How to Handle the Negative Neds and Debbie Downers
Negative comments, nasty rumors, 1-star reviews . . . less than positive online statements can hurt business owners in so many ways. Not only can they have an adverse effect on the success of the business, but quite often, they can cause emotional pain to the business owner as well. Many small business owners have invested everything they have into their business, including finances, time, even blood, sweat and tears, and some can’t help but take these words personally. The business owner who has very tough skin may not take these words to heart, but that is not the case for everyone. Regardless of the business owner’s sensitivity, these issues must be dealt with gracefully and respectfully. Let’s explore some opportunities for letting our best customer service skills shine when it seems like everything is on the line.
Scenario: The Facebook “Anytown, USA Community Information Group” with over 10,000 members is very active. Newcomers to Anytown, USA post questions asking for referrals on everything from child care to hair dressers to restaurants to where to buy new tires for their car. Generally, the conversation is helpful and positive, and the members of this online community are excited to share their positive experiences with others. But, on occasion, there is the disgruntled consumer who decides to vent his dissatisfaction publicly, and there ensues a tirade against a local business, with many of the group members joining in on the conversation. Eventually, the owner of said business finds out about the conversation, and knows something has to be done, but what?
Ideally, the business owner can connect with the original unhappy customer in a more private manner and settle the issue civilly. If the customer is truly satisfied with the outcome, the business owner should respectfully ask the customer to remove the negative comment, and to perhaps post in the group again, this time thanking the business owner for settling the matter and letting the community know of their acceptable agreement.
However, if they cannot come to an agreement, then it’s time for personal convictions on the part of the business owner. One of the hardest things for a business owner who feels she’s being “bullied” is to sit quietly by, watching the horror unfold online. Some business owners decide to let the tirade work itself out, because they don’t want to be part of the negative conversation, or they want to “take the high road.” Sometimes, the best practice is to defend the business and the employees, and make a positive statement without getting into a “spitting match.” And sometimes, all it takes is for some of the business’s biggest fans to come to the rescue and let them take the reins.
Bottom Line: in talking to consumers and business owners alike, the theme surrounding this mentality seems to be the same: those taking the time and energy to publicly trash a local business owner are not to be taken very seriously, and like Mom always said, “If you ignore them, they’ll go away.” Maybe Mom’s advice should be applied to this situation as well.
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