The Internet has significantly influenced the way today’s consumers express their opinion. Now, every customer, diner, buyer, and client can instantly become a critic – always with something to say (about your business or brand) online, in public, and in real-time.
Also thanks to the Internet, there is an infinite number of places for these online critics to vent and comment and have their say on the matter.
And we’re not just talking about online review sites like Yelp, Google+ Local, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, and Foursquare. We’re also talking about other kinds of sites that host many forms of user-generated content: blogs, online forums and message boards, and social networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.
The challenge for business owners is how to respond to online critics and run a successful business at the same time. To help you get started, we here at ReviewTrackers have come up with a list of 9 effective tips for responding to online critics.
9 Effective Tips for Responding to Online Critics
Set up monitoring.
You won’t be able to respond unless you have set up a mousetrap for catching what your critics have to say. So, apart from choosing the best online review monitoring solution today, you may also want to sign up for a service like Google Alerts, which is designed to help you monitor the Web for specific new content. The scope of monitoring covers search results, news, blogs, books, and groups – and if you set up your alerts to cover all these, you’ll be able to keep your finger on the pulse of multiple kinds of content being posted by your online critics.
Don’t take online criticisms personally.
No business is perfect. And while it’s perfectly reasonable to liken harsh criticisms to being punched in the gut – especially if you really love what you do – it’s also wise to remember that, in most cases, critics are only providing feedback for you to improve.
Take critics’ comments objectively.
If you listen closely and objectively to what your online critics are saying, you may be able to find something truly constructive in their words. When reading comments and reviews online, ask yourself: Have these critics correctly identified my weaknesses? Are they trying to destroy my online reputation or are they spelling out truths about my business that I can’t ignore?
Respond in a timely manner.
People pay great attention to the way businesses respond to online critics. This includes how timely the responses are. By responding in a timely manner, you’ll be able to demonstrate that your business does listen attentively and cares truly about its customers.
Distinguish the reasonable critics from the crazy critics.
There are lots of freaks on the Internet who have nothing better to do than to randomly hate on businesses and brands. Our advice? Ignore them completely. There’s no need to respond to these crazy critics, and it really is best to avoid legitimizing their activity by paying them the slightest bit of attention.
Don’t get into an online cat fight.
It’s tempting to engage in a war of words with online critics who have nothing positive to say about your business. But don’t. It’s simply not worth the effort. There’s no need to have the last word, and if you hold back long enough, a loyal supporter – or an entire community of people who love your business – may soon come to your defense.
Take action if criticisms are unfounded, inappropriate, spammy, or fake.
Fake online reviews are on the rise. And they’re making their way past review sites and into blogs, social networks, and online message boards and forums. If you think an online critic is being blatantly false, spammy, or inappropriate, contact the host site’s webmaster immediately and see if the critic’s comments can be taken down.
Say sorry if you have to. But don’t offer gifts.
If your business did happen to make a mistake – the food was served cold, a legitimate coupon wasn’t honored, etc. – then don’t be reluctant to say sorry. By owning up to your mistakes, you have a great chance to ease the fundamental harshness of your online critics and convince them that you’re not a big bad company who can’t take criticism.
On the other hand, don’t be so quick to offer gifts or freebies just because you made a mistake. Only do so if the situation really warrants it; otherwise, people may think you’re bribing everyone with something bad to say about your business.
Let your fans and followers support you.
There’s nothing more empowering than having a loyal group of fans and followers stand up for you amidst harsh criticism. Sometimes, you’ll find that this happens without prompting. But if it doesn’t, stop wasting time on heated battles with critics and devote your energy instead to thanking your loyal customers.