Responding to critics without looking uncool

This post has been inspired by an exchange I had with what appeared to be either an Econet higher-up or their flunkie, responding to a post about their website, the link to which I emailed them in good faith. It originally appeared at businessknowhow.com, a generic site for basic business ideas and common sense.

You know that old saying, “You can’t please all the people all the time?” Even the companies with the best products and customer service have critics. But the Internet and social media amplify critics’ voices, giving them a large and receptive audience. It could hurt your business if you don’t have a good response.

Monitor the Internet for Comments

Social media communications strategies include monitoring comments out there on the Internet. Identify and counter criticism rather than letting it stand on its own as the undisputed truth.

Let Your Initial Reaction Subside

You poured your heart and soul into building your business, so naturally it stings to see it criticized. Don’t respond to a negative comment until you put that feeling aside. An emotional response hurts your credibility.

Assess the Truth of Negative Statements

When you find a criticism of your Web site, determine whether it’s true. Answer honestly. Has the critic identified a weak link in your brand?

Respond Professionally

Your response must demonstrate your professionalism and commitment to customer satisfaction.

Unfounded Attacks

If the criticism is blatantly false, contact the Webmaster and politely ask them to remove the comment. Remember, the Webmaster didn’t write the comment, so keep a friendly tone. If the Webmaster doesn’t delete the comment, write a rebuttal and post it on the site.

Negative, but True

If the critic has a valid point, write a response that acknowledges the truth in the statement. Take a positive approach: explain how you are correcting the situation and highlight some things you’ve done right. Also, consider offering the critic a refund or special offer to give your business another try in your response. This action will demonstrate to other readers that you have a real commitment to customer satisfaction.

Winning the trust of the audience at large is more important than converting a single critic. Stay positive and show that you care enough about your customers to engage in honest dialog, and people will reward you with their business.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Joe says:

    Common sense, comrade. That’s all.

  2. Soul says:

    The internet has created a huge platform for customers to hold businesses accountable. This platform can also be abused to taint a business’s reputation unfairly. Sadly, most businesses, don’t realise they need a formal strategy to deal with the Internet, social media to be specific.

    You’l find a big company like Econet represented by anonymous employees who are blank on PR issues. Their comments to honest criticism which they should learn from is cynical apathy at best. At worst they just lash out at customers.

    Take this Genie Chanie guy on Facebook whose profile says he’s an Econet staffer. In response to an innocent comment by a customer that said: “If these data bundle tariffs are there to stay then it will be “back to the internet cafe” for some of us. I just can’t afford these prices. WHAT DO U SAY?”, Genie basically just told the subscribers to go to hell. http://www.techzim.co.zw/wp-content/uploads/genie_fb_eco.jpg

    This, on an FB page maintained by Econet biz dev guys. There’s no indication on the page that Econet doesn’t agree with Genie, or that the company is distancing itself from Genie’s comments, or maybe just that Genie falsely claims to be employed by Econet. Genie has 171 FB friends and even has his photos visible to everyone to prove he’s real.

    Companies like Econet can consider this article an “Internet PR 101”. A few additions:
    – If you’re a big company, have a social media/internet PR policy in place to guide how staff represent the company online. Let everyone know how to respond to customers/public when called to do so. Be clear about who can comment on behalf of the company and what will happen when staff flout this rule
    – The Internet keeps stuff for a very long time. Any negative response/attitude to an issue will be recorded and for all to google and share for a very long time. This is why it is important to “Let Your Initial Reaction Subside”, and ‘set the record straight’ with a friendly and professional response.

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