First of all, let’s clear a few things up – no one enjoys negative feedback (including me), and negative anything isn’t our goal. But if we are real with one another then we can agree that negativity is a part of life, whether it comes from us or someone else. Not everyone will enjoy your restaurant, like the retail sold in your stores or enjoy your writing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean negative things for your business or skills. It’s obviously one thing if your food is indeed terrible or writing pitiful, but for this article we will assume your business is coated in gold. Perfect!
I remember the first time I received negative feedback from an anonymous person. I was writing for the Daily Tar Heel at UNC at Chapel Hill, and wrote an article about the BP spill and how it was affecting local business owners. I cannot remember exactly what happened, but two commenters left ruthless comments about my writing and its vagueness. I was hurt, badly. My ego, my pride and my self-esteem burned. I couldn’t understand how the commenters could be so cutthroat, especially because my article didn’t take sides.
But I’d been privy to negative feedback before – from teachers, parents, friends and definitely the general public. I’ve always worked jobs that put me right up front to handle the mess, and handle it I did. While I can be an intense person at times, something calms in me when others get upset and usually allows me to handle temperamental situations objectively. It didn’t take long for me to let those comments go and be happy I’d stirred up someone’s emotions.
When I started my own business, I found that many clients (who were unfamiliar with social media) were concerned about how it would open up their business to receiving negative feedback for everyoneeee to see. And I can understand that. Social media is still new to a lot of business owners – they’ve probably heard about it by now, but aren’t sure what it is. All they know is that it’s connected with Facebook or Twitter or online something, and in that lack of understanding there is fear.
But as I’ve told many business owners, negative commentary should be viewed as an AWESOME way to deal with an issue head on and in front of the online community. Not only does it show integrity for the business if a negative situation is handled well, but it gives the business a human appeal that can’t be bought – it’s priceless. Life is about perspective after all, and putting negative feedback in its right place will gear you up to handle it.
For example, I was doing an online analysis for a restaurant owner who hired me to redesign his business website and consult its social presence. I noticed immediately that there were a few negative comments on the Yelp page, but there was no reply from him or the restaurant itself. It made the restaurant look incompetent, and the silence look like he didn’t care. When I asked him about it, he told me that he emailed the commenters and fixed the problems. But how would online perusers ever know that? What would you have thought if you saw a negative comment about the food and then the owner acknowledge it, apologize and make it right? Pretty awesome, right?
Bottom line: negative comments are a GREAT way to show exactly WHO your business is. If someone comments negatively on your social sites, do your business a favor by responding publicly and neutrally. If you’re unsure of how to respond, call someone who will or take time to think about it – just not too much. An angry comment can feel personal and make you want to respond automatically, but taking your time to be objective is best. Step away, think about it from their perspective – they spent money on your product or service and weren’t happy – how BEST can you remedy that?
My formula is simple: apologize, acknowledge and make it right. Often times an apology and acknowledgement calms the situation down immediately. Most people just want to vent because they’ve spent their hard earned money on something that wasn’t enjoyable, and why shouldn’t they be? I definitely don’t like feeling I wasted my money! So push your pride to the wayside because the truth is – your business cannot always be perfect. While you will deal with the occasional person who’s just spreading hateful spew all over the Internet, most people have a legitimate concern, and it makes your business look like an ALL-STAR when it’s handled correctly.
One more thing, do NOT delete. The only time deleting is acceptable is if the comment is racist or otherwise completely unacceptable. During the length of my business, I have only deleted one comment and I discussed it with fellow marketers and the client before doing so. You never know who’s comment it is that you are deleting, and there could be huge online repercussions for doing so. Do NOT hide, face it, deal with it and make it a warm, fuzzy situation for everyone involved.
How do you handle negative feedback?