3-Minute WOM Lesson: How to respond to negative word of mouth

[Welcome back to the You Can Be a Word of Mouth Marketing Supergenius! newsletter. This is text from the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.]

Negative word of mouth happens to every company. Nobody is immune. But great brands have a plan that helps them convert a lot of the angry critics into happy fans. What you should do:

1. Act quickly
2. Be human
3. Write for the record

1. Act quickly

When a customer is upset, you need to act fast. A quick response (even if it’s just to say, “I’m sorry, I hear you — let me get back to you”) helps soothe the original critic and also helps avoid an outbreak of more negative sentiment from others. It’s common sense, but it’s also been proven in studies: In one experiment, when a single table complained about food in a crowded restaurant, 26% of guests made similar complaints.

2. Be human

A canned response is worse than no response at all. Identify yourself, speak like a real person, and give them a way to follow-up with you. No frustrated customer has ever been won over with corporate speak, and there’s no reason to expect it to start working anytime soon.

3. Write for the record

When you’re responding — especially in online forums — remember that you’re not just writing for the original critic, but for everyone else who reads it later. You want people to see that you tried to make things right. Even if you can’t fix the problem, it’s important to show that you’re listening and that you care about keeping customers happy.


Tags: , , , , ,


  1. Brice Eli

    It’s a great customer service lesson, but I want to address number 2. “Talk like a normal person” does not mean “talk like a 13-year-old texts.”

    All of the askamex tweets are written like they’re by a tween. I appreciate the limited space, but it’s fake and insincere for a corporation to type like they do.

    And they’re not the only ones who are guilty, either. I can’t trust a bank that tweets, “LMAO look at this lolcat u guys,” to handle my money.

    I probably sound curmudgeonly.

Featured Downloads

Download: “The Difference Map” by Bernadette Jiwa

We’re big fans of author of The Fortune Cookie Principle and TEDx speaker Bernadette Jiwa, who says that good marketing…

Read More

The first chapter of “The Social Media Side Door” by Ian Greenleigh

Ian reveals the best ways to earn the attention of influential people using social media channels.

Read More

9 Things to Share That Start Conversations

Use the examples in this guide to help inspire ways to make your message more portable and shareable.

Read More

3 Must-Use Word of Mouth Marketing Tools

These tools will help you kick off any word of mouth campaign no matter what topic, industry, or budget.

Read More

The Top Four Tips for Multiplying Your Word of Mouth

These tips can help you get your marketing to do more work without a lot of extra effort.

Read More

10 Ways to Turn Around Negative Word of Mouth

The most effective ways to stop negative WOM with examples from Zappos, FedEx, Dell, and more.

Read More
Get our free weekly newsletter

Join 35,000 brilliant word of mouth marketers by signing up for our free weekly email newsletter filled with actionable word of mouth ideas.

You’ll be blown away by just how good you can be at this.

Never display this again