How to handle negative online commentsA small business owner asked us the following question at a webinar event:

What if something negative is said about your business on the Internet. What should you do?

Here are my thoughts on the subject.

  • If you ignore it, you’ll look like you don’t care about your customers. Instead, address the concern as soon as possible, and strive to be even-keeled in your response.  You may reflexively be defensive (you’re defending your business after all) or want to discredit the complaint, but your goal is to reassure the person their complaint is being taken seriously.
  • In your response, especially on Facebook and Twitter where people are looking for resolutions, attempt to move the discussion offline immediately. Give them your email address (one you don’t mind posting publicly — you may want to set one up for this purpose) and ask them to reach out to you there with their contact information.  You want to avoid engaging in a back and forth online because the more replies and comments a social post collects, the more likely others will see it.  Something general but sincere can go a long way: “I’m so sorry to hear of your frustration! Please email me at [email protected] with the best way to contact you, and we’ll straighten this out.”
  • Next try to provide a satisfactory remedy. If they have a legitimate complaint, do all you can to correct the issue. If you feel they don’t, be polite and offer something small, like a discount. People in the wrong can still make a big fuss online after all.
  • In a few extreme circumstances, it may be better not to engage the person lodging the complaint, but this is rare. If the person is spouting nonsensical profanity, for example, their aims may to get a rise out of you rather than a sincere desire to see a change. It’s best not to provide fuel for this situation.
  • If people are posting negative comments on Facebook with some regularity, consider adjusting your settings so comments will not show up on your wall. That way others visiting your page won’t be able to see the negative comments.