Dealing with bad comments

Social media and business networking are great tools for business, but for all the good that can come of them, there can be a downside.

We encourage our clients to harness the power of social media and encourage engagement with clients or potential clients. But every now and then there is a negative comment posted. Sometimes they are legitimate complaints, but often they are overstated, inaccurate, or even totally fabricated.

Turn off the comments, stay off social media, or delete the comments you don't like? No, no, and no.

Everyone has their own ideas about how to handle an angry client. The New York Times had a recent piece including interviews with several customer service experts who talk about turning a bad situation into a positive one.

Whatever approach you take, you have to realize that you can't hide from an unhappy client who wants to publicly berate you. If you don't provide a place where they can comment and air their grievances, they will find other sites that will let them vent. The worst thing about that is that you might not know what they said. Driving them underground is no solution.

Smart business owners make social media a partner in resolving customer complaints. It can be a valuable tool in enhancing and preserving your reputation - even in the face of customer criticism.

Be proactive: Set up Google Alerts and Twitter searches for your business name. Responding quickly is important. One business owner I know monitors tweets about his coffee shop steadily throughout the day. If he sees a negative comment, he immediately responds to the customer and to the appropriate store manager. Often, he says, he can fix a complaint before it every leaves the shop.

Be public: If a complaint is made publicly, address it the same way. You want other people to see how you will deal the situation to cement your image as one who values your clients, gives more than lip service to customer service.

Be positive: People expect to get bad service. You have one moment to change their mind. Often this is a question of tone. And I will confess this is an area where I have learned the hard way - and I am still learning. Often times what sounds reasonable and straightforward to you will be nails scraping on a blackboard to an angry customer. Many times I would have been better served by bouncing my words off a partner, friend or colleague for a second opinion.

As a young manager, I bemoaned the fact that my employees had no idea how hard I worked to get them resources and benefits. All they saw was what you could present publicly. That is the same situation businesses have always found themselves in: a thousand happy customers can't make up for one vocal disgruntled one. But social media changes that landscape and let's you put your customer service ethic out front for everyone to see.

Take advantage of that opportunity.
How do you handle difficult clients or situations. Comment or tweet #toughclients. Portfolio works with clients on social media communications and strategy. Think we can help you?