I came across a good article today in the American Express OPEN Forum site from Josh Catone, features editor at Mashable, where he outlines how to deal with negative feedback online. He suggests that there are four types of feedback: straight problems, constructive criticism, merited attack and trolling/spam. He then offers some good advice on how to react to the different types feedback.
Catone suggests, “The number one rule when responding to all criticism, even the negative type, is to stay positive. Adding more negativity to the conversation by letting yourself be drawn into a fight with a customer or user will only reflect poorly on your business.”
The one item that I’d suggest adding one other consideration, especially for the small and medium sized businesses who comprise the core of OPEN Forum, is evaluating risk. While customer engagement and service is important, small business owners often need to focus on their core offering. Few companies have the resources to respond to all feedback. When a company evaluates risk, they assess the potential influence of those generating feedback and the anticipated negative impact or fallout. The greater the influence or impact, the higher the risk and the greater the need to engage.
The final important point is something I learned early on. If you have a problem with someone, try to deal with it in private. Most companies want to migrate feedback to more intimate and controllable channels where a frank dialogue and resolution can emerge. If the resolution is satisfactory, often those sharing feedback will update their friends or followers on the experience.
People today want to support responsive companies that respect their opinion and want to improve the way they do business.