How to Respond to Negative Reviews & Comments on Social Media

How to Respond to Negative Reviews & Comments on Social Media

Social Media Marketing

Do you know how to respond to negative reviews and comments on social media?

From Facebook and Twitter to TripAdvisor and Yelp, social media helps us to connect with our customers. Unfortunately, this also open us up to criticism.

How do you react when someone says something negative about your business?

If you’re like most humans, your natural instinct will almost always be a defensive one. “No! They’re wrong!” As much as we might like to, acting on that trigger response just isn’t helpful.

What Can You Learn From the Feedback?

Usually there’s something to be learned from negative feedback. To do this, you need to rise above your defensive feelings to find the grain(s) of truth in what’s being said, even if it’s hard to hear. How can you use this feedback to improve your business? You can usually tell if someone is just looking to get a rise out of you for their own enjoyment vs. if they’ve actually been to your business or used your services and are speaking from some point of experience. Either way, you can’t ignore negative feedback.

Respond Swiftly & Professionally

Once negative comments have been made, it’s important to step up to the plate and show that you’re a professional brand. Never ignore negative feedback. It won’t go away. Show that you know how to face criticism by responding in an appropriate manner.

The golden rule in communications is to make sure that you reply so that your customer feels heard. You should:

  1. Acknowledge what they’ve said
  2. Apologize for how the experience has made them feel
  3. Own the problem
  4. Explain how the problem will be dealt with so that future customers won’t have a similar experience
  5. If possible, do what you can do to rectify the situation for the customer

Negative comments are important and you should always respond–or get marketing and communications professionals to respond on your behalf so that you don’t bungle your reply!

Acknowledging the customer so that they feel heard, and apologizing for how the experience made them feel can go a long way in improving their perception of your business. However, you can take that one step further by trying to fix the problem. For example, many restaurants will give customers a gift certificate to come back and try the restaurant again–free of charge–in attempt to change the customer’s perception and to make a better impression.

Make Lemonade

Nowadays, people like to feel like they’ve done their homework about a business before they buy. People will check review sites and visit social media profiles to get to know the brand. While negative reviews might dissuade someone from buying, a graceful and professional reply where you acknowledge a bad review can actually impress your potential customers. People will often change their minds about a business once they’ve seen how it handles its customer relations.

No business is perfect. Some negative reviews are expected. By showing that you know how to respond, you can build your brand’s credibility.

Putting It into Action

At Barker Social, we manage customer relations for our clients, including the responses on review websites and social media channels. This is an example of feedback that one of our restaurant’s received not long after taking on their new venture, and our response.

Poor Review

“New management, a smaller menu, old time favourites have been removed, their house hot sauce is gone… they have also become restrictive of alternating sides to set dishes? …you lost me.”

Our Response

Thank you for taking the time to write a review. We understand how jarring it can be to have a venue that you attend regularly change ownership. Even though we’re in the same location, we’d like to ask that you look >>Restaurant Name<< as a completely new venue. It was important for us to bring in a new, passionate chef, to launch a new menu, and to make other improvements all around the restaurant. Rather than comparing us to the old familiar place that you used to visit, we hope you’ll look at us with a fresh perspective, like a brand new restaurant, and give us another chance. Now that we’ve been around a few more months and have settled in, consider giving us another try. Let your server know that >>Joe<<, the owner, was in touch with you. They’ll make sure to take extra special care of you. 🙂

Case Study

This week I came across the worst case of customer relations and communications “fail” that I’ve ever experienced from a large corporation. NB: Please note for this case study, it’s not about whether or not you like or dislike the original ad, it’s about how a company has handled their customer relations on social media.

The Original Ad

Company X, a large budget grocery chain in Canada, boosted an image on Facebook of a roasted chicken posing to be “sexy”. The caption with the chicken said, “I’m too sexy for this post.”

This was a provocative image to share. Whoever is running the social media marketing for Company X surely must have known that it would be controversial. Some brands choose to be provocative on purpose, while other times people who are underqualified for their marketing and communications positions make mistakes that can damage a brand.

It’s hard to know if Company X thought through the consequences of their ad or if the scandal they created was completely accidental. For some businesses, any publicity is good publicity. I don’t think that was the case in this instance.

Knowing your Audience

The first problem stemmed from the lack of “knowing your audience”. While some of Company X’ customers found the image and caption to be funny, others took offence. In Canada where Company X operates, a 2015 survey conducted by the Vancouver Humane Society and administered by polling company Environics showed that 33% of Canadians, or almost 12 million people, are either already vegetarian or are eating less meat.*

How NOT to Handle Feedback

The real problem, however, came with their incredibly poor response to their first negative reaction to the image. In response to the simple, to-the-point comment, “This is offensive,” Company X responded, “If sexy chicken’s wrong, we don’t wanna be right!”

And so the scandal began.

Dozens of comments from other customers followed, lashing out at Company X, both for the ad but especially for the way that they responded to a customer.

There’s a big difference between responding as an individual with your own personal opinions, and responding as a corporation. In their flippant response, Company X showed complete disregard for a customer by making a joke. What followed was extreme backlash and a #boycottCompanyX movement.

How You SHOULD Handle Feedback

It’s important to be professional and mindful of your customers. On social media, it’s not just about the individual customer who made the comment, it’s also about all of the other people who will see your response. At the very least, an appropriate response to the comment would have been:

“Dear customer, we’re sorry that you find this image to be insensitive. We were just having a little fun but we certainly did not mean to offend anyone. We will take your comment to heart and we thank you for your feedback.”

As a brand, you’re not obligated to act on every piece of feedback that customers give you, but Communications 101 is that you demonstrate that you’ve listened to the feedback so that the customer feels heard. In this case, the response from Company X was actually more offensive than the original photo because they showed complete disregard for a customer.

Maybe Company X doesn’t mind the bad publicity. At this point in time, the image–and the increasing number of controversial comments–is still up. If Company X does decide to listen to the unhappy feedback, the best course of action will be to remove the image and issue a formal statement of apology to anyone that they’ve alienated.

It costs less money to keep a customer than to find a new one. For another interesting case study, read this article from Branding Diva: An open letter to Verizon and Frontier Communications leadership

Managing Your Brand’s Reputation

At the end of the day, you can’t afford to have your brand mismanaged. Something that might seem amusing to the undertrained intern that you’ve put in charge of social media could end up costing your brand thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, in business. If you need help managing your brand’s online presence, we’d be happy to provide a free consultation to discuss your current practices, and to see where your plan can be adjusted and improved.


Mandi Gould

Mandi is a social media marketer, copywriter, and project manager for Barker Social™. She's a results-driven planner with an unstoppable ability to churn out quality marketing content. Her creative spirit, project management skills, and copywriting ability make her a marketing dynamo. She is also a bird lover, health foodie, jazz enthusiast, and swing dancer.