Accept Critics to Drive Business
Most people are aware before going into business that sometimes, someone will be unhappy with some aspect of their business. But when it starts happening, it can feel like you are personally being attacked. This is especially true if the criticism has little basis in facts or reality. Unfortunately, there will always be unhappy people who are more than willing to spread their unhappiness and misfortune around. Haters are gonna hate. Period.
Knowing that can make it tough to put yourself “out there,” but if you want to run a business, you have to. You should feel good that you took the chance to start a business, even though you know it will not always be easy, including knowing that you will be a target for negative feedback at some point. Another reality is that the bigger your brand and business become, the larger target it becomes.
Many times, however, you can use criticism to your advantage. Not everyone who gives negative feedback is trying to make things worse for you…most people leave these reviews because they want you to know that something went wrong and that the process or situation could be fixed so that it works better for your customers, consumers or clients. So while criticism is never fun, it can be used to strengthen your business by providing constructive criticism.
Whether the criticism is founded or not, it feels bad when someone finds fault with your business. After all, this is something you have put a great deal of time and effort into, hoping to provide quality products and services. In the age of the Internet, it’s easy for “haters” to spread their discontent. So it’s more important than ever to deal correctly with criticism to ensure your business reputation is not damaged. What types of criticism can you expect when you start a business?
There are review sites for everything these days. Since as a business owner you want to have your business, goods and services listed on lots of online directories, that also means that there are more opportunities for people to leave negative reviews (and positive ones!). You may get reviews online on places like Yelp, Foursquare, Google, Bing, Angie’s List and Amazon.
Even when you do your best to provide quality products and services, and offer clear details about what customers will get with their purchase, some customers will complain. This might be due to a breakdown in communication, a glitch in the system or good ole’ human error. Sometimes these complaints are founded, in which cause, it should be fairly easy to fix. Others might be someone overreacting to not reading the fine print of what you offer.
Negative Comments on Blog/Website
Even blogs and websites that offer rather benign information, like life hacks or inspiration, can receive negative comments. Depending on the topic of your site, you may get more than your fair share of these comments. Sometimes people leave these because they do not agree with your opinion on the topic, while others can just be people who are angry and want to create drama. We call these individuals Internet trolls.
Criticism on Social Media
Because social media is…well, social, this can be a particularly damning place for negative comments. It can easily get out of control if the complainer is attempting to engage others in starting an argument or a smear campaign against your business. Having a set plan of action for these types of criticism is a good idea so that you can nip them in the bud before they cause your brand reputation to take a hit. Having a solid plan can even help you gain more respect and loyalty from your fans and followers!
Email and Contact Form Complaints
You will get complaint emails and criticisms left on your contact form on your website. But believe it or not, these can be the easiest to manage. Dealing with the complaint privately like this, just one-on-one with the unhappy customer, keeps their issue out of the public eye. As your business grows; however, you may find yourself receiving personal attacks via email. There are best practices for even this type of situation, which we will discuss later.
Critical Family Members
Not everyone has the entrepreneurial spirit. They do not understand the desire to take such risks in life. Most family and friends who try to talk you out of starting a business or who criticize the way you are running it are most likely coming from a place of love. They do not want you to fail, and they worry that you will. It’s much safer to get a conventional job and do what everyone else is doing, and many people will tell you that you are crazy for taking the entrepreneurial path. Others might simply be jealous that you are willing to take risks to get what you want out of life. Either way, this type of negativity can be especially hurtful since the comments can feel even more personal when they are coming from your supposed support system.
Handle Social Media Critics with Kid Gloves
Handling criticism on social media can be trickier than on other platforms, such as email or even review sites. If someone posts a negative comment or complaint on your social media, all of your fans and followers will be able to see it immediately–usually much sooner than you do. But, there are several things you can do to ensure you handle social media critics with kid gloves.
You simply can’t afford to ignore complaints on social media when you are trying to run a successful business. Whether the problem came from your end or not, address the situation and do what you can to rectify it. Ignoring it will not make it go away. In the social media world, complaints can breed other criticism quickly. To ignore the situation is to cut off your nose to spite your face.
Respond Quickly…But not too Quickly
Speed is of the essence in these cases. You need to minimize the damage before you see a huge exodus of fans “un-friending” your page. Respond too quickly and you run the risk of not thinking the situation all the way through first. This can lead to remarks that can sound defensive, angry or snotty. Reply too slowly and you may have others add to the original negative comment. Take time to reflect and come up with the best language and plan to fix the situation without making it worse, but don’t dilly-dally.
Connect with them Personally
While it’s a good idea to comment on the post letting everyone know that you are sorry for the situation and that it is being dealt with, not everyone who likes your page needs to know the details of the negotiations. Connect privately with the person with the complaint to learn about the details and come to an agreement. They will appreciate the human touch and be impressed by your personal attention to their grievance.
Follow up on Original Post
Once the situation has been taken care of and your customer is once again happy, follow up on the original post to celebrate the fact that all is well again. If appropriate you can give some vague information about how the situation was solved, and you might even want to give a shout-out to your former complainer, thanking them for bringing the matter to your attention and for being so easy to work with (even if they weren’t). Being gracious while updating your fans will go a long way towards solidifying their loyalty.