How to Handle Negative Comments Online

How to Handle Negative Comments Online

 

It’s just how the internet is built. No matter how dedicated your team is, or how high-quality your products or services are, there will always be that one person somewhere who doesn’t appreciate the effort.

They’ll leave a negative review or comment online and even badmouth your brand to anyone who cares to lend them an ear.

Playing safe won’t help. It’s how you handle these comments that matters. 

Why You Should Respond to Negative Comments Online

An easy solution when people come to you with negative comments would be to ignore them. But that’s a far cry from what we’d suggest you do.

The thing is, you can’t evade criticism. There are far too many review sites and social media platforms that discontented customers will always go to, to throw all manner of shade at your brand or products. 

If you don’t address these issues or respond to the criticism made, prospective customers will have no option but to conclude that you don’t care.

If someone says something negative about your brand or product, you want to respond to it almost immediately by saying something constructive. For all we know, this may stop the discontented customer from going to other platforms to continue the rant. 

It’s also good customer service, and the only way to reassure the customers who stumble on the comments that you care enough to address their issues without taking anything to heart. 

Also, leaving a negative comment without a response only serves to reinforce the negativity in their statement. 

 

Types of Negative Comments You Can Get Online

Not all negative comments are the same. Nor are the people who leave them behind motivated by the same reasons. 

Here are four different types of negative comments people leave behind:

Legitimate Problems

These are the genuine complaints dissatisfied customers leave behind. These complaints tend to vary from company to company, but most commonly, they’re about poor customer service, incorrect orders, or damaged products. 

When one of your customers leaves a negative comment behind, most of the time, they’ll be expecting to get a response from you. So, you want to reply to these comments in a timely fashion.

You may not be in a position to solve their issue, but engaging with a negative comment gives you the chance to acknowledge the problem and ask the commenter for more information. 

Don’t run to the defensive by trying to justify your situation. For all we know, the customer is always right. 

Instead, just apologise and let the customer know that you’re concerned enough to get the issue fixed. 

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Similarly to how Starbucks responds to complaints, you can publicly request the complainer to send you a Direct Message (DM) with specific information about their frustration. That way, the other people reading the comment can see that you’re working towards fixing the problem. 

Quick and constructive responses are how brands turn negative situations into positive ones. It’s how companies showcase their responsiveness to customer needs. 

 

Questions

A negative comment can also come in the form of a question. Most of the time, the customer won’t even be upset. They’re just looking for more information or clarification on something.

Some questions carry a more negative or accusatory tone. Either way, answering these questions is a great way to say connected to your audience and quell any doubt or confusion people have about your company’s practices or policies. 

Many brands have separate social media accounts for addressing customer problems and questions, such as @TeamNike for Nike. When people tag or comment on the company’s general page, their support team is always on standby ready to reach out and offer the requested support.

 

Internet Trolls

With the internet came the freedom to hide behind anonymity and say just about anything. Too bad people are now abusing this freedom to spread misinformation and stir up trouble. 

Internet trolls live for the attention they get when they spew hate or spread half-baked truths. 

A troll refers to just about anyone who deliberately provokes another person online. Mostly it’s by saying offensive and inflammatory things. They derive their jollies from getting people angry, upset, or demeaned. 

Their comments aren’t always authentic. They simply say them to incite a reaction from the receiving brand or person. 

 

How to Respond to a Troll

If their comment isn’t getting much traction, then it helps to just ignore it. You, however, want to keep watch just in case they come at you with false claims or say something wrong about your brand or product. In which case, the most logical thing to do would be to stand for yourself and refute the claim. 

Let them know that they’re misinforming the public. Proceed to give them your version of the truth and let the public decide. 

You’ll most likely not be able to stop a troll. But some of your followers are smart enough to see through their lies, and most of the time, it won’t even be you defending your brand.

The last thing you want to do is delete troll comments. This will only provoke them further or get them angrier – and only God knows what they can do when they get angry.

You may also try hiding the comment. That way, the comment will be hidden from the general public and only shown to the troll. Some wouldn’t even notice that their comments have been hidden. 

