How To Deal with Negative Feedback On Social Media

Be Nice or Pay Up: Union Street Boutique Mess Up! A case study in how to handle negative feedback. Picture this. You have been dreaming about this very moment your whole life. You’ve probably had it planned since the age of 10 and it’s finally here. You are about to get married! What better way is there to celebrate this big day than a luxury wedding in NYC?

Think “spacious rooms with classic lines and stylish sensibility.” Or think again… at least if your planning a stay at The Union Street Guest House in New York.

For many newly-weds, their big day soon turned into a bad day after being fined $500 dollars (roughly £350) for negative reviews of the boutique guest house added to Yelp.

Yes, you read that right!

You can also expect this hefty fine if you attend another wedding in the area but stay at this guest house and leave a negative review.

Quite a policy, huh? This little boutique has managed to gain GLOBAL publicity over the last couple of weeks for their extreme guest policy which reads:

“Please know that despite the fact that wedding couples love Hudson and our inn, your friends and families may not. … If you have booked the inn for a wedding or other type of event … and given us a deposit of any kind … there will be a $500 fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review … placed on any internet site by anyone in your party.” {Source: Time Magazine}

Ironically, this little stunt cost their reviews 4 stars and they are now stuck at a mere 1 out of 5. Not only that but after hundreds of Facebook comments, the hotel has been working overtime to DELETE (not address) posts from their Facebook Page.

Clearly this is a company that lacks transparency, customer service and doesn’t understand how relationship marketing  works.

This got me thinking…

While this may be an extreme case, it does highlight a key aspect of social media marketing and business in general that owners tend to struggle with. You know what I’m talking about… negative feedback!

Receiving any kind of negative feedback can be tough. Your initial reaction is often panic. Thoughts quickly turn to “how do we get this down right now before anyone else sees it?”

Obviously blackmailing your customers is a big no-no but it is very common for businesses to retaliate with negative remarks or by deleting these comments wherever possible. The trouble is that when you act on emotion and make quick decisions without putting things in perspective, you can seriously harm your credibility. Not only that but you are missing out on a HUGE opportunity.

People buy from companies that they trust. In order to gain trust, you must be authentic and transparent in all of your marketing activities.  Deleting posts is a far cry from transparency. In fact, this will only make that customer even angrier and result in them telling even more people (potential customers) about their bad experience.  It sends the signal that you don’t care about your customers and that their opinion is irrelevant.

Customers are 3 x more likely to tell their friends about a negative experience.  I’m sure you can think back to a time where you’ve been that person receiving a bad customer experience.  It drives you crazy, right?  It becomes your mission to let everyone know how badly you’ve been treated. With social media providing a global platform to raise your voice and opinions, that ‘everyone’ is a lot more than just two or three friends.

The result? Well, you can see what happened with The Union Street Guest House. Instead of dealing with one bad review, they now have over 500. They have gained a ton of negative publicity and this little boutique that most people didn’t even know about, is now stapled as a top place NOT to visit.

There is an old saying that the states “customer is always right, even when they are wrong”.  We all know it and we all say it but not everyone puts this little phrase into practice. The whole concept is lost in translation.

The real meaning is to put the customer first. Without customers, your business cannot exist. You need them! That’s why your priority should be to provide them with outstanding customer service. If it is and your goal is to provide value then you are far less likely to gain negative feedback. But it does happen on occasion, to us all… so here are three steps you can take if you find yourself with a negative review.

01 | Embrace The Feedback

All customer feedback is valuable to you. In fact, the negative feedback is often more valuable. As businesses, we spend time and money trying to research our target market and understand what they do (& don’t) want.

When you receive negative feedback, people have taken the time to let you know what you should be doing. They care enough to get in touch.

If you don’t know what you are doing wrong, how can you make it better? You can’t. When a customer takes this action, you should embrace it. Respect the fact they are providing you with feedback and understand they are helping you more than they are hurting you.

Think about the feedback received. Assume that this person is 100% right. What can you do to stop other people from writing a similar review? If one person is taken the time to write it, you can bet there are another 10 or so customers thinking it. Perhaps, it is just a one off scenario or maybe it’s a recurring issue. Either way, it is essential that you take the time in the back end to ensure this situation doesn’t happen again. No threats included!

02 | Address The Issue

The next step is to show that you care about your customers and are 100% transparent. This means addressing the negative feedback with a response.

Before writing a reply, take time to process it. This needs to be a response with strategy in mind, not emotion. You don’t delete it, you let it sit there. Yes, if this is on social media or sites like Yelp, people can publicly see it. I know that’s a nervy thought but stay with me. I’m about to explain how this can work to your advantage and gain you new customers instead of repelling them.

03 | Work Your Magic

Always see every connection with a customer as an opportunity because it is. Every time you have a conversation, you are able to build a relationship. No matter how negative this feedback may seem, you always have the chance to turn it around.

Your job is to accept responsibility and apologise. Don’t add ‘fluff. Be real with them and talk human to human. Secondly, ask them what you can do to make it right.

Don’t ruin an apology with an excuse. Own your mistake and ask what you can do to make it right. 

Sounds too simple, doesn’t it?

That’s because it is yet hardly anyone does this. Accenture’s 2013 Global Consumer Pulse Survey showed 81% of customers who switched company after a bad experience say that the switch could have been prevented.

People don’t need to hear excuses or reasons why you dropped the ball or upset them/ their experience. They need to know you care about them and you want to make it right. In a single sentence, you can turn it all around. You put the customer first and they are usually so shocked to hear it that they forgive you instantly. Make it right.

Bain and Company suggest that it costs 6-7 times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. Why not conquer two birds with one stone?

This keeps the customer and often increases the trust they have with you. If it’s public, it also lets everyone else know that you genuinely care about your customers. They don’t see a negative review anymore, they see a company focused on providing the best experience possible for each and every one of their customers.  I know that’s these are the kind of companies I like to do business with.

How about you?

I have no doubt in my mind that had this hotel taken the time to follow these steps they could have avoided this whole situation which is sending them into crisis management. It’s not about threating customers because you’re scared of a bad review. It’s about embracing feedback, working on your flaws and doing your very best to provide the experience possible for your customers.

As always, I hope you found this post valuable. If you did, it would mean the world to me if you left a comment and shared on social.

P.S. If you didn’t, leave a comment too… I love your feedback!