With the rapidly growing popularity and reference to social media and online review sites, I spend a lot of time talking to people about how to manage it all. In a virtual world where it’s easy to be big and bad while hiding behind a keyboard, how should you deal with those people who air their grievances on your Facebook, Yelp, Google+ etc. page? Since about 3/4 of people say that they seek out online reviews of a company before they do business with them and trust what they find, the issue is obviously an important one. These online communities were built for the purpose of people talking to each other. That very obvious point is important to remember and respect. Your first reaction may be to get mad and fight back or have the comment removed altogether, but before you do that, take a deep breath, bite your keyboard and…
1) Listen to Them: Except for the trolliest of people out there, if someone is leaving a comment or tweeting at you, they have made it a point to take the time to tell you what’s on their mind. Listen to what they’re saying. Is their concern valid? Is there anything you can do about it? If you’re too concerned about saying the right thing, you might miss hearing the right thing, and the latter is far more important. Perhaps, what they were expecting contradicts what you were offering, in which case there really is nothing you can do about it. That’s not a cop out, it’s just the reality that chicken salad is not a salad with chicken. But you will not understand that unless you hear them out.
2) Say, “I’m Sorry”: I was lucky enough to learn this one a long time ago while working at a restaurant. When a table’s order took 35 minutes to get to them, they did not care if the oil had to be changed, or the kitchen got backed up or even if the freezer caught fire (actually happened), all they care about is the fact that they waited 35 minutes for their food and no excuse was going to change that. An apology was often more important than a discount, valid reason or as some called for, my own public hanging. For your social media, remember that the whole world can see how you behave, so be on your best behavior, apologize and work to fix their problem. When web surfers are looking at reviews of your company deciding whether or not to do business with you, they also want to see how they can expect to be handled if there is a problem. Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that I seek out the low ratings. Were they consistent? Were they responded to? Who was being stubborn, the company or the customer? I don’t expect the customer to always be right, just respected?
3) Sometimes, do Nothing: There will be times when someone will leave a less than flattering comment about your company, your product, or even the tie your wearing and you’ll be offended. Because, after all, you work very hard to make the best product and give the best possible service and “how dare they!” You may be surprised that your brand’s promoters will take care of this light work for you. Your brand has raving fans who themselves are staunch defenders of what you’ve built, and those promoters will not stand idly by and let the detractor diss their favorite company. Still make sure you moderate and don’t let things get out of hand on your page or mention.
4) Ask for Reviews: Expecting every review to be positive is foolish. The best you can hope for is to have many more positive than negative. The good news is, the fact that you’re still in business means that more people like your brand than don’t. When your brand only has 4 total reviews on any given review site it’s almost a crapshoot if they’ll be good or bad. Go out and get a larger sample size. I am absolutely opposed to writing bogus reviews either for yourself our against your competitor. In the grand scheme it’s doesn’t do much anyway. I think you’ll find that when you ask your customers to write a review of their experience with your brand, they won’t be offended that you asked. The old adage is that a happy customer tells 2 friends, and unhappy customer tells 10 is amplified today with capabilities that exist on those internet connected devices in our pockets. You can use table top signs, emails, or whatever. The point is to dilute the negative reviews by bringing all of those happy customers to the surface. Then, the digital world will see that while a couple of people may have had a bad experience, by in large, people think your product/service is good.
5) Don’t Block/Ban a Follower: Until you absolutely have to do so. Never stifle communication, learn to work within it. However, if at any point the comments become hateful or vulgar, then yeah, go ahead and boot ’em. Admittedly I’ve struggled with this one myself, particularly on Facebook. If you don’t like my company, why do you “Like” my company?
6) Know When To Take It Offline: At a certain point, the back and forth of coming to a resolution could bring too much attention to a one-off incident, that is not truly reflective of your brand. At that point, ask the user to send you a non-public message, email or ask if you can contact them individually by telephone. The world has enough soap operas, we don’t need to see another one play out on Yelp. Also, if they’re interacting with your other customers attempting to bring them over to the dark side, shut down the conversation and move it to a more proper arena.