Negative word of mouth is something every company faces. It doesn’t matter what you sell, who your customer base is or what industry you’re in. It just happens.
But because you know it’s going to happen, you can prepare for it. Smart marketers know how and when to respond to negative word of mouth. Not all of the negativity will be worth your attention, but when it is, here are some important things to remember:
- Don’t waste time. The faster you respond to an upset customer, the better your odds of converting them into a happy fan. Even if all you can do is let them know you’re listening and that you’ll have to get back to them, a quick response can help calm them before they have the chance to further complain.
- Speak like a real person. The easiest way to turn a little negative word of mouth into a full-blown crisis is to respond like a stilted, corporate public relations robot. When you respond, put a human face on your company by speaking genuinely, identifying who you are and making it easy for them to follow up with you.
- Point to independent sources. You want to do everything you can to avoid a debate, but sometimes it’s important to explain your side of the story. When doing this, you’ll get the most credibility by pointing to independent, third-party sources. This was a key strategy UPS used to defend its brand during a PR crisis around new industry legislation.
- Write for the record. Above all, you need to always be conscious of the scale of the audience when you’re responding to negative word of mouth online. Even tiny blogs in obscure corners of the Internet have the potential for things to get picked up and blown out of proportion. But if you respond like a human with a sincere attempt to fix the issue, everyone will see that you acted in good faith and tried to do the right thing — regardless of the outcome.