How to Deal with Negative Feedback in Social Media

Updated: May 20, 2010

The more information you share with the rest of the world, the more chances you have of being the victim of negative feedback. Social media makes it very easy and convenient for people to express their opinions because they don't have to be transparent about whom they are; opinions can be spread quickly and virally. An important thing for you to remember is to learn from the feedback, even if it is hard to hear in the beginning.

Social media, unlike traditional forms of marketing, is a two-way "conversation." Not only is there capability of the businesses to communicate with their customers but the customers are also able to communicate with the businesses and with other customers. On the whole, this ability to communicate so openly and completely is a very positive attribute. It allows much more intimate and personal relationships to be formed between businesses and their customers and it promotes brand loyalty on the part of the customers.

On the other side, when this type of open communication is being fostered, there is also the potential for negative feedback to become an issue and it is very important for you to deal with it appropriately and to diffuse it quickly.

The following are tips on how to deal with negative feedback constructively:

Monitor the mention of your brand

Monitoring how many times and where your brand is mentioned are of vital importance. If you are constantly on top of this, you will be able to catch negative feedback quickly and respond right away. In other words, you will be able to nip it in the bud.

Quick response

Timing is always critical when it comes to negative feedback. If you take care of it right away, you will be ensuring that it won't snowball. If you are in a situation where you don't have a solution to the problem, you should, at the very least, acknowledge the feedback and give some sort of deadline as to when you will get back to the customer.

Be transparent

If you feel that the feedback from the customer is fair, you must admit that. Wiggling never got anyone in business anywhere. Demonstrating integrity will pay off for you in the long run because you will be building trust and credibility with your customers.

Remain calm

When you receive negative feedback about your business, products and services, it is easy to get upset. You must talk yourself out of reacting emotionally. Instead, you should really look honestly at the problem that is being expressed and try to improve your products and/or services based on that communication.

Be generous

The customer is not always right but it is advisable to give him or her the benefit of the doubt. The longer a disagreement continues, the less chance there will be of resolving the issues.

Identifying the specific type of feedback

Before you can deal with negative feedback, you need to be able to identify the specific type of feedback that you have received. There are several different types of negative feedback and each type should be handled differently. Some negative feedback is about a problem that needs a solution, some is opinion driven and some is just negative, with no hope of improving the situation or the products and/or services. Being able to identify which type of feedback you are dealing with is a critical first step that will lead you to the appropriate response.

  • Direct problem: One of your customers has an issue with one of your products or some aspect of your services. They have communicated in a straightforward manner about the issue. This type of feedback can be very damaging to the reputation of your business. Please remember, however, that it can also be an opportunity for you to learn from the issue and to make improvements so that it will not be an issue after that.
  • An attack with merit: Even though the attack itself may not have any value, the underlying issue that caused the attack might. Basically, you and your company made some mistake and one of your customers is angry.
  • Constructive criticism: The most valuable criticism is criticism that is accompanied by helpful suggestions on how to improve your products and/or services. You will find that many of your customers will take advantage of social media to suggest improvements in your offerings. Even though the constructive criticism points out flaws, and can be considered negative, it can be very useful in the long run.

Deciding how to respond

Once you are at the point of being able to identify which type of feedback you are dealing with, your next step will be to choose the correct response. The most important rule when responding to any criticism is to stay positive. If you respond in a negative manner, it will reflect badly on you and on your business.

  • Dealing with direct problems: You absolutely must respond to this type of criticism. Whether your response is public and more generic or personal depends on the nature of the issue and how many people are potentially affected by it. No matter what the issue is, you, as the business person, should demonstrate that you are taking steps to fix the problem. There may be times when the criticism is a result of a perceived problem rather than an actual one. Even that type of criticism should be addressed. In that case, your response should be to thank the customer for the feedback and offer an explanation about why the situation does not need correcting.
  • Dealing with an attack with merit: Merited attacks are usually more difficult to respond to because very often you will feel as though the customer is attacking you personally. Remember that this type of attack, although difficult to receive, has a genuine problem as its root. The best sort of response from you is one that has a great deal of positivity to it and is done in a very timely manner.
  • Dealing with constructive criticism: There will be many times when you won't agree with the suggested improvements to your products and/or services; however, if you respond to the criticism with a positive response, you will be building customer loyalty and trust. You should always remember to thank those customers who made the effort to come up with constructive suggestions on how you can improve your offerings.
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