Public opinion has been magnified by the presence of social media and online forums. No longer is the rapport you have with your clients an intimate one. They have the freedom to express anything on their minds — good or bad as it might be — with anyone who will listen.
Of course, you should always welcome positive endorsements. From a marketing standpoint, they have no rival. However, comments of a less constructive nature can lead to trouble.
In fact, not addressing negative reviews about your company is one of the most costly mistakes you can make as a business owner. Those who are prepared to handle criticism, on the other hand, might, in fact, capitalize on it. Proactively mitigating precarious situations is certainly in your best interest as an entrepreneur.
Prior to addressing criticism aimed in your direction, it’s important to determine whether the accusations are warranted. In other words, was the negative comment or review true?
Recognize that it’s not outside the realm of possibility that your company inadvertently wronged one of its faithful followers. No company is immune to the occasional misstep and resulting bad review. However, it is entirely possible that the slanderous remarks are unfounded and carry no weight.
It’s not enough to simply assume everything that is written about your company is true. Be proactive and decide for yourself what really happened. Only then can you determine the appropriate course of action.
Whether the negative review is true or not, you need to handle the situation with care. There is never a circumstance in which you shouldn’t take the high road and accommodate the individual who has made his or her feelings known. There are, however, different ways to handle true reviews and false ones.
If the statement has been deemed factually incorrect, you have the right to respectfully request a retraction. Of course, getting someone to remove a negative comment requires a bit of tact and a lot of finesse.
It’s not enough to ask someone to remove the comment. For all they know, they are in the right and feel obligated to let the masses know about their experience — even if they are wrong. Your approach, as a result, should be more apologetic than argumentative.
The first thing you need to do is provide conclusive evidence that shows, without a doubt, the comment was unwarranted. Only once you have enough evidence to support your case can you contact the person to make them aware of the situation at hand. Without proof, the likelihood of a retraction is significantly lower.
If — for whatever reason — the negative statement is not removed, you can take matters into your own hands. Correct the post in the comments section. Identify the conclusive facts in a professional manner, and refrain from making it personal.
Of course, there is always a chance that the negative review is factually correct. It would be ignorant to believe otherwise. When confronted with a negative comment that has been deemed true, honestly portray your side of the story.
Transparency is key. Feel free to explain your rationale, and — perhaps even more importantly — how you plan to address the situation.
Again, honesty is the best policy. Emphasize that they are right, why you’re sorry and how they can seek a remedy.
It’s not enough to simply admit your shortcomings. Discuss the steps you are taking to correct the mistake and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
The companies that follow through on their promise to remedy the situation will be awarded the opportunity to turn a bad review into one that paints their business in a good light. Appropriate responses and actions have a way of humanizing even the most corporate of businesses. Imagine what it could do for you.
Reasonable customers will be impressed by your actions and recognize your efforts. The more professional you are, the more inclined they are to reciprocate their appreciation.
Your handling of the initial complaint might, in fact, lead to an overwhelmingly positive review that negates any lasting resentment from the previous post.
When it comes to negative reviews, it’s always better to be proactive than reactionary. In other words, preemptive attempts to mitigate bad reviews are always better than dealing with them as they come.
Thanks to the advent of technology, it has never been easier to do so. Pay close attention to all of your social media platforms. It’s ill-advised to only monitor such outlets when an emergency arises.
Having said that, encourage your followers to proactively share their experiences online. That way you can gauge how well your business is received by the masses with relative success.
Than Merrill is the founder and CEO of FortuneBuilders Inc. and CT Homes; he’s a Yale grad, former NFL player, TV personality, businessman, real estate investor, entrepreneur, best-selling author, national speaker and avid philanthropist. Connect with Than on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter @ThanMerrill.