Giving Up Control?

A client was telling me about his plans for a discussion board at his website. This is a site for a jewelry store, so he had though people could ask questions about jewelry and get expert answers.

That’s a great idea.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m not sure we want people to be able to say negative things.”

Would his customers have gone to “Ask Our Experts” and expressed their anger about… well, whatever it was he thought they might complain about? I have no way of knowing. But that wouldn’t be a bad thing.

“If they’re upset enough to write negative things on your website,” I pointed out, “they could just as well go to Yelp and write those things. At least at your website you have some control.”

It’s true that letting people write things at your website means giving up some control. You can’t control what they say, for example. But you can control some other things:

  • Your response. Seeing something negative about your company can give people a bad impression of you. Seeing you engage the complainer kindly and fix the problem or discuss the issue in a rational and helpful way can give people a good impression of you.
  • The format. You can design your discussion board so that people have to give their names and emails, rather than leaving anonymous rants. You can keep the comments to text, not graphics or videos. You can remove abusive comments.
  • Your interactions. If you get email addresses from complainers, then you can email those people, either to “take it outside” or to offer private apologies and restitution.

Complaints are opportunities to improve your business. Having those complaints on your own website lets you keep some control of the ball.

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