The entire industry of reputation management is focused on mitigating this risk and cleaning up messes for businesses after they have happened. Unfortunately reputation management can be very expensive and some transgressions are impossible to come back from after they have been committed. So how should you protect your small business?
We have all seen examples of business owners and employees losing their cool on social media and doing harm to their business’s brand. When it comes to social media, it’s easy to get caught up in the trap of quick retorts.
In most of these cases, the words that end up bringing down the wrath of the internet are just knee-jerk reactions. The reason for this is that our first reactions and responses definitely aren’t the most polished. So instead of reading a bad review, a negative report or a false accusation and responding immediately with vitriolic response, step away and take the time needed to calm down and think through how best to respond. If you tend to be short tempered or fiery, it’s even more important to step away and collect yourself before posting something online.
Take it Offline
If possible, try to take the issue offline. If someone posts something negative on social media or complains about your products/services publically apologize (even if you are not in the wrong) and offer to make it right. Then work out the details of the issue or conflict privately. Say something like:
“We’re sorry to hear you had a negative experience. We have your contact details from your order so we will be in touch to get the details and resolve the issue. Thank you for your patience.”
“Thank you for letting us know about this issue – we’ll be looking into it now. If you could please email us with some more specifics, we would appreciate it.”
It’s just distasteful to try to hash out arguments or issues for the world to see. And most likely, you’ll end up losing in the court of public opinion no matter who is actually in the wrong.
Always act in a way that is professional and in keeping with good character and morals. Never ever EVER attack someone personally for complaining or posting something disparaging about your company. This is the easiest and quickest way to rally an army against your business online. The most well-known example of this was detailed on Forbes when a Scottsdale, Arizona restaurant owner created fake social media accounts and personally attack anyone that left a negative review on the basis of their looks, income level, intelligence and a number of other factors not related to their ability to discern good restaurant food from bad food. Let that be a case study in what not to do when trying to respond to online complaints. Instead of getting angry, use any negative feedback that you get as an opportunity to identify areas where you can improve.
It’s hard to admit when you’re wrong, but being honest and shouldering the blame when something is indeed your fault can go a long way with your audience. People would rather have a business be honest with them than be told that the issue is not their fault. The authenticity of a “mea culpa” can actually win potential customers over because no business will ever be perfect all the time. Just be sure to explain what you are doing to eliminate the issue again in the future to set people at ease and show your commitment to excellence.
By Kate Pierce. Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media, Web Consulting for small businesses, Copywriting and Local Online Marketing. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and enjoys cooking, watching sports and spending time outdoors. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about marketing theory and SEM trends… so don’t say you weren’t warned!