 

Inappropriate Comments or Hate speech

While trolls may only want to incite a reaction, some comments reek of hate. They’re malicious and hellbent on bringing you down. 

When someone uses hate speech, they’ll make threats or write something so inappropriate. You can tell this person has no good intentions just by looking at their comments.

When you spot such a comment, the most appropriate thing to do is take a screenshot of it (just in case you decide to press legal charges) and delete it. 

You may also block, ban, or report them if it continues.

However, this is a line you want to tread carefully. Not every negative comment your brand gets qualifies as hateful or vulgar. So, try to use discretion when deciding on whether or not a particular comment needs deleting. 

You can start by establishing community guidelines that commenters must strictly adhere to. Try to come up with rules about appropriate conduct when interacting with your brand. 

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Set rules on how you expect to see your customers interact with the content you publish. What language should they use or avoid? In the end, you want to mention that you have zero tolerance for hate speech. Customers can vent, complain, and do all that, but they should be careful enough not to say anything vulgar or abusive. 

 

Why Some People Leave Behind Negative Customers

Like we said, negative comments are almost inevitable. There will always be someone somewhere who’s dissatisfied or has all the personal reasons they need to hate on you or your brand.

It could even be that one particular competitor that you threw out of business or the embittered employee you fired. Playing too safe won’t prevent them from coming at you.

Every negative commenter coming at you will have their unique reasons for doing that. We’d like to go through some of these reasons – but with one caveat, we’ve already gone through some of them:

 

Jealousy 

Jealousy burns like bad perms. It’s also set on one thing only: inflicting damage on the opponent. 

Jealousy is enough to make some people set camps on your comment section just to watch you burn. It could be that these people hate your guts or are secretly envious of how far you’ve come or how much you’ve accomplished.  

Some may be struggling with believing that there’s something special about you. They may feel like they can still point out some flaws and discredit your success or take you down a few notches. The small wins count, don’t they?

Some may be doing this because they think your success is not well-earned. In real life, such a person can easily be ignored. But the internet has a weird way of bringing such people together, and before you intervene, it’s a hivemind.  

 

Passive-Aggressiveness

Some people have a weird way of expressing themselves. Instead of being direct, they’ll beat around the bush instead of just going straight to the point.

It’s even worse when the passive aggressiveness is mixed with envy. For example, a person may say this to a vegan, “even plants having feelings too.” 

This statement sounds absurd however you try to imagine it. It hampers any attempt to welcome a rational discussion. 

It’s an indirect attack that’s also insinuating. Their goal is to get you to lose your cool. But instead of letting them get to you, everything they say should feel like water off a duck’s back. 

 

A Sense of Power

Some people are naturally negative. They just never see the good in anything, and there’s nothing you can do to alter their way of thinking.

It gives them great power to belittle others and watch them crumble. They are what we earlier on referred to as trolls. 

Too bad these people dominate the internet. They’ll bash you for the smallest mistake you make, draw holes in your biggest achievement, and make you feel like you’re not making any progress or doing anything meaningful.


When to Ignore Negative Comments

There are a few incidences when it’s justifiable to ignore negative comments. 

So, how do you know when to delete or ignore a negative comment? 

 

Well, here are a few reasons why engaging with someone who’s leaving a negative comment online about your brand or products may not be the most logical thing to do:

When You Expect Your Online Community to Have a Back

You don’t always have to be the one defending your brand or products. Sometimes it’s wise to let your foot soldiers silence the troll. Let them come to your defense, and only chime in when it’s necessary or to echo a statement that someone already made. 

This may not work well with businesses, but it’s a great strategy to employ if you’re an influencer. When you have a loyal group of followers, this is where you take a few steps back and put their loyalty to the test. 

 

Things You Don’t Want to See on Your Page

There’s no point in engaging a customer that’s busy hurling insults, spamming, harassing, or randomly attacking your other customers. Don’t ask them to quit or be nice. 

If they’re on social media, the most logical thing to do would be to block and report them. Before that, you’ll also likely want to make sure you’ve deleted everything they wrote. 

