5 defenses against negative word of mouth

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Everyone experiences negative word of mouth. Even the most beloved companies in the world make mistakes. Your job is to actively respond to negative word of mouth and prevent it from spreading.

Here are five defenses you can use to protect yourself:

1. Build credibility before you need it
2. Make it easy to give you direct feedback
3. Bring it inside the tent
4. Let your fans do it
5. Never get caught by surprise

1. Build credibility before you need it

Your goal is to be Norm from Cheers — the guy who everybody knows. This doesn’t happen overnight. Start by identifying key communities and influencers and work on becoming trusted within these groups. When (not if) negative word of mouth happens, your trust and credibility will help you stop the negativity much more quickly.

2. Make it easy to give you direct feedback

The easier you make it for upset customers to contact you about their problems, the less likely they are to go elsewhere to vent. If you’re a restaurant, you could put the manager’s phone number on a card on the table. If you’re a BtoB brand, you could make regular follow-up calls to clients. If you’re a retailer, you could put a “How are we doing?” card in every order you ship.

3. Bring it inside the tent

When it comes to feedback, complaints, and customer frustration, it’s always better if it happens on your blogs or in your communities. This makes it easier for you to respond, and it also makes it easier for your fans and supporters to get involved too. If you don’t give people a place to complain in your forums, they’re still going to do it — it’ll just be spread all over the internet.

4. Let your fans do it

Sometimes the best way to respond to negative word of mouth is to let your fans do the talking. It’s OK to ask them for help sometimes, or to point to an online conversation and give fans the opportunity to share their opinions. It takes tact, but a response from loyal fans will always be more credible than one from your employees.

5. Never get caught by surprise

There’s no excuse for getting caught by surprise when it comes to negative word of mouth. With so many simple and freely available tracking tools out there, you should know right away when issues come up. And when they do, you need to respond quickly. If you show up too late, you’ll have missed your chance to influence the conversation — and things can quickly get out of control.

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