Online Customer Service: Treat Negative Comments as Learning Opportunities


Even though we’d all like to think that our businesses and products only get glowing reviews on the web, in reality, that isn’t always the case. It’s possible your business or product may be mentioned negatively in a blog or on a review site, and it’s highly likely that negative post or comment will be authored by an unhappy customer.

For starters, I always recommend that you monitor the web and online marketplaces for mentions of your business (and for mentions of your competitors, too, but we’ll save that for another post). Free services, like Google Alerts, make this easy by pushing notifications to your inbox instantly, daily or weekly, depending on the frequency you select. Should you receive a notification that something negative has been posted publicly, your first step should be to go to the site and read through the comments.

When negative comments are posted about your business or product, your immediate reaction may be to respond defensively. I don’t recommend this. In fact, I recommend you do nothing at first, except keep an open mind, read what the customer has to say and absorb it. As business owners, our best lessons can be learned through negative customer feedback. So, get beyond the initial sting and your feelings of anger, frustration and denial, and take a few minutes to think about whether this customer may actually be pointing a legitimate issue or concern that needs addressing.

Once you’ve given thought to the criticism and perhaps spoken to any employees that were involved, then it’s time to respond. I’m not going to say the customer is always right; however, without customers, you have no revenue. Know how your bread is buttered and keep this in mind when responding.

Address customers in public forums with an attitude of humility. Apologize? Perhaps, if warranted. Explain? Sure. Most importantly, let the customer know that his or her patronage is appreciated and valued. By responding to issues or criticisms publicly (unless the customer requests private email communications), others will see your forthright attitude, genuine concern and desire to please your customers. Responding respectfully in a timely manner to acknowledge the criticism, take control of the situation and offer a solution will do more to bolster your business’s online image than almost any marketing campaign.

Here are a few tips to remember when it comes to online feedback:

  • Actively search for and monitor online comments about your business or product
  • Claim your business page on online review sites. This lets customers and prospects know you’re engaged and interested in their experience
  • Address online comments (negative or positive) in a timely manner, preferably as soon as you hear about them
  • Keep in mind that the entire community is watching and your response (or lack of) may affect your customer base for years to come
  • A humble, customer-centric attitude will go a long way to build your reputation online

Bill Gates once said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” And I suppose he would know. Bill Gates has certainly faced his share of negative feedback…and inarguably has experienced a great deal of success.

Post by Marsha Collier via thinkingforward.tumblr.com