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As the person responsible for guarding your company’s online reputation, you know your brand better than anyone. You know how important that brand is and what it stands for, so when some jerk posts a negative review or social media comment about that precious brand, cognitive dissonance kicks in and you feel the instant need to carpet-bomb all that they love. After all, how dare they? This ungrateful, ill-informed son-of-a-bitch knows nothing and just wants to start a fight.

After a moment, you realize that the aforementioned destruction would end poorly for everyone, so you settle on simply telling them off. And you know what the worst thing you could do at that moment is? Exactly that. 

While you’re firing back at a disgruntled customer online, you’re also showing everyone else on the internet what a grumpy jackass you are. Instead, turn this into an opportunity to show how awesome your company is. You have before you a rare chance to demonstrate how cool your company is under pressure. Here’s how you go about it…

1. Pause. Take a step back, go for a walk, get some ice cream or smoke ’em if you got ’em. Before you respond, you need to cool your jets because anything you say out of anger is going to be wrong. Once you get to a point that you understand this is not an attack on you personally, you’re ready to move forward.

2. Empathize. Hardly anyone takes time from out of their day to create baseless accusations against a company. In other words, there’s probably some legitimacy to their concern. You may disagree with how they’re handling it, but that doesn’t really matter at this point. What does matter is that you recognize that they’re upset.

3. Address. Apologize for how the situation has made them feel, which is different than apologizing for what you’ve done. The former validates their feelings, while the latter only creates liability. From there, offer a reasonable solution. If you run a brewery, offer them a free beer on their next taproom visit. You don’t need to go overboard; often, the person just wants their feelings validated and to know that you give a damn about their problem.

4. Resolve. Here’s where the magic happens. What’s pretty cool about solving an issue this way is that the customer that you once wanted to throw off a seventh-story balcony and destroy everything that they ever loved now thinks you’re some kind of genie and could now be one of your biggest supporters. Need proof? Go to our Facebook page and look at the one negative review we have. Sure, we could’ve asked him to remove the review entirely, but I think that showing we addressed a customer concern is more valuable.

 5. Suppress. Although you just handled that review like some kind of wizard, you’re not quite done with damage control yet. While you just made a customer happier and showed the world that you really care about your customers, you don’t want that situation to be a first impression for others. Create an ongoing process of encouraging positive reviews and conversation with your audience to create a better overall image.
Patrick King

Patrick is the Founder of Imagine and advisor to places on brand strategy and creative. His insights have been published in Inc. Magazine, SmartCEO, Washington Business Journal, The Washington Post, and Chief Marketer, among other publications, and shared at conferences throughout the US. He also has an amazing sock collection.

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