Social media is a fantastic way to market to customers, engage them, and build your brand through customer connections. However, the road isn’t always a rose-covered path; occasionally there will be some thorns and brambles to get through. When customers are unhappy with a company, they will often take to social media to express their discontent. So, how do you handle negative feedback? What do you do when the Yelpers are harsh?

Identify the Type

When negative comments land on your page, the first thing to ask yourself is, “Is this true?” Really, the feedback boils down to two possibilities: it is true or it isn’t. That will help guide your response – and not all feedback warrants a direct response to the person who posted it. You’ll see why in a moment.

Once you have determined the validity of the feedback, you need to identify the category it falls under. There are basically four:

  • Legitimate Problems
  • Constructive Criticism
  • Legitimate Problem – Attack Mode
  • Trolls

Legitimate problems are real problems that can reveal issues in your company that need fixing. These are often explained in detail but no personal attack is launched. Constructive criticism takes it a step farther by offering potential solutions to the problem. While no one wants negative feedback on their page, these types of feedback can actually help your company grow and your systems improve. They are also the easiest to answer.

Sometimes, though, a customer who has a legitimate problem will go into attack mode. They may have a really good reason to get angry, but instead of handling it in a constructive, professional way they get very personal and very nasty. The root of the matter is still the same, though – your company messed up somewhere and your customer is not happy.

Trolls just want to stir up trouble. They delight in creating controversy and causing arguments. They want people to get defensive and angry. While the first three types of feedback fall under the true category, this one does not. Trolls will give you negative feedback just for the fun of it. They will also spam your site with negative reviews in order to promote your competition. A note on this, though – sometimes the feedback they provide for this purpose is true.

Form a Response

Once you have identified the type of feedback you have received, it is time to form a response. Legitimate problems deserve a reply. Basically, that can go two ways: there is a real problem with your product, service, or policies, or the customer just doesn’t like the way you do things. Either way, acknowledge the customer, thank them for their feedback, and pursue the complaint or explain why you do things the way you do. Some replies may require some follow up in order to solve the issue.

Attack mode is not as easy to handle because it tends to have a personal feel to it. It often contains abusive language, and the last thing you feel like doing is responding in a positive way – but that is exactly what you must do. Keep it as short and as simple as you can. Thank them for their feedback and if you need more information, ask for it. Assure the person leaving the comment that steps are being taken to rectify the problem. Don’t get defensive or return in kind; just keep it professional.

Trolls don’t warrant a response. The best thing you can do with trolls is ignore them. All they want to do is damage your image either for their own fun or to draw your customers over to your competition. They will try to bait you into a debate or argument that you can’t win and it will just dissolve into something ugly and destructive. Don’t take the bait. In fact, when possible and appropriate, take steps to have the comments removed.

Handling negative feedback isn’t always easy but it can actually work to your favor. When people see how you handle customer complaints and negative feedback with finesse and professionalism, they will see that you value your customers. It is sure to win at least some over.