Today, whatever people say can find its way online, and it can seriously affect a business in a positive or negative manner; this is precisely why ‘online reputation management’ garners so much significance.
I have tackled the importance of dealing with criticism on social media a few times before but recent experiences have shown once again that there is a thin line between “respecting the rules of dealing with criticism” and losing your temper (that’s normal, you’re human, we all have our days but some days it’s better to shut up).
It starts with listening and it always did
Now, this does not mean that you have to nicely say “thank you” when someone destroys your reputation because he or she is misinformed, simply doesn’t like you or is one of those eternal complainers that are never happy and always want things to go their way and right away, expecting the impossible.
As a blogger I can afford a little more to say what I feel and think when I disagree, as a business…you can do the exact same thing. BUT, well, you have to be more professional and understanding when the criticism and negative buzz strike than yours truly is.
Yes, even if you know who the commenter is, and you know he is that eternal you know what. This absolutely does not mean you have to get on your knees and politely turn the other cheek when you get slapped. We are not holy, only human (at least, I am, and I don’t like to be slapped).
Then how do you respond? You listen, first of all. As a former sales manager, a long time ago, I always used to let an angry customer express his frustration whatever way he wanted (unless he started getting really personal or even dangerously aggressive).
Once he stopped shouting out his frustration because one of “my” sales guys had done this or that, or there was a problem with a product or shipment, I asked if we could talk now and find a solution.
From disgruntled customer to loyal customer
When the answer was “no”, I used to let raging a bit longer and repeated the same question. If the customer insisted on not wanting to find a constructive solution, then that was his free choice.
I have to admit I was twenty years younger then and that, when coming home, I needed to go jogging or to have a good glass of whatever.
If I was in the same position as back then, being who I am now, I would probably tell him to get out, kick a few times against a wall and come back when he could behave normally. But then again, I have no business anymore nor do I work for one.
I am afraid that most of you don’t have that luxury, at least if you want to keep your customer or see an angered customer as a potential loyal customer.
And on social networks it is the same.
So here are some things you absolutely should try to avoid (the first one being letting someone like me deal with customer service) when encountering online “reputation threats”.
Ignoring what people are saying about you online
This is a big mistake which should be avoided at all cost. Criticism gives you a tremendous opportunity to know your shortcomings (I know mine, do you know yours?) and work towards improving them. Of course you also reply to criticism so that people know your side of the story as well. But in a rational way…
Trying to respond to every criticism
This is another mistake which should be avoided. Not every criticism presents a balanced picture. It is therefore better not to waste time responding to each and every criticism.
If there is a review published which you know does not carry any facts and is false do not react angrily and threaten the reviewer. The comment and criticism is rarely personal so don’t take it personal. Do not make the mistake to think that your disgruntled customer or the negative reviewer has the full picture (and neither do you).
Focusing on the negative
While replying to comments most people waste lot of their effort in emphasizing the negativity in the criticism. They would do well to accept the criticism and highlight how they can solve the issue and what their USP is. So try to be constructive. Hell, why not make that another USP: “we solve stuff”.
Taking it personal
Negative comments anywhere can prove to be disastrous. Don’t take it personal (unless you’re 100% sure it is). If you are like me and have had your share of complaining people and are more sensitive to it: ask for another job.
Forgetting that respect and trust is earned
This is the most glaring mistake made. No matter how efficiently ‘online reputation’ is managed, respect and trust are earned and can never be managed. It is therefore important that integrity is maintained and commitments fulfilled so that one can gain trust and reputation from people.
And, yes, you will make a mistake now and then. Don’t try to be perfect, you’re not. And if you get in discussions to deep for your own good: take a break. And there is always that wall you can kick.