Dealing With Criticism of Your Business on Social Media
Not sure how to handle negative comments or criticism of your business on social media? Is the open nature of social media actually stopping you from jumping on board?
Receiving criticism is never easy; it can also damage your business reputation. However, feedback and criticism in an open and social forum also gives your business an opportunity to deflect negativity and even earn you respect – if you handle it right.
Here are some steps you can take to manage criticism of your business, products, or even staff on social media and online review sites.
 1. Get Listening
The first thing is making sure you hear what is being said about you by monitoring the social media sites where you have a presence. Check your Facebook page regularly, monitor your Twitter mentions and set up Google Alerts so you can track when your business is being mentioned online. You may also want to check your Yelp, Google+ Local, Trip Advisor and other listings for customer comments. Don’t forget industry, product or even local community forums. For example, does your neighborhood or home owner’s association have an online forum? Folks may be reviewing local businesses there.
 2. Should You Respond?
You may feel tempted to respond quickly to a negative comment or even delete it. But negative reviews aren’t always worth a response. Some posters may be negative just to get attention, or their comments are just so over the top and rude that responding to them will only draw attention to an issue that clearly is a one-off or that no one else is aware of. Sometimes it’s just best to ignore these posts.
 3. Don’t Let Negative Comments Linger
Social media doesn’t wait for anyone. Fans have come to expect a timely response from brands they follow. By chiming in early you can quickly stop others from jumping in on the topic while demonstrating that you value opinion and feedback.
Even if you don’t have an immediate answer, tell the commentator that you hear them, acknowledge their complaint, and promise to investigate further. “I’m sorry to hear this…” is a great softener and shows you care.
 4. Always Acknowledge, Never Deny
Accept that the customer is always right and acknowledge it and investigate to get to the root cause of their feedback or criticism. Where did your business go wrong? Was it a simple misunderstanding or do you need to make changes internally? Avoiding feedback or criticism may come back to bite you.
 5. How to Apologize
If you find that your business has been in the wrong or you’ve let your customers down, apologize sincerely. Acknowledge that you’ve investigated the complaint. State clearly that you regret the poor service that the customer has received (i.e. you know what a pain it is when things don’t go as expected), cite it as a lesson learned and let everyone know you will take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Above all, avoid formal language. Take off your sales and marketing hat and be human. End your posts with your name, so the complainant knows who they’re dealing with. Be conversational: “I’m so sorry you had this experience. Let me look into it right away and get back to you – Todd,” instead of: “Your comment has been acknowledged. We will look into this matter further.” You might even own up to the fact that you’ve been experiencing some hiccups in one particular area – whether it’s a new product line, or shipping times – and that you want to hear more if consumers have further issues.
Consider offering to make things right. Ask the customer to email you so that you can either reimburse them or perhaps offer a discount on future purchases. Be sure to follow through on this, look out for the email and respond promptly.
 6. Take the Conversation Offline
If you need more information or genuinely feel that this conversation would be better served offline, ask the complainant to contact you directly via email or phone. Make this the exception rather than the rule – and only do it after you’ve publicly acknowledged or apologized for any issues and restated your commitment to customer service. The goal here isn’t putting out the fire out by taking it offline but offering an open invite to continue the dialogue further and address the complainants’ specific concerns. It’s a strategy that works.
 7. The Bottom Line
When your business reputation is on the line, demonstrating your commitment to customer satisfaction – and backing it up with action – is a must. Ironically, one unhappy customer converted back into a loyal fan of your business can be far more influential in the word-of-mouth driven world of social media than one happy customer ever can be! So go ahead, embrace comments negative or otherwise – you might just win some more fans!
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) was created in 1953 as an independent agency of the federal government to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation. The SBA helps Americans start, build and grow businesses. Through an extensive network of field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations, SBA delivers its services to people throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the U. S. Virgin Islands and Guam. The SBA provides assistances primarily through four programs:
- Business financing programs including debt, equity and micro lending
- Entrepreneurial development through education, information, technical assistance & training
- Promotes small business Federal Government contracting with subcontracting procurement opportunities, outreach programs, and training to help meet the 23% goal for small business contracting
- Advocacy and research on behalf of small businesses
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