So someone is insulting your business online

mobile-phone-1917737_640By Henry Brown

Hopefully no one will ever post a negative review or slam your business in social media – but then again, it’s very difficult to get it right all the time. No matter what type of business you have, looking to see how feedback is going online is a necessary part of the job.

So you go and search social media sites, calmly going about your day, and then you see it:

“Worst food I have ever experienced and the waitress was rude!”

“Terrible event, company had no idea!”

“Worst night of my life!”

And it feels like everything comes screeching to a halt.

Don’t panic

While it might be the natural reaction in this circumstance is to panic and immediately respond, that’s pretty much the worst thing you can do.

Step 1: Backtrack your thinking

If someone has felt the need to do this, then your first concern should be why they have done it in public rather than in private. Often, customers complain about things that, had you known about it, you would have gone out of your way to rectify.

So think back on if you have a way for customers to contact you to make their grievances heard. Have you checked the company email? Scanned through the voicemails? It can be useful to offer as many forms of feedback opportunity as possible to customers, from providing a direct complaints line to looking into a low cost virtual post office box if you don’t want to use your formal business address. That might be wise, especially if you’re an events organizer and want to keep things separate.

Once you have checked all possible forms of direct contact, your next step is clear. If the customer has contacted you privately but the message has been missed, get back in touch with them through the means they used. If they haven’t, then it’s time to…

Step 2: Remember that everyone complains

A business can be faultless, but there will still be someone who isn’t happy. Try and remember people are more likely to talk about (what they perceive to be) negative experiences than positive ones.

This doesn’t help with the matter itself, but it’s important not to get despondent when these things happen – so keep it in mind.

Step 3: Respond – politely

Even if their message is rude and littered with obscenity, don’t stoop to that level. Bear in mind this is public, and any potential customers are going to see it. Politely ask them to contact you privately. Give your direct phone number. Make sure you apologize and assure them (and anyone reading it) that you wish to rectify what has happened. Even if you don’t feel their complaint is justified! You might have to bite your tongue to do it, but see this as a chance to show off how good your customer service skills are.

Step 4: Ask them to update their rant

When you have resolved things with them directly, ask if they can update – not remove – what they originally wrote. Do not be tempted to make your reparations conditional of this happening; you have to make them want to do it. They might even directly remove it, in which case, great! But even an update will show potential customers that you handle problems when they arise, which will reassure them.

Step 5: Implement a feedback system

For future, make sure all customers have a way of giving direct feedback or addressing complaints – there’s some options mentioned in the first point.

Step 6: Move on
These things happen, so deal with the issue and then move on. Nothing will be gained – and perhaps a lot will be lost – by engaging in an ongoing public spat with an unhappy customer who refuses your best efforts to make things right.


Henry Brown is an online marketing executive. When he isn’t talking shop he’s roaming the streets of London, uncovering the extra-ordinary in the ordinary.

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