Handling Criticism Online to Turn Negativity Into Positivity

Image courtesy of VFS Digital Design's photostream

Image courtesy of VFS Digital Design’s photostream

Life has few guarantees, but one thing you can always count on is that you’ll never be able satisfy 100% of your customer base 100% of the time. Anyone who’s worked in any customer-facing position for a day knows this, yet when it comes to handling negativity and criticism online, not all of us are immediately able to take a negative and turn it into a positive. This is especially prevalent on social media and a small host of websites literally dedicated to complaints. One of the biggest weapons in your customer service arsenal should be an ability to handle criticism online. There’s not a fool-proof method to handling all negative feedback, but there are a few things you should absolutely do as well as a few things you should absolutely never do.

Of course, this process begins with you or someone in your customer-service department monitoring sites where feedback is left for you, be it a company page, a social media page, or an online store such as eBay. From there, be sure to acknowledge praise (even if it’s as simple as saying “thank you”) and identify legitimate criticisms of your organization. Remember, avoid defending your company. You love (or at least enjoy) your company and your job, and it can feel as though when your company is critiqued, you yourself are the one being critiqued. As such, our first instinct is often to defend ourselves and our organization because we “really know” what’s going on behind closed doors. Don’t do this – you should also ensure to never delete negative comments made about you from your social media pages. This kills open communication, makes you far less transparent and hinders your ability to demonstrate growth and improvement (as well as great customer service) to the public.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly – if you do work to have stellar customer service, you might feel the need to publicly tell the disgruntled customer that you intend on fully refunding them, replacing their deficient product or otherwise giving them some form of compensation for their troubles. Be sure to avoid this as well – while your gesture is wholly positive and may well be the right thing to do, discussing this publicly may entice those who are less-than-scrupulous to try and take advantage of you and your generosity.

Instead, I suggest using the following best practices to handle negative feedback online:

•    Listen and monitor your business name including related keywords
•    Identify legitimate negative feedback that requires a response
•    Be brief, do not defend your company or position
•    When deemed necessary, exceed their expectations
•    Leave emotion out of it!

Justin Heegan

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