It’s almost a little too easy for a few unhappy customers to send a business’ marketing department into a tailspin these days, and all it takes is a couple of well-placed negative reviews or Facebook comments. But while this sort of response can be extremely frustrating – and you may think unjustified – there’s nothing you can do to take back the negative feedback once it has been preserved in the never-ending story that is the Internet. So, how to respond?
What you should definitely not do is to react with anger and vitriol towards the negative reviewers – this will only fuel the fire. If you want any more proof of this, then check out the hilarious unfortunate meltdown of the owners of Arizona restaurant Amy’s Baking Company Boutique & Bistro. They took to Facebook to (loudly) air their discontent after featuring on an episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares and receiving a slew of negative feedback on Yelp and Reddit.
Their reaction – predictably – only made things much worse. Of course, any small business that isn’t quite up to speed on the dynamics of the Internet is ill equipped to respond to a thousand faceless trolls, but there are a few things you can do to recover more quickly. And guess what? It all comes down to just using your words. If your problem is only a few negative reviews or comments, then don’t ignore them, respond! If a consumer has a genuine concern with your products or services, just addressing and resolving them can turn a simmering, negative experience into a positive one for your brand, and maybe even a return customer.
Of course, if your online problem is a little more widespread than just a few unhappy shoppers, a more synergised strategy is going to be necessary. The mistake that Amy’s Baking Company made was that they left themselves open to ridicule, by both cyber-shouting at their critics, and in doing so, coming across as a couple of luddites. The lesson here is simple; whatever the catalyst happens to be, a widespread negative response to your brand represents widespread dissatisfaction – and that is not a badge you can afford to wear for long.
This means that you will have to own up to what has gone wrong with your business – whether you are at fault or not – and commit to changing it. How you go about achieving this depends on both what has caused this spike in negativity, as well as what kind of business you are running. A couple of brands that managed to recover from these types of dreaded disasters include Dominos and Nestlé. Dominos made a fast recovery after two employees posted a video of themselves, erm…violating certain health and safety regulations while preparing customers’ food. The video soon went viral, but Dominos managed to nip the negativity in the bud by quickly releasing an apology video, and taking legal action against the employees in question.
Nestlé’s problem was a Greenpeace video that criticised them for using palm oil sourced from deforested areas. But this problem only became worse when the food and beverage giant attempted to have the video taken down, and deleted any negative Facebook comments. Unsurprisingly, the comments just kept on coming with renewed fervour, and the video in question was uploaded multiple times by other YouTube users. Being such a major brand, they eventually managed to recover, but it took them almost 50% longer than the likes of Dominos. This can most likely be accounted for by their attempted strategy of censoring, denying and censoring some more. In the age of the Internet, it has become impossible to truly eradicate anything that has been said about your company, ever. Once upon a time, complaints happened in the form of letters and phone calls that no one else was privy too, but those days are long gone.
So if your business runs into some unexpected online negativity – whether on a large scale or small – the best thing to do is to respond with the same level of professionalism and transparency you would bring to any other business venture. The Internet and social media have made business owners more accountable than ever to their customers, and whether this is a blessing or a curse for your brand is entirely up to you.