 

Trolls and Bullies

Trolls and bullies don’t deserve even one second of your attention, for the very reason that they’re only there to get your attention. 

They should be ignored, deleted, banned, and reported at the slightest whiff. 

They’ll comment on your posts and products because they want to elicit an emotional reaction from you. They get their dopamine rush out of getting people like you riled up. 

 

When to Address Negative Comments

Ignoring only works when the person commenting has other intentions or is on the mission to bring your company down.

For all the other comments, you should at least try to respond to them. 

Remember, this is something you determine on a case-by-case basis while going through the comment. 

 

That said, here are a few examples of comments that should never go without a response: 

When You’re Certain People Are Watching

It’s more of a PR stand. 

When you’re certain people are waiting to hear what you have to say, you don’t simply ignore it. You step up to the occasion and address the issue. 

Happens a whole lot when people look at you as a role model of some sort. Think of it this way, when someone attacks you in front of your children, you don’t let them get away with it just like that. You stand up to them and give them a piece of your mind. 

You don’t have to be rude about it. You can still shut down a troll by being polite but more reasonable. 

 

When Responding Allows you to Engage Your Customers

You’ve probably heard of the saying, “there’s nothing like bad publicity.”

What matters is how you handle it. 

A negative comment from a dissatisfied or concerned customer or prospect can be a nice way to learn something or two on how to serve them best.

It’s a springboard for you to welcome their opinion, and get them to reveal some of the things they have been holding back about your business. 

It could be that they don’t like your customer service team because they think they’re rude or they felt like you were taking too long to deliver their order. 

Whichever the case, that’s how you get to find out how some of your customers feel about your business or services. 

You also get to explain to them why some things are like that. 

 

When Your Reputation is On The line

When someone comes to you with an allegation that you think will leave your reputation in tatters, you don’t just sit back and watch them throw dirt over everything you’ve worked so hard to build. You need to do some cleaning.

Go ahead and clarify the issue. Make a point of correction by giving your side of the story. The odds are some customers will believe in your version of the story more, and who would have easily gone with the commenter’s narrative had you not responded.

If someone says something unfair or incorrect about your business or products, just take your time to slowly walk them through everything and let them know how wrong they were. 

 

When You Need to Apologise

If you made a mistake or failed to live to your part of the bargain, then it’s only natural that you would want to apologise.

You don’t ignore complaints. When a customer is disappointed at your product, service, or treatment, the most natural thing to do is to reach out to them and apologise, right there where everyone can see.

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For example, it wouldn’t be wise on your part when a disgruntled customer says something negative about your product or services. If their expectation wasn’t made, then do the necessary and apologise. 

Figure out how to make it up for them. But you don’t want to overpromise them or make a promise you can’t keep. A better approach would be to tell them how sorry you are that your services/product/or level of customer service didn’t make a grade for them. Ask them to share their contacts with you so that you can give them a call or talk to them privately. We’ll be covering more on this in the later section of this post. 

 

When Not Responding May be Interpreted to Mean You’re Hiding Something

If you can’t give your customers something to think about, then expect them to come with all sorts of wild thoughts.

If you’re too quick to hide or delete a negative comment on your post, some people will conclude there’s something fishy about the whole ordeal. It’s either you’re trying to cover up something or you’re generally a deceptive person. 

If the customer is right in their comment, then you failing to engage them may make it seem like you have a strong aversion to truth.

If you feel like people will feel like you’re hiding something when you fail to respond, then that’s enough reason for you to reply.

 

How to Receive Comments on Your Social Media Posts

Here are a few tips on how you can respond to the comments you get on social media:

Focus on Creating a Rapport

When responding to social media comments, you should try as much as possible to be approachable and personable. 

Learn to look at comments as an opportunity to build rapport with your customers. You’re also trying to portray your brand as helpful and friendly. When people interact with your brand, they must immediately feel a connection. 

