(Inspired by and excerpts taken from an article written by Brian Conlin)
Some negative reviews are legitimate, but a growing number of hateful posts are more about the poster than the business being attacked. Haters are attacking businesses on social media and customer review sites for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with a service or product. At times it becomes adult cyber bullying.
It is happening all of the time and it’s more than a nuisance. It can hurt your brand, your reputation, and cause a loss of customers. Depending on the severity it can adversely affect employee morale.
Here are eight steps for dealing with online criticism:
1. Know the troublemakers
– Trolls – Individuals who create havoc for fun and thrive on emotional reactions.
– Sock puppets – People assuming a false identity for the purpose of entertainment.
– Defamers – Users who spread false information as a statement of fact.
– Difficult people – People who act thoughtlessly or want to put you in your place, often using aggressive language.
2. Listen, listen, listen
When someone attacks your business and work, it is easy to become defensive. Give your full attention to what the person says without thinking of your response. If you craft a response while listening, you may miss the tone of the message.
3. Do you need to respond?
Just because someone publishes a negative tweet about your company or product doesn’t mean you have to respond. Use past experience to determine if it’s worth your time. If you do respond, consider what type of resources to use to address the issue.
4. Determine who to engage
When faced with multiple problems, you should perform triage and respond to the ones that have the greatest potential to damage your brand first.
Before responding attempt to summarize the problem as succinctly as possible, write down who is involved and examine the timeline of when the negative comments began. Organizing this will help you determine how to respond.
How to handle online criticism depends greatly upon where the criticism is coming from.
5. Ask open-ended questions
When faced with a perceived attack on your brand, you should suspend judgment until you understand the point of the other side. Get to the bottom of the issue by asking open-ended questions.
6. Know your anger triggers
By understanding what comments and topics make you upset, you will be more likely to keep cool and remain nimble and clear-headed as you handle the situation.
7. Research the troublemaker
Review the blog, social networks and any other information you can find about the troublemaker. This will help you determine that person’s conflict style and what type of outcome they want to create with their comments.
8. Look internally
Look at your company’s history to determine if this is the first time the problem has arisen or the group complaining. If your company has dealt with similar problems in the past it can show you what to do or what not to do when resolving the situation.
Sometimes complaints are recurring problem are a great way to identify issues within our company that need to be explored and corrected. With these corrections we improve and grow stronger. An important point to be made here is the we ALL have some kind of issue(s) that need to be corrected. If you believe otherwise then I recommend a reality check. Nevertheless, almost any attack can reach resolution or turned into a positive outcome. A perfect example was a group of businesses that got together and formed an association “We’re Hated on Yelp.” They evident sense of humor brought in new customers.