline. The more that you can address online the better, but at some point you may reach a time when the discussion is better handled in a private line. This is particularly true for the next point.
- Is this the same response you would give to other people? If this is a one-time treatment or response and you don’t anticipate responding in this same way ever again, do everything you can to take it offline. Keep in mind that how you react and post to this person’s negative feedback online will become a standard for others when they have problems. Not that you should not do such, but if you were to give away products or services as an apology, expect that others will feel free to complain. Some will do so honestly, recognizing that you truly listen, while others will take advantage of your “freebies.” You simply need to be aware of this, and create some guidelines internally for dealing with complaints.
Once you’ve identified the type of negative feedback you have, the next step is to give a personal, professional response. Lastly, once you have addressed the negative feedback, it’s time to move on. There are lots of great articles out there about not taking criticism too harshly. Read through them to remind yourself that negative feedback is very normal and it is going to be okay. I’m one of those people that takes conflict very, very personally, so I am always reading articles to tell myself that negative feedback is normal, and that life will go one.
Many people have heard the quote “To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” Who it should be attributed to, and what phrase was said, is actually debatable. So, I present the three most common versions that I have found:
“Do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing, and you’ll never be criticized.” – Elbert Hubbard version 1.
“Criticism is something you can avoid easily — by saying nothing, by doing nothing, and by being nothing.” – Elbert Hubbard version 2.
“To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” – Aristotle version 1.
“μετάφραση είναι αναπόφευκτη” – Aristotle (humorous) version 2.*
*RevBuilders is not responsible for incorrect Ancient Greek translations. We apologize if it says anything bad – we don’t speak Ancient Greek.