Imagine a world where everyone is always smiling and happy and full of uplifting kindness toward one another. It’s a place that I would like to think exists, but unfortunately, we don’t live in Pleasantville. No matter how genuine we are as entrepreneurs, chances are we will rub someone the wrong way.
People I don’t even know have called me hurtful things in my career. If I shared the list, you would be absolutely appalled to read some of these vicious attacks. And learning to deal with them, by not taking them personally, has been one of the biggest obstacles for me as an entrepreneur to overcome.
My husband tells me that I need to grow thicker skin. You know what? He’s absolutely right. Because the more I penetrate the marketplace with my vision and mission to fight childhood obesity, the bigger chance I take in offending someone with my message.
So let my authenticity shine! I’m not here to please the people that don’t resonate with my vision. I’m here to embrace and help the ones that do.
However, with social media on the rise, it’s getting tougher to keep negativity at bay while dealing with emotionally charged customers or prospects. So I recently consulted a small business PR and marketing coach to help me navigate this online world, and here are some tips and pointers she shared with me.
1. If a negative review or comment is on your website or Facebook page, take it down.
I was absolutely blown away by this comment. After all, we all want to be authentic and real, right? My coach advised otherwise. As a previous marketing director for a very large shopping mall, she said the first thing they would do is remove a public complaint and deal with the issue privately. For example, in her case, a mall shopper took a photo of some mall food with a bug in it and started blasting the news all over the company website. After further investigation, it was discovered that the patron had planted the creepy crawly in the food in the hope to get the next meal free. This type of publicity is not something you want to keep on your site or in your social media pages. It is something you deal with privately.
2. If you can control your site, control it.
3. Respond to every customer complaint no matter how small.
The only thing worse than responding negatively to a bad review is not responding at all. Take the time to write a personal message and address the issue head on. Chances are that the issue is not as bad as it may seem, and giving the customer your time and attention will make them feel heard. You may even want to thank them for taking the time to write you.
4. Don’t take comments personally even if it feels like a personal attack.
This can be a difficult lesson to learn, but many people have been previously influenced by their own negative experiences and life lessons. For example, a person who has been burned before by a small business opportunity may take the present time to blast you for the business opportunity that you provide – even though they have nothing to do with one another, and yours is super legit.
5. If a public review needs to remains public, then respond to the complaint in a logical way.
Take the emotion out. It’s easy to respond to critics with our feelings, but this may only throw fuel on the fire. Use the opportunity to logically respond with your side of the story, and offer your customer a public apology for their negative experience. You may even want to man up and offer a freebie to help settle the dust.
6. If negative reviews keep coming … you may want to rethink the way you are doing business.
For example, if the same complaint is seen over and over again, try tweaking your process to eliminate the complaint in the first place. The repetition of customer complaints is a message telling you that change is needed. How can you improve the customer’s experience in this area?
Dealing with online negativity and customer complaints is never an easy or fun thing to do. But instead of seeing it as scary nightmare designed to derail your business, why not instead, try seeing it as an opportunity for improvement? Responding to customer complaints in a timely and professional manner may be the first line of defense to stop and then grow your business.
Jan Pinnington is a Nutritional Consultant, wife, mother, and “consummate foodie.” She specializes in teaching nutrition and healthy recipe preparation to kids. In an effort to fight childhood obesity, Jan’s company, Healthy Hands Cooking, teaches other women across the U.S. to do the same. Her philosophy? Love what you do, do what you love, and share your experience with others.