I’ve only written one Yelp review in my entire life. It was after a horrifying visit to a salon that had just opened near my office. In the span of 45 minutes, my stylist talked in excruciating detail about her cosmetic surgery, broke down sobbing when she was suddenly reminded of her ex and accused me of smoking because my hair “stank.” It was an unpleasant experience, but not as unpleasant as her response to my review:
“[Salon Name] gives cute, trendy, cutting-edge services. I think it’s so sad when insecure people are intimidated by beautiful people. This salon just isn’t for people like you.”
You can’t change the fact that customers like myself are more inclined to share a negative experience than a positive one. What you can do is prevent such an experience from getting amplified online. This is particularly important in today’s socialized world, where consumers have a plethora of outlets for doing so.
This month, customer service guru, keynote speaker and author Micah Solomon shared his tips for handling negative reviews and feedback more gracefully than my one-time stylist.The following are his tips for handling social response under fire:
Take a Customer Service Point-of-View
Customer service agents are trained how to listen and respond empathetically no matter how unreasonable or annoyed the caller. Social media response should mimic this personality. More often than not, companies employ a social media or community manager to respond on Facebook, Twitter and other channels.
While technically savvy, they’re usually more focused on pushing promotions and drumming up fans and followers. Be mindful that concerns are fully addressed and that the social response doesn’t come off more like a marketing pitch.
Be Mindful to Avoid Streisand Effect
The biggest risk businesses face when responding to negative reviews on social sites is the potential for bad news to travel further [and] faster here. This potential even has a name: the Streisand Effect, after actress and singer Barbra Streisand.
While our first inclination might be to call a lawyer, think carefully before taking that course of action. Just ask Streisand, who sued a photographer in a failed attempt to remove an online photo of her precariously-sited mansion. The story ended up going viral and showed up on everything from T-shirts to coffee mugs.
The moral of the story: don’t end up with a permanent, publicly-recorded blemish on your record because of a nasty reaction online. Make sure everybody who represents your company online has taken the time to learn how to slow down, breathe, and bite their tongue.
Convert Negative into the Positive
So what should you do when faced with a negative reviews or mentions on social media sites? Reach out directly and kill them with kindness.
When faced with a negative accusation, your team should respond with a positive, thoughtful message. This often surprises the online critic so much they actually convert into an advocate.
If the message comes from a follower, fan or in your database, take the conversation off of social. Include your real, monitored email address, phone number and even address so they know you are sincere in your outreach. You want to get this issue solved.
Respond as Immediately as Possible
The amplification of social media embarrassment is proportionate to the delay in getting a response. A negative incident online gathers social steam with great speed, so even a few hours delay can be catastrophic.
Set response time standards for customer service responders to negative reviews. For companies that receive thousands of social mentions and messages a day, a customer service software can be useful, like those reviewed on Software Advice. Or come up with a placeholder response if more time is needed to devise a more strategic answer. But tell your agents when, why, and for how long a placeholder response can be used.