Responding to Complaints Online

We met this morning with a company suffering from online complaints. If you have this problem, you know that bad reviews can make a lot of online noise, threatening to drown out your good content. What can you do?

First, identify the extent of the problem. Do you have lots of valid complaints? Then make some internal changes and make plenty of noise yourself broadcasting those changes.

Do you have one really angry person — a disgruntled employee, perhaps, or a customer you just couldn’t satisfy — who is spending lots of time trying to make you look bad? It’s possible that contacting this individual and asking how you can make things right would help. If not, a calm and compassionate response lets readers compare your honorable behavior with that individual’s hysterical outbursts, and you may get some sympathy from your readers.

Just be sure you don’t get into a slanging match.

If what you have is ordinary stuff though — you can’t please everyone and some people like to complain  — then you should find that these steps will take care of it:

  • Respond. Use Google Alerts to keep track, and respond whenever there’s a negative comment anywhere. Make sure you respond well: show concern, validate the feelings even as you dispute their claims, thank the complainer for their feedback, and offer a solution.
  • Replace. You don’t want the complaints on the front page even if you have great responses to them. Chances are, the search engines won’t choose to highlight your response, and people who don’t click through won’t see it. So you need to put more interesting, more current, and more valuable stuff online instead. This will move the complaints to a later search results page, where it probably won’t be seen much.

We’ve seen this simple strategy work over and over for our clients. The company we met with today has leftover noise from years ago; it’s time to move that parade down the block and get something better in its place.






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