How to Respond to Negative Comments on Social Media

by on June 24, 2013

By now, you’ve probably heard about Amy’s Baking Company, the wreck of a restaurant featured on the popular Gordon Ramsey show, Kitchen Nightmares. Their infamy spread as they began to abuse and berate people who left poor reviews on their Yelp and Facebook pages, cursing and threatening the whole lot.

Obviously, this is a very extreme case. But what is the correct response to poor reviews on your social media pages? Let’s use Amy’s Baking as an example of what NOT to do.

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So here is a step by step process of what you should do when you receive a negative comment:

1. Keep calm and carry on.

This one is always tough for me but it is critical that you stay calm. It’s understandable to get upset when someone is criticizing your place of business. You’re proud of what you do, and criticism can feel like a personal attack (and sometimes is). Don’t give into the urge to reply back heatedly, though. Cursing, WRITING IN ALL CAPS, insulting and verbally castrating reviewers and commenters is not attractive behavior to customers. Casting yourself as an angry, out of touch owner isn’t going to achieve any good, and there’s a chance that your response will be copied and pasted all around the web.

2. Take the time to read the comment or review carefully.

Don’t reply right away. When responding to a criticism on the internet, it’s important to keep a level head. You need to keep calm, and really read through what they had to say. Are their complaints valid? Did they mention areas in which you could improve?  Was their experience a-typical? By really listening to what they have to say, you can find ways to improve your business and you show that you really care about your customers.

So, what should you write? Leaving the bad review or comment all on its own isn’t a great idea, either.

3. Thank them for their business.

First, you should thank the customer publicly for visiting and for their reflection. This shows that you’re appreciative of any business, and you don’t have any hard feelings. It’s important to remain polite and professional throughout the entire response.

4. Apologize–even if it isn’t your fault.

Apologizing publicly at this stage in the game is a good idea, too. Regardless of fault, apologizing will make the going a lot easier, and will make you look like the bigger person to whoever is reading through the posts. The simple act of saying ‘I’m sorry’ is often the most powerful tool you have in response to bad reviews.

5. Explain how you’re fixing the problem.

Now you need to face the complaint head-on. Avoid making excuses for why a mistake was made. Rather, you should explain why the issue was there, and be vocal about how you are improving your methods. This allows you to come across as a human being concerned about the quality of your establishment… because that’s who you are, isn’t it? Customers don’t like excuses, and much prefer to see progress and correction.

6. Private message.

Lastly, you should respond to the reviewer in a private message. This is where you should be asking questions. Sometimes these bad reviews can come from a bigger problem that you might not have been aware of before. It’s important to get customer feedback—even, if not especially, negative feedback—because that’s how you can better your business. By asking questions, you can inform yourself and let the customer know that you care about their experience, and they are being heard. Do what you can to rectify the issue, and you’ll be surprised by how many people will give you a second chance.

By remaining courteous, calm and letting customers know their complaints are being heard, you’re more likely to get a second chance. People reading through comments or reviews will see how you handled the situation and you will gain respect for being the type of business owner who cares about his or her customers.

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