New research proves that RESPONDING to negative feedback online benefits companies

by Mack Collier

One of the biggest misconceptions companies have about online and social media is that any and all negative reviews and comments should be completely ignored.  The idea seems to be that if companies ignore the negative response from customers, that it ‘goes away’.

A new Harris survey concludes that the opposite is true, if companies address negative reviews and feedback head-on, the customer often deletes the negative review AND sometimes even posts a positive one!

The Harris survey tracked customers that posted negative feedback or reviews during the Holiday shopping season on either sites that support adding customer reviews, or on social networking sites.  The survey found that 68% of customers that left these negative reviews got a response, and 18% of these people became loyal customers as a result, and made additional purchases from the company.

Now for the biggie:  Of the customers that received a response from a company after posting negative feedback about their shopping experience, 33% turned around and posted a positive review, and 34% deleted the original negative review.

These findings also support the notion that negative comments and reviews about your company can be a good thing, and something that can help your business.

The key point that companies need to understand is that the negative comment/review isn’t the most important thing, how your company responds to that negative review/comment is far more important.  And the above survey results supports this notion.

If you want to know how to handle criticism of your company online, here’s what you should do:

1 – Respond as quickly as possible.  Often, one negative comment that doesn’t get a response will lead to additional negative comments.  And 3 negative comments with no response from the company can quickly balloon into 10.  But if the company jumps in and responds quickly, that greatly reduces the chance of additional negative comments.

2 – Be thankful, polite, and respectful of your customers EVEN IF you think they are DEAD WRONG.  Common courtesy goes a LONG way here.  You have to understand that the customer believes they are RIGHT and YOU are wrong.  So if you get defensive in your response and start lashing back, you are going to make the situation quickly turn ugly.  Be polite, respectful and LISTEN to what your customers are saying.  It might help you actually….gasp…..understand why they are upset.

3 – If your customers have inaccurate information, feel free to correct them.  This often happens, and again, another way to minimize this happening is to respond quickly, before assumptions based on inaccurate information can spread.

4 – Tell the customers how you are going to address their complaints, and what the next steps are.  Let them understand that you take their complaints seriously, and that there is a plan in place to handle their complaints.

5 – Give customers a way to stay in touch with you, and invite further feedback.

One thing you have to remember is that many customers are WATCHING the interactions that you and other customers are having.  If they see that you are coming off like a pompous jackass, then that increases the chance that they will post negative criticism about your company.  And the flipside is true, if your company handles negative criticism in stride, and works to offer the customer a positive solution, that reflects well on the company, and improves the chances that customers watching these interactions will have a positive reaction.

So the bottom line is that companies that respond to negative feedback online, and do so quickly and appropriately, see huge benefits.  If you think your company needs help or training in handling negative comments or reviews online, please email me.  Or if you have a particular instance that you’d like to discuss, please leave a comment so we can help you, or feel free to email me if you want to discuss it in private.

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