This is a guest post from Andy Sernovitz — CEO of WordofMouth.org and SocialMedia.org and New York Times best-selling author of “Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking.”
1. It happens to everyone, so plan for it
Every company — in every industry — faces negative word of mouth. Even the most beloved companies have upset customers now and then. You just can’t please everyone all the time. So first of all, plan for it. Start by creating a simple system: Decide who’s monitoring negative feedback and reviews, who responds, and when you escalate big issues.
2. Don’t make upset customers wait
The most important thing to do when this happens is to respond quickly and calmly (unless it’s just a troll and responding will only give them the attention they’re hoping for). The longer you wait to fix the problem, the harder it is to win them over.
3. Handle negative word of mouth like a human
When you respond, do it like a real person — not a robotic PR rep. Offer a straightforward apology, explain how you’re going to make it up to them, and thank them for their feedback. Customers want to know they’ve been heard and understood by another person, not just shuffled through an automated system.
4. Remember, the folks actually speaking up are doing you a favor
Nobody likes to get negative feedback, but think big picture: For every customer who speaks up, there are probably ten others who feel the same way. These moments are big opportunities to fix problems you might not have known existed, and to show how much you care about your customers.