From the book: Responding to negative word of mouth

This week we’re talking about how to deal with negative word of mouth using tips from the new chapter in the revised edition of Andy Sernovitz’ best-seller, Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking.

When it comes to negative word of mouth, you should almost always respond. Some exceptions include:

  • A really small or obscure blog or message board where giving a response would actually give attention or credibility to something that no one saw in the first place
  • An attack that is so obviously outrageous, rude, or nutso that everyone who reads it already knows that the writer has a personal problem
  • A known attacker who is trying to provoke you to respond so he can attack more

The basic response strategy

  1. Respond calmly and offer to help. Post a simple, reasonable response and try to fix the problem. Offer a way to contact you.
  2. Do not get in a fight. You will always lose. It’s their website full of their loyal readers, and they’ll get the last word. Use good vibes and a good sense of humor and be a person who cares.
  3. Be human. Don’t respond with a corporate, canned response. It’s easy to yell and scream at an anonymous corporation, but when a real human representative politely shows up, everything changes.
  4. Write for the record. In many ways, your response is not really for the original critics. You’re writing for every future reader, letting them know you saw a problem and tried to fix it.
  5. Follow up. Remember that now that people are watching, you need to follow up and deliver on what was promised. A one-time visit is not enough.
  6. Do something wonderful. Every so often, do something amazingly nice for your critics. Replace a product with a huge upgrade, send flowers, mail a handwritten letter, give a gift — whatever. You’ll make new friends and they’ll tell everyone how cool you are.
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