Feedback happens. Sometimes it’s a good thing, sometimes it’s a bad thing – and sometimes even bad feedback can be a good thing that helps you to improve. When that feedback is public, how you handle the situation can sometimes matter more than any review. It helps if you classify feedback into categories in order to determine what kind of response is merited. What you should not do is see negative comments and reviews as a personal attack, and respond with a “fire everything!” approach.
Let’s break down the different types of negative feedback, and how to deal with them.
Unreasonable and Unsubstantiated
This is more often than not a straight up troll, either the paid or free-roaming variety. Yes, there are still paid trolls who come in and pan businesses while recommending a competitor. It’s Black Hat all the way, but they know that those average ratings matter.
Example: “[Your Business] is run by idiots who are rude! They ripped me off! I’ll never go there again!”
First, without specifics, there’s no way to determine that this is an actual customer. No dates, no times, not circumstances, and possibly a “sock puppet” profile. The best that you can hope for, if this is a customer, is that they follow up on their threat. Engaging with these types of reviewers can be a double edged sword – on the one hand, you can show yourself to be fair and reasonable. On the other, trolls are trolls and feeding them is a bad idea.
Justified: When it is Your Bad
There are times when, no matter if the review is a reasonable critique, an ALL IN CAPS barrage, or a detailed angry post that you have to admit that something was wrong, and take steps to make it right.
Example: “I waited in the office for 45 minutes past a 12:00 appointment time! If you were going to be running that late, you should have let me know and I would have rescheduled this appointment!”
In the case of a bad review that is correct, you have to respond with an unqualified apology and do what you can to fix the situation. Replay with something like, “I am terribly sorry. I’d like to make this right with you. Could you get in touch with me and we can make that happen?”
The Force of Nature
This is a tough one. As hard as it is to say this, there are people for whom you can do nothing and who can progress from anger to outright abuse.
Example: “I bought X at their store, and three days later it broke. Manager Y refused to refund my money because they have a store credit only policy and I’m furious!”
This is usually someone who wants the rules changed to suit them or just to have a target for righteous anger. It is very important to keep your cool and de-escalate the situation as much as you can.
Finally, it can be hard to keep your cool when someone seems determined to flame you to a crisp, then slap your gooey frustration like a marshmallow between graham crackers and chocolate, and consume you like a roasted S’more. You have to be the bigger person, as much as you want to defend yourself, because online reputations never go away – and neither do trolls. Take a deep breath, take a walk outside, work out on a speed bag, do whatever you need to do come back and calmly address that negativity.
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