Best Practices in Responding to Negative Social Media Feedback

11 Jul 2023


Social media has revolutionized the ways companies and businesses connect with customers. It allows companies to share valuable information while brands communicate their identity and values with a broader audience.

However, social media does come with a downside: It opens the door for a two-way discussion that allows customers and audiences to post negative feedback, such as comments and reviews regarding brands, products, and services.

While social media lets the public know about brands and their offerings, brands must address negative feedback as part of their brand management process.

The big question is: How should companies and businesses respond to negative feedback on social media?

What are negative reviews on social media?

Negative reviews for a company or business on social media are comments or feedback from customers or users that express dissatisfaction with a product, service, or overall experience. These negative reviews can take various forms, including:

  • Critical comments. Critical comments that highlight specific issues or problems with a product or service pinpoint areas where products and services may fail to meet expectations. Consequently, companies can take these comments as tools to improve their performance. Nevertheless, critical comments must be taken with a grain of salt. There are situations in which critical comments might be unjustified. That is, companies and brands should not take criticism personally.
  • Low ratings. Low ratings on review sites (i.e., Trustpilot) or social media platforms, such as one or two stars out of five, may result from a negative experience or interaction with a brand. Unfortunately, customers are quick to give low ratings immediately following a bad experience. While there isn’t much that brands can do to prevent customers from leaving low ratings, brands can try their best to reduce low ratings by striving to meet customers’ expectations.
  • Complaints. Complaints about customer service, delivery times, pricing, or other aspects of the business are prevalent on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Like low ratings, there isn’t much businesses can do to stop customers from voicing their opinions. But there is a great deal a brand can do to prevent bad experiences in the first place. Above all, striving to meet customer expectations is always a great place to start.
  • Negative feedback. Negative feedback on social media posts or advertisements expressing disappointment or frustration can easily catch on like wildfire. In such cases, companies must strive to mitigate the damage by being open and frank about the situation and the circumstances surrounding the facts.

Negative reviews can be harmful to a company or business as they can damage the reputation and credibility of the brand, leading to a loss of customers and revenue.

However, negative reviews can also provide an opportunity for the company or business to identify areas for improvement and address customer concerns, ultimately leading to a stronger and more successful brand.

That is why companies and businesses must view negative feedback as a learning opportunity.

Why do customers leave negative reviews on social media?

Understanding why customers leave negative reviews on social media boils down to identifying the areas where a business or company may fail to live up to expectations.

The following reasons underscore the motivations customers may have for leaving negative reviews on social media:

  • Poor customer service. Customers may leave negative reviews if they feel they have been treated poorly by a company’s customer service representatives or their concerns have not been adequately addressed. Successful brands know how to handle customers well. They understand where their customers are coming from and are prepared to do everything they can to rectify a situation.
  • Product or service quality. Negative reviews may be left if customers are dissatisfied with the quality of a company’s products or services, such as if a product is faulty or the service does not meet their expectations. Ultimately, brands must move on and do their best to stop poor products or quality from becoming an issue again.
  • Pricing. Customers may leave negative reviews if they feel that a company’s prices are too high or if they are not getting value for their money. Please remember that customers are willing to pay a premium if they feel the value justifies it. So, brands must strive to increase their value proposition instead of lowering prices. Doing so increases customers’ value perception of the products and brands.
  • Shipping or delivery issues. Negative reviews may be left if customers experience problems with shipping or delivery, such as long wait times or damaged goods. While it may be tempting to shift the blame on the carrier, companies can simply accept the situation and take appropriate measures to ensure that they’ve done everything on their end to avoid delays.
  • Ethical concerns. Negative reviews may be left if customers have ethical concerns about a company’s business practices, such as environmental or labor issues. That is why companies and brands must be transparent about their beliefs and positions. Nevertheless, brands should be transparent about their own ethos so (target) customers can choose to identify with it or not.
  • Communication issues. Negative reviews may be left if customers feel that a company is not communicating effectively, such as not responding to emails or phone calls. Brands must strive to be there for their customers whenever possible. If a brand does not offer 24/7 support, it must be clear when they are available. During available customer service hours, brands must strive to respond as efficiently as possible.

The specific reasons for negative comments may vary from company to company. Nevertheless, most companies and businesses encounter similar issues when regarding negative reviews. That is why listening to customers is essential to rectifying issues, leading to increased positivity among reviews and comments.

