Taking the High Road on Social Media Negativity

By Rich Adams


Response to a Biting Review Can Make or Break a Company

In the days before Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, people who had a bad experience with a company or restaurant might tell a few friends about it, or complain to the Better Business Bureau, before deciding not to do business with that company in the future.

And that’s as far as it went, for the most part. Going viral wasn’t a thing back in the day.

Today, a negative customer service experience can quickly be picked up, shared, retweeted, and reposted. Before you know it, the company is pulling out its crisis communications plan.

In today’s virtual world, with customer reviews at their fingertips, people are looking for the best of the best in pretty much everything. With Google, Yelp and TripAdvisor, among others, providing customers a forum in which to publically rate the quality of their experiences for all to see, a bad review can do serious damage to a company’s reputation. So how do businesses offset the negatives, not only in the customer ratings but on their social media profiles?

At Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth, CEO Al Zehnder said he has one full-time employee who is focused on maintaining the company’s social media platforms to keep abreast of what customers are saying.

“We respond to both negative and positive comments, but we do not get into the social media back-and-forth,” Zehnder said about the company’s Facebook page. “That’s not the function of our Facebook page. We are presenting an open forum about our people and our products.”

Responding to criticism on social media is a must, according to a Harvard Business Review study, which states that when companies respond quickly to customer reviews – both positive and negative, such as is Zehnder’s policy – their online rating will subsequently increase. But a poorly worded or late-arriving reply can do more damage than good.

So what’s the perfect response to a negative review? First, it should be addressed immediately, even as soon as within an hour of the original negative post. The response should acknowledge the complaint and apologize for the bad experience the customer had. Don’t argue about the details. Short and sweet is best.

Responses shouldn’t get into the specifics too deeply, the study noted. Getting into details can sound like the company is being defensive, and those following the posts will pick up on it.

However, speaking briefly to the customer’s specific concerns shows that the response is not a bot doing the apologizing. Contrast the bad experience to the good customer service the company usually gives, turning a negative into a backhanded compliment of the company.

Then try to move the conversation offline or to your platform’s private messages. Give a phone number for the reviewer to call and specifically whom they should speak with by name. Show concern by again apologizing for the bad experience and indicating the company wants to earn the reviewer’s business back in spite of the negative experience.

Finally, the study noted that while responses are certainly intended to smooth the ruffled feathers of the complainer, that person is not the primary audience. The response is more impactful to the other prospective customers who will be reading that bad review for months to come.


Signs you are dealing with an internet troll

  • Their goal is to anger you
  • They show a sense of entitlement
  • The use of strong language like “never,” “every” and “always”
  • They make it personal and name call
  • They use poor grammar