It happens to all brands: negative comments or reviews in a public, online forum.
We wanted to provide some graceful ways to respond that help minimize any online backlash.
Research the Situation
Before responding to any negative comments, first check the facts.
Did a waiter really drop a tray of food all over someone? Did an employee actually say those unkind things? While it is tempting to respond immediately, knowing the facts of the situation will help you not only with the commenter, but with your other followers to appear knowledgeable and truthful. Having to correct your own interpretation of the situation after the fact will only increase the time and exposure of the negative comment.
Keep Your Attitude Bright
While you may privately upset by the comment, returning negative attitude with negative attitude isn’t helpful to the immediate situation or your overall brand.
And while some brands have mastered the art of online snark in responding, particularly to Twitter trolls, this is a very difficult thing to do well. Best practice is to respond quickly, truthfully, and with a positive, understanding attitude.
Respond publicly and, if appropriate, privately
Responding to a negative comment in the same public forum is important.
While it may seem tempting to not continue the conversation where others can see it, the negative comment is already out there. A lack of response from your brand will raise eyebrows with your followers. Respond in the same forum and, if appropriate, offer to continue the conversation privately with the commenter as well.
Offer a Solution
While empathy and an apology is always a great way to start in responding to a negative comment, you should also offer a solution to the complaint.
It may be a replacement product, a gift certificate, or the like. By not only offering your apology, but also a solution, you increase the chance of not only keeping the commenter as a customer, but also those following along.
Know When to Leave a Comment Alone
All that said, there are times when a discussion, no matter how controlled on your brand’s side, spirals out of control.
Stay on topic and do not respond to derogatory, hateful, or off-topic comments. Getting dragged into an online mud fight will not end well for your brand, even if you are chastising the commenter for their inappropriate words.