How to respond to online complaints

How are you responding to customers who complain.

How are you responding to customers who complain?

Responding to upset customers, these 10 ways might help you achieve a positive result.

No matter your industry, you’re going to experience negative word of mouth.

Not only have they made possible contact with you they have also told their social network which can do great damage to your reputation. Things break, problems come up and employees have bad days. But it’s how you handle it that can separate you from everyone else.

A good point to remember is that Negative word of mouth can be an opportunity.

A response strategy can convert angry and upset customers into loyal, raving fans. The rule of thumb is that while unhappy customers talk to 5 people, formerly unhappy customers you win back talk to 10.

So don’t be afraid and embrace the negativity. Start responding. Here are 10 steps you can take to stop the negativity and earn new fans and generate a ton of respect.

1) You Can’t Respond to Conversations You Don’t See

Great response starts with great listening.

  • Set up Google Alerts for your brand and industry keywords.
  • Keep a close eye on your Facebook page.
  • Listen on Twitter and ensure you receive notifications for mentions and any #tag you associate your campaigns with.
  • Check your Page Rank on your brand name and see if you are listed in any review sites.
  • Make a list of any industry forums or communities where your customers connect and share then check in on them.

Whether you’re paying attention or not, conversations are happening. Having these basic systems in place makes it easier for you to catch any negative talk and stop issues before they build momentum and become much harder to turn around.

Google alerts is free, easy to set up, and can instantly help you keep an eye on key conversations. It will basically send you an email if your company name or products are shown up in google search results. There are various settings so have a look and see what might benefit your business best.

2) Determine if the comment is even Worth a Response

Not all negative comments are worth a response, and not all critics are worth trying to win over. Sometimes, as hard as it can be, it’s best just to move on.

Avoid the following situations:

  • The criticism is on a really small blog or forum, and your response will only bring attention and credibility to an issue nobody saw in the first place.
  • It’s a blatant attack that’s clearly rude and outrageous—and anyone who reads it can see the critic has a personal problem.
  • A known critic who is only looking to pick a fight. – Don’t amuse them
  • There’s just no way to win in these scenarios. So stay out, move on, keep your head up and focus on the wrongs you can right.

3) Act Quickly

When you’re facing negative word of mouth, time is not on your side. The longer you wait to respond, the more upset the customer will get—and the more likely others will pick up on the issue and spread the negativity.

At the very least, say this:

“Hi __________, my name is ______ and I acknowledge your comment. We’re looking into it now, and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. If you have any questions, contact me directly at _____.”

A message like this does two things:

  • The upset customer knows they have your attention—there’s much less incentive to keep spreading the anger and
  • It makes a real person with real contact info available, so if the person is still angry, you’ve at least specified a place to rant and rave other than online.

4) Make it personal.

The only thing worse than ignoring your upset customer is to respond with a generic corporate response. If you thought they were mad before, wait until you see how they react to an excerpt of your policy terms and fine print.

Show empathy, communicate in a friendly tone and use your real name. And if the forum supports it, it helps to include your actual photo.

It’s easy to yell and scream at an anonymous company. But when someone shows up and says, “Hi, this is Nicci and I’m so sorry for the trouble…” it changes everything.

The critic now realises he wasn’t yelling at a giant, faceless company. He was yelling at Nicci. Quickly, the anger fades—and you’ll often get an apology.

5) Offer a real apology or don’t apologise at all.

A meaningful and direct apology will always earn more respect than a flimsy, “kinda-sorta” apology.

6) Offer a solution to make it right

Apologising is part of turning around negative word of mouth, but to actually fix a problem is how you really win over your critics.

We all make mistakes and so. it is how we fix them that people remember.

7) Never get into an argument

Any time you win an argument online, you’re losing. The only thing anyone really remembers is that you’re combative.

This does not mean you can’t respond, explain your side of the story and start a conversation. You just need to be in the right mindset:

Don’t get attached emotionally.

Remember, it’s a real person. Just as they see you as a faceless company, it’s easy to see them as just another complainer.

The critic is actually doing you a favour. They’re helping you learn to be a better company. For every person who actually speaks up, many more walk away quietly, never to return.

8) Keep the Discussion in the Open

When a negative issue comes up, a common gut reaction is to ask to move the conversation offline. But when you do this, the world can’t see all the effort you put into fixing the problem.

Nobody sees the private email where you give that sincere apology. We can’t search for that phone conversation where you politely explain why the situation happened in the first place.

But when you do it online, in public, you earn word of mouth. For the same effort and cost, thousands more people see that you actually care about customers. Plus, you save on all the people who now don’t need to call in (or write a similarly angry post) to find an answer to the same question.

9) Use Fans and Third-Party Sources to Help Tell the Story

What you say about yourself isn’t as powerful as what others say about you. It’s true when people are promoting you, and it’s true when people are calling you out.

10) Don’t ignore them, Involve them in the Fix.

If someone’s criticising you, it’s often just a form of tough love. They’re doing it because they care. They see potential, and they want you to do better.

So instead of seeing them as critics, start looking at them as frustrated fans that might have some worthwhile ideas.

See! Negative word of mouth doesn’t have to be so bad after all.

How do you handle complaints and critics? How are you making the most of negative word of mouth?

/ Marketing Strategy

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About the Author

Director of SiteMeUp Online Marketing

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