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Emma Hart

Communications Manager | Resolution Design

  • November 6, 2023
  • 5 minute read time

You will have seen the controversy from M&S last week when the retailer posted a sneak peek of its Christmas advert online. Following the crisis, we were asked by a client who has a small business, how to deal with negative feedback on social media channels overall. 

We gave it some thought, and in a time where consumers are inundated with marketing requests for feedback through emails, surveys or social media, brands are opening themselves up to constructive criticism more than ever.

Facing the music 

Having someone say something harsh about your business or service, however, can be a bitter pill to swallow. No one wants to read or hear about a customer’s bad experience, and it’s even worse if that experience is online for the whole world to see. 

The good news is that it can be salvaged, and it’s all about how you react and act to that feedback. Believe it or not, but a bad review can be turned on its head and allow you to learn from your mistakes and improve your customer service. 

Read on to find out what to do when you receive a bad review and why having a plan for when things go wrong is vital for your business. 

Silence is not golden 

When a bad review or complaint comes through, it may be tempting to do nothing, delete or ignore it, hoping it will go away. This is not a good idea. We suggest responding promptly and encouraging the customer to take the situation offline to resolve.  

Acknowledge the feedback is received and that it has been passed on to the relevant team member to provide a solution. You need to confidently give certainty in your communication even if you do not have the right outcome at this stage. Not hiding away suggests you understand your customer and will respond appropriately. 

Perfect the process 

You know the saying fail to plan, then plan to fail, and this rings true during a crisis – yes bad customer feedback can be labelled a crisis, especially if you are a small business. Therefore, always having a process to follow when a crisis happens can help minimise potential damage to your reputation. 

What this process would look like will depend on the nature of your business and industry, but here are the fundamental elements you should include. 

Identify a key spokesperson – this should be a senior stakeholder, possibly the founder, CEO or equivalent. There needs to be reassurance that the matter is taken seriously, and if you provide an authoritative leader, this will assure the customer that they are important. This human connection also amplifies your brand and shows you care. 

Update all stakeholders and employees – ensure that staff can access the information they need. If the review or complaint captures the attention of the public or press then it may lead to further enquiries. Make sure that there are clear contact details of who is dealing with the process internally. This would usually be your marketing department if you have one. 

Be clear, concise and conscious – keep the messaging focused and address the topic face on. It’s always worth noting that social media posts can be sharable and go viral in just a few clicks. You don’t want the added stress of being known as an example of how not to do something. 

Case closed 

When a customer took to social media to complain about their sandwich from National Trust, the charity and membership organisation responded immediately offering a complimentary cream tea on their next visit. 

We are not saying to throw in a freebie to everyone who complains, but replacing it with a like-for-like product and resolving the situation quickly, efficiently and kindly avoids ongoing battles. 

If you want to talk more about your crisis management plan or a social media strategy, drop us a line today on how we can help.

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