Remember that restaurant featured on Kitchen Nightmares a while back? The one whose owners absolutely blasted anyone who dared to give their food or service a thumbs-down online? Calling them names, threatening legal action, filling their Facebook page with expletive-laced rants? Of course you remember them! Who could forget? But did you know they actually did have some positive reviews on various sites? Betcha didn’t. And whether or not their food was actually any good, at that point, it didn’t matter anymore. All that mattered was their unprofessional online behavior.
The thing is, people are drawn to drama. It’s just naturally more interesting than the mundane positive stuff of daily life. Our emotions get involved, we want to share our horror or outrage with others, and even months later, we still remember exactly what happened. And that is where problems can begin for any business.
You can provide amazing customer service most of the time, and yet all it takes is the mishandling of a few dissatisfied customers’ negative comments online to start a downward spiral. People are drawn to conflict, remember? So any negativity is going to draw more attention than any positive reviews you’ve gotten.
Now, we’re not saying that your business is like that restaurant in any way, shape, or form. What we are saying is that the way you handle negative online reviews and comments can make or break you. Seriously. So here are some tips to help you get out of these tricky situations without looking any worse for wear.
1. Never answer negativity with negativity. No matter how rude or ridiculous a customer’s comment may be, you’ve got to take the high road. Don’t argue. Don’t call them names or threaten to sue, for heaven’s sake. Don’t even disagree. All you should do in public is apologize and offer to make it right. Then give them your phone number and email address, and ask them to contact you privately to work things out. Anything other than a sincere apology will come across as unprofessional, and act as fuel for the negativity fire.
2. Never delete a negative comment. (Well, almost never.) This can be tempting, but deleting a comment will only make the customer angrier – and if he starts spreading the word that you delete negative comments, people will no longer trust the positive ones on your site. Now, there are a few situations in which it is okay to delete a negative comment, but they are few and far between. If a comment includes obscenities, or is personally insulting to you or one of your employees, feel free to delete – but don’t hide the fact. Instead, post your own comment letting readers know you’ve had to delete a post for inappropriate language or content, and include a link to your comment policy. And, um, if your response to a comment is inappropriate, then, by all means, delete that, too!
3. Don’t wait to respond. Every minute that ticks by with an unanswered negative comment on your site makes you look less professional. People expect almost instant responses, so 24 hours should be the absolute maximum amount of time that passes before you reply. But if you need a few hours to cool off before you answer, take the time necessary. Asking someone to contact you in private to settle the matter to everyone’s satisfaction? Good. Asking that same someone to meet you in private so you can feed him a knuckle sandwich? Bad. So very, very bad. And yet…we just can’t look away.