6 ways to turn a critic into a fan

[Welcome back to our Word of Mouth Marketing Lessons newsletter. This is text from the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using this handy form.]

Critics are just potential fans that haven’t been won over yet. They represent opportunities — and if you can make them happy, they’ll tell the world about you.

How to do it:

1. Respond calmly
2. Do not get into a fight
3. Be human
4. Write for the record
5. Follow up
6. Do something wonderful

1. Respond calmly

When reaching out to an upset customer, keep a cool head and offer to fix their problem. Most of the time, this is all you need to do. Once a customer realizes you’re listening and willing to help, the conversation instantly changes.

2. Do not get into a fight

If you’re not ready to respond calmly, don’t respond yet. Give it time. Responding while angry and getting into a fight will only make things worse. There’s a reason you never hear successful case studies about a company aggressively responding to their upset customers. It’s just a bad idea.

3. Be human

A stilted, canned response might be the only thing worse than an angry response. If you come off like a corporate robot, you’re going to confirm their suspicions: You’re another clueless company that just doesn’t care. But on the other hand, if you show up, introduce yourself, and show some genuine concern, they’ll love you for it. When you can, use your photo and offer your contact information to show them real people are behind the company.

4. Write for the record

When you’re responding online, always keep in mind the permanent and public nature of anything you say. You’re responding not just to the original critic, but also to everyone else who is following along (or who will show up years later through a Google search). And if the critic is being unfairly harsh, that’s OK — because everyone will recognize that too and see that you tried your best.

5. Follow up

Don’t bother responding if you’re not willing to follow through with what you say you’re going to do. Empty promises won’t go unnoticed. See it through, give them the help they need, and do your best to completely fix the problem.

6. Do something wonderful

Want to really blow a critics mind? Go above and beyond. Think big upgrades, VIP status, naming your improved policy after them, or a hand-written thank you. The team at Rogers Communications did it by inviting a few of their biggest online critics to sit down and give in-person feedback (and it worked). Just like you work so hard to thrill happy customers, you need to apply the same thinking to your critics too.


Tags: , , , , , , ,


  1. Jeff Frank

    There is one important rule that has been left out of this article:

    Respond promptly!

    Even if you follow all the other rules listed, if you have let several days go by since the complaint was made you will never turn the customer into a fan.

    If you can respond the same day the complaint was made or the following day at the very latest you should have no problems at all. Remember, time is critical. The faster you respond the easier it will be to turn that upset customer into your fan.

    Even if you don’t know how to resolve the problem, at least let the customer know you are working on it and tell them when they can next expect to hear from you. As a backup give your customer a way to contact you directly and instruct them to contact you if they haven’t heard from you by a designated time.

  2. Cale Johnson

    Hey Jeff, great addition! You’re absolutely right — time is not on your side when you’re facing frustrated customers.

  3. Suzy

    Great article. I would also add that each a company needs to create a culture that develops an attitude and approach that is authentic. That the customers ‘feels’ that they’re being listened to, acknowledge and validated.


  1. 5 ways to turn a critic into a fan (plus 1 bonus way) « Restaurant Reputations - September 4, 2012

    […] WordOfMouth.org On September 4th, 2012   /   RestaurantReputations.com   /   Leave a […]

  2. This Week in Small Business: Best Facebook Pages - NYTimes.com - September 10, 2012

    […] on social media, be aware that online reviews can have more impact — and here are six ways to turn a critic into a fan. These were YouTube’s most shared ads in August.Your People: A Virtual Company’s […]

  3. This Week in Small Business: Best Facebook Pages | Circle Social Media Blog - September 10, 2012

    […] on social media, be aware that online reviews can have more impact — and here are six ways to turn a critic into a fan. These were YouTube’s most shared ads in […]

  4. This Week in Small Business: Best Facebook Pages - Rise of the Right - September 11, 2012

    […] on social media, be aware that online reviews can have more impact — and here are six ways to turn a critic into a fan. These were YouTube’s most shared ads in […]

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