How Not to Respond to Negative Reviews on Social Media

Companies and businesses should be careful when responding to negative reviews on social media, as there are some ways they should not respond. The following examples underscore how not to respond to negative reviews on social media:

  • Ignoring the review. Ignoring negative reviews can make the company or business appear unresponsive and uncaring. It is important to acknowledge all reviews, even negative ones. By far, ignoring negative reviews is the worst thing a company or business can do since it may fuel further frustration and anger. Ignored customers may feel unimportant to the brand, leading them to post additional negative reviews and comments. Ultimately, this situation may snowball into a significant public relations issue for the company.
  • Getting defensive. Responding defensively to negative reviews can escalate the situation and make the company or business appear unprofessional. Instead, remaining calm, empathetic, and open to feedback is important. Maintaining a positive attitude is always the best policy when dealing with negative reviews and feedback. Customers want to see that brands are prepared to rectify the issue, regardless of whether they follow through.
  • Making excuses. Making excuses for the issue or problem mentioned in the negative review can make it seem like the company or business is not taking responsibility for its actions. Accountability is a big deal in customers’ minds. When brands are willing to take the blame for their mistakes and shortcomings, their credibility grows among customers and the public. Trying to slither away almost always leads to an increased negative perception surrounding the company.
  • Blaming the customer. Blaming the customer for the issue or problem can make the company or business appear dismissive of their concerns. Instead, taking ownership of the situation and working towards finding a resolution is important. When companies own up to their responsibility, it signals to customers that the company is not looking to shift the blame elsewhere.
  • Deleting the review. Deleting negative reviews can damage the reputation of a company or business and make it seem like they are trying to hide something. Instead, addressing negative reviews publicly and demonstrating a commitment to resolving issues is important. There is no shame in addressing negative reviews and comments. Acknowledging negative reviews shows customers and the public that the company is transparent and accountable for its products, actions, and outcomes.

On the whole, companies and businesses should respond to negative reviews on social media professionally, empathetically, and constructively.

Doing so can demonstrate a commitment to customer satisfaction and strengthen their reputation over time.

Best Practices When Responding to Negative Reviews on Social Media

When a company receives negative comments and reviews on social media, it is important to respond to them promptly and professionally.

When responding to negative comments and reviews on social media, companies and businesses must be transparent and forthcoming. It’s always better to own up to a situation than attempt to hide it.

The following points can help companies and businesses move on and improve:

  • Respond quickly. Responding quickly to negative comments and reviews shows that the company takes customer satisfaction seriously. Leaving comments unattended allows negative feelings to fester, potentially transforming a minor issue into a bigger one.
  • Be polite and professional. It is important to maintain a professional tone in all responses and avoid getting defensive or confrontational. While customers may be on edge, company staff must always keep their cool.
  • Address the issue. Acknowledge the customer’s concerns and provide a solution or explanation to address the issue. Please note that explaining does not mean blaming issues on someone else or making up excuses. The truth is always the best policy when dealing with customer concerns.
  • Take the conversation offline. If the issue requires more discussion or resolution, it is best to take the conversation offline and offer the customer a direct line of communication to resolve the issue. Encourage customers to call or drop by the business office to solve the matter.
  • Follow up. After the issue is resolved, it is important to follow up with the customer to ensure their satisfaction and address further concerns. Follow-up is a powerful way of ensuring customer satisfaction.
  • Learn from feedback. Negative comments and reviews can provide valuable feedback for companies to improve their products and services, so listening and learning from them is important.
  • Have a social media policy. A clear social media policy can help guide responses to negative comments and reviews and ensures consistency across all channels. Doing so can avoid serious communication issues that could exacerbate the situation.

Please keep in mind that dealing with customer issues is an ongoing learning process. So, it’s always important to learn from mistakes and move on. There is a significant upside in transforming negative feedback into learning experiences.


One Final Thought

The biggest challenge most brands face is taking negative feedback personally.

Some business owners or company staff may feel negative comments are a reflection of their work. However, negative feedback may simply result from a customer having a bad day or going through a difficult time in their lives.

That is why taking negative feedback at face value and addressing the situation for what it is ensures a positive outcome.

Zach Richter 

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