There are plenty examples of what not to do when your business receives negative attention online, but while most of us can identify poor reputation management when we see it, sometimes when it’s your turn in the hot seat may be harder to keep perspective. If your brand comes under fire, are you confident in what your first move will be?

In this post we’ll discuss how to address negative attention, and the steps you can take to mitigate the damage.

Keep Your Cool And Follow The Plan

Your gut reaction when you see a nasty review or snarky blog post is never the one you want to follow. Whether the criticism is deserved or not, your next step will affect how others perceive your brand, so any statements or communication that come from you must be professional, courteous and genuine.  Additionally, timing is critical.  It is important to respond to all feedback, both negative and positive, within 1-2 weeks.

To keep your responses consistent, it helps to have some guidelines and resources prepared ahead of time. In addition to any policies you have surrounding customer service and PR, you might find the following useful:

  • Follow a few best practices for responding to poor reviews:
    • Respond to the customer within a timely manner.  Responding to the review within 1-2 weeks (or sooner) shows the customer that you are aware of the feedback and care about resolving the situation.
    • Propose that you talk through the issue in a private matter so that you can fully understand the situation and come to a resolution to mitigate the problem or address the customer’s concerns.
    • React to the feedback in a calm and non-threatening manner.  Speak to the facts presented and demonstrate to the customer that they are being heard.  Do not argue with them in an online forum – this only creates more animosity and potential backlash for your brand or product.
  • Create an escalation plan that addresses the following scenarios:
    • What will you do if the customer doesn’t take you up on your offer to privately discuss their concerns?
    • What’s your course of action if the bad review inspires other disgruntled customers to post similar experiences?
  • Prepare response templates that can be modified to directly respond to the complaint or negative feedback.
    • You should not post the same responses to every negative review.  However, it is helpful to have short messages prepared for a few scenarios that may arise with unhappy customers.  Then you can tailor these messages to the particular situation and individual you’re responding to.
    • Having drafts on hand for different formats—email, Yelp reviews, Google Plus posts or reviews, etc.—helps keep reputation management processes efficient.

Silver Linings

Negative publicity can actually be leveraged to build your brand in a positive way. Consumers appreciate companies that directly and effectively address their concerns, and when done right, customer service can be a huge reputation booster. This example of JetBlue handling a customer disgruntled over a delayed flight on Twitter shows that the company takes their customers’ experiences seriously and is attentive to their needs, responding promptly with the information they’re looking for.

Next week’s reputation management post will focus on the monitoring tools and techniques that will help you keep tabs on your brand’s reputation. It will also be our final post in the reputation management series, so be sure not to miss it!