How To Handle Negative Feedback On Your Social Media Channels

Let’s face it. Getting a bad social media review is no fun. As a startup owner, you want to please your target market. Your hope is to attract as many new customers as possible while retaining existing ones - and 5-star reviews play a great part in doing that. Unfortunately, receiving negative online feedback can happen to any brand (yes, that includes the big, multinational companies out there).

Well, here’s the thing: you don’t have to panic. It’s still possible to bounce back and turn things around to your advantage. You can handle negative feedback with grace. Doing so can even help you grow and maintain a positive reputation on social networking channels.

Why you should take time to respond

According to a Podium survey, 93% of consumers admit online reviews “do impact their purchasing decisions” while 82% consciously check out reviews “before making a purchase decision.”

Podium CEO Eric Rea said:

“Our data shows just how much consumers trust each other, and therefore how much these advocates can drive purchase decisions and grow brand recognition through online reviews.”

So, while it may be tempting to just ignore or delete negative reviews, you really shouldn’t do that because it can do more harm than good.

Here are some expert tips in strategically handling unfavorable customer reviews on social media:

1. Reply as soon as you can.

A prompt response helps you defuse the situation in good time. Ideally, you want to reply in a few hours (or at least on the same day). Doing so shows that you care about your customers and what they actually think about your brand. When done right, a swift reply may even make it possible for you to turn angry customers into loyal, lifetime fans.

Keep in mind that other potential customers are likely to read the review and will take note of how you handle the concern. As Jaipur Watch Company CEO and Founder Gaurav Mehta advised entrepreneurs:

“Always remember that customers validate the existence of your brand. After all, a brand image is not what you think it is, but what people think it is.”

2. Start with a sincere apology.

handle negative feedback

The popular phrase “the customer is always right” rings true in this case. You may disagree with their criticism but at the end of the day, “the needs and desires of the customer are always paramount.”

Offering an apology displays your humility and willingness to resolve the matter. No business is perfect and it’s okay to acknowledge you’ve made a mistake.

But what if you haven’t done anything wrong, you ask? Well, you should still say sorry for failing to meet their expectations.

“Avoid a cookie cutter apology,” wrote author Ekaterina Walter in an INC article. “Remember, you are talking to someone who is having a tough day because your product or service didn't deliver. At a minimum give that person the respect and empathy they deserve.”

3. Be polite.

As pointed out by Walter, respect is a must when dealing with unsatisfied customers. Being sarcastic will not fix the issue. Do not use swear words even if your customer resorts to them. Staying polite will help you maintain a positive, professional image for your brand and may likewise affect other customers’ behavior.

According to Forbes:

“Respond publicly when possible to show everyone that you strive to keep your customers satisfied. Future reviewers may be more likely to behave politely when they're assured that you read and respond to reviews.”

4. Make amends.

No amount of apology or politeness will set things right if you don’t actually take action.

The US Chamber of Commerce encourages startup business owners to “find the quickest, most logical way to rectify the immediate problem.” If needed, you may have to replace the item or offer a gift voucher as compensation.

This may mean additional expenses on your end but it will definitely be well worth the investment if it converts an unhappy customer into a brand advocate.

5. Give your contact information.

In some cases, resolving a customer’s concern may require more than a few exchanges in a social media thread.

Providing your contact information helps you to directly deal with the problem as you take things offline. Doing this also allows you to dig deeper and ask the customer for more information. Plus this takes the issue out of the public eye.  

Simply put, personalized customer care can go a long way.

Ask them to contact you at a time convenient to them. Be calm and friendly when you take their call. As mentioned above, sincerity is key and the goal is to please the customer.

Once you’ve resolved the conflict, thank the person for taking the time to reach out.

As success coach Marilyn Suttle summed it up:

“Thank your customer for complaining and mean it. Most will never bother to complain. They’ll just walk away.”

Let customers know that their concerns are heard and invite them to give you a second chance. Gain their trust by assuring them you’ll do your best to avoid committing the same mistakes again.

6. Learn from the entire experience.

handle negative feedback

The way you handle negative feedback can be a source of learning for you and your team members. Discuss them during your meetings and determine what you can do to improve your products or process better.

Schedule a training session with your employees, if necessary. This will ensure that everyone’s on the same page in terms of handling customer complaints. Your employees are on the frontlines daily so they need to be equipped with the right skills. Remind them that you are on their side and you’re always ready to support them.

Internet entrepreneur and venture capitalist Tony Hsieh put it this way:

“Customer service shouldn't just be a department. It should be the entire company.”

The bottom line: You can (and should!) handle negative feedback.

“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person,” said Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. “You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.”

Word of mouth spreads fast, especially on social media. So be wise in handling negative customer feedback. By implementing these proven practices, you will be able to make the most of the situation and improve your brand’s online presence at the same time.

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