Guest blogging by Kathleen Williamson. Kathleen is owner of KCW Consulting. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
No one likes criticism. Even if you are able to handle it, criticism from a customer can leave a sour taste in your mouth. You may feel defeated or simply upset. However, criticism can be a good thing if approached constructively. If you own a business, a negative assessment can show you where you can improve, help strengthen a weakness and inspire innovation. In the age of social media, negative online reviews can serve this purpose. It is all about how you respond to them. Here are four ways you can make negative social media a tool for improving your business.
1. Pretend you are a customer. This is easier said than done. Your business is your baby, but you are also a consumer. At some point, you have likely read reviews of other businesses to help you make a decision. Read the criticism of your business as if you were using it for your own decision making process. Chances are, it will help you to address it objectively as opposed to emotionally.
2. Don’t personalize what isn’t personal. This is an assessment and review of your business, not you. That may be hard to separate, but if you can do it effectively, you have a great learning tool. Many businesses hire consultants to find the flaws and areas for improvement in their business. If viewed objectively, negative online reviews can serve the same purpose and be seen as what they really are – an opportunity for improvement.
3. Address the issue. Ignoring negative reviews can be vastly more damaging than the review itself. Often times these reviews are written when emotions are high and the customer wants to be heard, and you can damage your business if you respond defensively. If you respond with a calm and positive demeanor with the intention of resolving the issue, you may turn a negative review into a positive one. Others who read the negative review will see that you are listening, you care and that you put the customer first. It may also stave off additional criticism. It is a lot harder to be critical when you know someone is listening and trying to improve the situation.
4. Live and learn. Once you have addressed the issue, move on. If you have done all you can do to listen, respond effectively, make any necessary changes and use it to improve your business going forward, then your job is done. Catalog the experience as a growing opportunity both for improving your business and for learning to handle critiques. Understand that it probably won’t be the last negative review you deal with, but that you have built a system for handling these situations and that your business will only be better for it.