even angels can be negativeGuest post by Yvette Pistorio

If you work as a social media manager or online community manager you see these all the time … negative comments. When you see them you try at first to plan how to respond, but sometimes have a strong urge to react.

The best tip I can give: don’t take them personally. You’ll run out of energy if you do this.

Here are 6 more tips on how to manage negative comments:

Listen to what is being said.

Is it constructive criticism, a straight problem, or an attack? Deciding what the criticism is and understanding it will help determine your response.

Most customers who complain online don’t want to hurt your company. They just want someone to listen and help them with their problem so try and see what is behind the negative wording. Understand what the customer is saying instead of concentrating on how the words are being used

Respond quickly.

Don’t let negative comments linger. Responding quickly will let the naysayer know you’re listening and care, even if it’s just a “Sorry for the inconvenience, can we give you a call you to help solve your problem?”

The longer a negative comment goes without a response, the more credibility the comment acquires. So show the customer you are doing all you can to rectify the situation or at least acknowledge that you hear them.

Take it offline.

You can’t always gauge a customer’s tone online. Are they being sarcastic? How angry are they? The best way to determine this is to try and take the discussion offline. After you initially respond, offer your phone or e-mail address so they can contact you directly.

Be apologetic. 

Sometimes it’s best to take the “customer is always right” approach. Others will respect you if you apologize up front.

Know when to walk away.

My colleague Heidi Sullivan (quoting Jason Falls) said to me, “sometimes a turd is a turd.” Don’t get in a public fight over one complaint or a snide remark. It will only reflect poorly on you and your organization. If the comment is from a turd, your community will see them for what they are, and they will lose their credibility.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

If you aren’t sure how to respond to a comment, ask someone you know that has experience in dealing with customer complaints. This is something I still do on a regular basis. Sometimes I can’t come up with anything to say, or everything I come up with sounds bad, or I try to be funny and fail miserably, so I’ll send it to someone else and ask for their input.

The occasional complaint from a customer is inevitable, especially since social media has removed the filters that traditionally barred people from getting their views heard by the public.

However, when you show customers that you’re making an effort to hear them and acting on their feedback, it will go a long way toward turning that angry customer into an advocate.

So when you run into negative comments, handle them with speed and care.

Image: aaipodpics via Flickr, CC 2.0

Yvette PistorioYvette Pistorio is the social media manager for Cision, and a blogger for CisionBlog. She is a lover of cupcakes and HGTV, and enjoys a good laugh. You can find Yvette on Twitter.