How to Respond to Negative Feedback Online

Use this action plan for dealing with bad reviews or complaints on social media.

You might think you should ignore your detractors online because you don’t want to risk getting into a contentious back-and-forth on a public platform. But responding to bad reviews or negative comments on social media shows your followers that you care about your clients’ concerns, says Shelley Costello, CEO of Creative Web Concepts, a social media marketing firm with a real estate focus.

It’s essential to have an action plan, though, for how you respond. It’s important to control the conversation so you don’t give an unsatisfied customer more leverage to continue damaging your reputation. Costello recounts an experience she had with a client of hers, who is a real estate agent. The agent had fielded a tough comment on social media: “On a Facebook post about an open house the agent was hosting, someone typed a comment that they could not reach this agent for days, the agent did not return calls, and there was wrong information about the property on the website,” Costello says. “The commenter said they went to another broker, saw the home, and talked with the seller. This was really bad.”

Here’s Costello’s action plan for dealing with such comments:

  1. Give an immediate response, but keep it short. Whether the commenter’s gripe is legitimate or not, acknowledge the issue they raise, apologize for how it has affected them, and take responsibility for getting them answers. You want your followers to see that you’ve done this in a timely manner so they know you’re on top of your clients’ needs.
  2. Get more information offline. Invite the commenter to talk further with you in private, either by private message on social media or by phone or e-mail. On Facebook, business pages can privately message commenters so that you can address the complaint right away and protect privacy. Get more details about the commenter’s complaint, investigate what went wrong, and try to come to an amicable solution.
  3. Post an update. Once you’ve resolved the problem, post an update saying you contacted the commenter and explaining what happened. Ask the commenter if they would be willing to post their own update as well.
  4. Be honest about what happened. If something went wrong on your end, cop to it in your update. You’ll show your followers that you take responsibility for your actions and work hard at correcting your mistakes.
  5. Track your online reputation. Consider using tools that monitor certain keywords in comments that are made about you on social media or review sites. And always make sure the notification settings on your smartphone for your social media accounts are turned on. The faster you’re alerted to potential problems, the sooner you can take care of them.

Be as transparent as possible and have as much of the conversation with a complainant publicly as you can. “We recommend you play the drama out on social media [or review sites] so that the public can see how you handle it,” Costello says. If you handle it well, a difficult situation can work to your benefit. You can show your network that you are responsive, compassionate, and able to solve customer issues.