Here are a few pointers to observe:

  • You can start by using your customers’ names when responding to their questions. It’s also important that you be as accurate as possible with these responses. 
  • If you’re following canned or pre-written guides, be sure to personalise them first before sending them to every single one of your commenters.
  •  Adding GIFs, emojis, and any other social media extras might also help with enhancing this connection. 

 

Maintain a Professional Front

Your social media comments must always sound professional. You don’t need to start engaging in unnecessary banter or small talks online in the name of trying to connect with customers.

You have to know where to draw the line.  That’s not to say your comments should lose the personal touch, but you want them to be consistent with your brand voice across all social media networks. 

Here’s what you should do: 

  • You can start by creating a social media strategy to help everyone in your organisation understand how to respond to customers. Remember this is not about the person managing your online presence or social media accounts. It trickles down to every single one of your workforces, as well as your offline engagements. 
  • Be sure to outline your preferred style of engagement and tone. Try to replay different scenarios and draft official responses or templates for each. 

You’re doing all this so that your replies will also reflect your voice and brand personality. 

  • While at it, it’s important to ensure your comments have a personal touch.

Keep in mind that you’re not just rewriting pre-written responses to copy-and-paste them to your customers. What you are creating is more of a premeditated guide. The goal is to try and avoid coming off as too robotic. 

 

Respond Quickly

Responding quickly may mean you’re interested in your contacts’ thoughts and concerns. Customers no longer appreciate brands for responding quickly – and that’s because it’s what is expected.

Here’s what stats have to say about this:

42% of customers say they expect brands to respond to their social media comments within 60 minutes. 

Quick replies make the customer feel valued. It gives them more reasons to keep on commenting on your posts. 

That’s where pre-written responses come in handy. They’re there to save you time. But you want to ensure you have personalised them before hitting the send button so that they don’t come off as if they were written by a robot. 

When a customer hits you with a more specific question that may require more time from you, the least you could do is acknowledge that you’ve seen the question and that you’re still working on a more appropriate answer. Ask them to exercise patience as you work on the answer or proper response. 

This reply is important because it makes the customer feel valued. 

 

Don’t Ignore Any Problem

No problem is too small. 

Customers hate it when their problem goes without an answer. It makes them feel less valued.

Some get frustrated, and may even feel discontented, which may manifest as something worse down the line. 

Unanswered comments also don’t look good on you. They may tarnish your reputation, and even make some conclude your customer service is bad. 

This might cost you a potential customer. 

A recent Twitter research showed that 81% of customers will be hesitant to recommend a brand to a friend if their comments always go unanswered on social media. 

That’s how serious this is or that’s how petty customers have grown to be. 

Whatever comment a customer leaves behind, it’s important to acknowledge its receipt with a response. 

 

Damage Control

When responding to comments, give negative ones a priority. 

You should always be anticipating them because no matter how safe you choose to play, some people will always find something to fault you with.

By engaging with these comments as fast as they land, you’ll be stopping from escalating to something more serious.

Try to come up with a clear strategy on how you handle these comments. Depending on the complaint made, have a link that people with complaints can use to seek help or talk to your support team. 

Alternatively, you can always move them to private messaging, or if it’s not that much of a bigger issue, then try to come up with a more comprehensive reply that directly answers their question. 

 

Be Unique

It’s always good to do things a little bit differently from what your competitors are doing. Go the extra mile by trying to do things a little bit differently. 

Here’s the thing:

Learn to use social media as a two-way communication channel. Sadly, that’s not what brands out there are doing. If anything, most of them don’t like going through the trouble of engaging with their social media followers.

By being constantly available and ready to engage with your online followers whenever they leave a comment, you’ll be doing something most brands don’t care to do.

Now that you know that it’s always important to reply to negative comments, let’s now look at how to reply to these comments. What should you exactly say when writing your reply?

 

How to Respond to Negative Comments Online

There aren’t so many reasons for customers to complain online. Most of the time, their complaints will be as a result of the following:

  • Difficulty with placing an order or doing business with you
  • Unavailability of a product or service that they were interested in
  • Bad or faulty product
  • Subpar services
  • Overcharging
  • Pushing sales
  • Lack of professionalism in your approach or image
  • Collection practices
  • Poor customer service
  • Poor delivery services

To deal with these issues, you should work on a plan that ensures your customers are not only satisfied but are pleasantly surprised. 

