How to Handle Online Criticism

The dreaded unhappy customer. In person we can use our interpersonal communication skills to diffuse the situation and make it right. But how should a small business address criticism online in a personal and meaningful way? 

Online reviews and negative chatter can escalate quickly. Without having to see the face of the target, people have the ability to say much more harmful things that can be seen by anyone for years to come. Your response will also be seen publicly. Here's what you should do:

Respond Promptly

By attending to any negative comments or reviews quickly, you are showing you care while also taking control of the narrative. A negative response that is not addressed will give the impression that you either don't care about customer satisfaction or do not have the capabilities to address the situation. Salvage your reputation and your relationship with the complaining customer. 

Be Professional

Your small business is your pride and joy. It's only human to react emotionally to strongly worded comments. However, a defensive or rude response will only escalate the situation and further deteriorate your brand image. Just as you would to an angry customer in person, be professional and polite in all responses. It will show others that your business is better than the review. 

Take it Offline

Depending on the comment, it may be appropriate to follow up with the customer in a private message or email. To show readers you are responding to the incident, you could reply with a message like: "We are sorry to hear you were disappointed with our services. Customer satisfaction is important to us. We appreciate your feedback and will be reaching out to you via email to make it right."

As odd as it sounds, a well-handled negative review can be great for your small business! It shows that your reviews are real, and adds more value to your positive reviews. Encourage happy customers to share their experiences online, and stay engaged. Your small business will be stronger for it. 

Yours in the Struggle,