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Unfortunately, it’s something that happens to almost every business- A NEGATIVE ONLINE REVIEW! There is a right way and a very wrong way to respond to negative comments and reviews online, and it’s important that you take every step that you can to address the situation. We were recently at the Western Canada Tire Dealers Association’s trade show in Canada, and had the pleasure of hearing Tod Maffin speak on his approach to handling negative comments online. Using his S.W.A.R.M method to responding to negative online sentiment can help your business maintain a positive brand image, even with negative reviews or comments.
So what exactly is S.W.A.R.M?
S-Speak Like a Human
One of the main benefits of having a strong social media presence, is that you’re able to give your business a human characteristic. Often enough, businesses struggle with communicating with others as people, and use a tone that is more business oriented that warm and human. When you’re addressing a negative sentiment online, have a human tone! Speak to your customers like you would speak to your friends or family. Shy away from templated responses like “Sorry to hear that, we will take your criticism into consideration,” and respond in a more lively and concerned way, try “Wow, I’m very sorry to hear about your negative experience. Please contact me privately, so we can find a solution.”
When it comes to addressing negative online sentiment, there doesn’t have to be a winner or loser. In almost every situation, customers complain on social media because they want something to change or get fixed. Award them with better quality service on their next visit, a percentage off their next service, or whatever else you see fit. When you reward them and change the problem, they win, and when they come back as a customer, you win. Maffin suggests a three-fold approach to this:
1. Acknowledge the comments
2. Promise to look into it
3. Report back the next morning on what happened
A- Avoid a Public Fight
It’s not necessarily a bad idea to address the situation in a public way, but address it in a way that takes it out of the public eye. If someone leaves a negative review or comment, ask them to direct message you, or contact you in another private way. It’s incredibly important to remember that with negative online sentiment there are two audiences, the commenter, and everyone else reading. Always acknowledge the issue publicly, but take the rest offline.
R- Right the Wrongs
In a fit of anger, people will often exaggerate the issue! It’s not wrong to go and correct someone if they’re exaggerating an issue. Leaving a reply that fixes the exaggerated claims is not out of line, and can help settle the commenter down. However, always be polite when correcting inaccuracies, and do it in a human tone.
M- Make Friends
At the end of the day, the most important part of this method is to turn your combatants into advocates. Always listen to your negative reviews, and do your best to address and even fix the problem. Negative reviews can seem like a nightmare, but they can also really help you make your business the best it can be online and off. Keep in touch with the people who had concerns, and let them know that they helped you fix issues you may not have known about. Do follow-ups with these customers to see if their experiences have changed., and foster a relationship that will help show others that your business really does care.
If you’re interested in learning more about the S.W.A.R.M. method, check out Tod Maffin’s blog post here.