It’s not a matter of trial and error, here are 6 solid tips to how to deal with negative comments like a professional:

 

1# Respond Quickly

Like we’ve already said, your customers expect you to respond to their complaints quick – and by quick we mean in less than 60 minutes. You, however, want to make sure that your impulsiveness doesn’t come in the way of quality. 

Be sure to double every message before you send it to your customers. Make sure there are no typos and that the style used resonates with your brand. 

2# Be Polite and Empathise

When a customer is unhappy with your business or product, it’s natural that they’ll want to go on social media or one of the review sites such as Glass Door, Yelp, and Pissed Consumer to vent or express their frustration. 

So, don’t expect them to express themselves civilly. Instead, learn to maintain your cool, and address them in a manner that shows you understand their situation and are willing to reason out with them and find a solution. 

Be the bigger person or the person who’ll end the conflict. Stay calm helpful and take full responsibility for everything that happened instead of throwing the blame elsewhere.

If it’s a minor issue, and you would like to attract more attention to your brand and garner a couple of shares, employ humour in your response. 

3# Take the Dispute Offline

There are simple rules for responding to customers’ questions online.

The first thing you want to do is address the customer by their name. You also want to maintain a more conversational tone. Most importantly, try to personalise the conversation instead of coming off clunky.

Do this, and we can almost guarantee you’ll fix the issue.

But in the event that you don’t, ask to meet with the customer. Ask them to come to your office and see if you can work out something. 

4# Get as Much Detail as You Can

Don’t be quick to offer a solution until you have all the details. 

Learn to be a keen reader or listener. Remember, you’re not just concerned about the issue at hand, but trying to prevent it from the source. 

You’re trying to get rid of the flaws in your system or way of business. 

Second, the information you collect from them will help you make a more sensible, unbiased decision. The customer will also feel more value because they helped point out a serious flaw. 

If the customer hasn’t been detailed enough in their comment, try searching for their other comments online. It could be that they also complained about the same issue elsewhere. 

5# Get More Information About the Customer

Don’t fall for the customer’s trap, especially if it’s a minor issue. 

For all we know, the customer might be trying to lure you with a minor issue before unleashing a full can of worms on you. 

 You want to do some little background checks. Find out if the customer has legitimate or if he’s a serial complainer or troll. If they are, then you know what to do.

6# Go to the Extra Length

Don’t just solve the customer’s issue and be done with it. You can go the extra mile and achieve a positive brand trending.

You need a benchmarking strategy for this. 

Here’s what we mean when we talk about going the extra mile:

Mike booked a room at Delta Hotel, but didn’t like the view. So, he went to Twitter to complain about it. 

Delta responded almost immediately and did everything they could to make Mike’s experience. But since switching the room wasn’t an option, considering Mike was leaving the following day, they asked to talk to him about how they’re going to make his next booking better. They wanted to offer him some suggestions on what rooms to book next time.

That’s not all, the hotel staff even left him a card with some sweat to apologise for the inconvenience caused. 

Mike was so amazed by the whole treatment and even decided to write a blog about it. 

 

Conclusion

Well, these are some quick tips on how you can handle negative comments. There are legal ways of doing it when the platform owner does not want to do anything about the published comments. And there are online reputation methods as well. MediaOne has successfully provided online reputation management services to clients and individuals locally as well as globally. To find out more we invite you to call us at (65) 6789 9852 or email us at enquiry@mm.com.sg.

 

Author Bio

Tom Koh is widely recognised as a leading SEO consultant in Asia who has worked to transform the online visibility of the leading organisations such as SingTel, Capitaland, Maybank, P&G, WWF, etc. Recently he was instrumental in consulting for a New York-based US$30B fund in an US$4Bn acquisition. Tom is a Computational Science graduate of the National University of Singapore. In his free time he performs pro-bono community work and traveling.
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