Dealing With Negative Comments Online

PMF Creative Staff


PMF Creative Staff


March 3, 2022

Dealing With Negative Comments Online

Nobody likes a Negative Nancy, or as we might say in the modern-day, a Cranky Karen. But, unfortunately, the world is chock-full of them, especially the world of the Internet. 

If you’re a business owner, a nonprofit organization, or a church, you have probably run into a harsh comment or review at some point. If we’re honest, these comments can be discouraging and even downright annoying sometimes.

The way that we handle bad reviews and comments is vitally important. Yes, we said “handle” — stay with us here. Negative reviews and comments can be beneficial to our organizations and businesses. These comments give us ample opportunity to prove our excellent customer service, share our mission, and show a bit of kindness to those Cranky Karens.

We want to give you a few simple pointers on how you can handle those pesky negative comments and reviews online.

  1. Don’t ignore the negative comment/review

First thing first — never, and we mean never, ignore a negative comment or review. We don’t care if it's harsh, untrue, or annoying. You should never pretend it isn’t there.

We know this may be the easy route to take, but when you ignore negative remarks, you are both missing an opportunity and leaving room for that comment (and future comments) to fester. You want to address the wound, not ignore it, and hope it just goes away. 

Engaging with the comment or review instead of ignoring it opens up a realm of possibilities that we will discuss below. But if you ignore it, you not only miss out, but you may even prove the Cranky Karen right. This doesn’t mean that your engagement is defensive. On the contrary, it should be well thought out, kind, and sincere.

  1. Genuinely apologize

Oftentimes when someone is leaving a bad review or comment, they had a problem or were not satisfied with a purchase or experience. Part of why they are leaving their comment is because they want to share (or complain) about their dissatisfactory experience.

What this person may not expect is a genuine apology from the company or organization they are reviewing. Saying “I’m sorry” may seem like a trivial thing to do, but it is the best first step you can take with engaging the negative commenter.

When you apologize, make sure it is genuine. Even if their reason for complaining is silly, take the time to sympathize with this person. We say “person” because behind every harsh comment is a living, breathing human who matters. Address the commenter by name. Say something such as “Hey there Jake, we are sincerely sorry that you had a negative experience with your order.”

The apology is just the beginning of your address. The next step is to offer a viable solution for the commenter.

  1. Offer a solution

Another thing your negative commenter may not expect is you offering a solution to their problem. When doing this, you want to make sure you are being realistic about your solution. You don’t want to make a promise you can’t scalably keep (e.g., a free replacement).

The best way for a business to handle this is to refer the commenter/reviewer to customer service. Contrary to popular belief, the social media manager is not a customer service representative! They don’t have the answers to everyone’s problems, but customer service is specifically trained to do so.

You can refer the commenter to a customer service number, an email, or even ask them to directly message you to solve their problem.

  1. Explain yourself (if necessary)

Part of the reason it is wise to reply to negative reviews and comments is that you can “save face” as a company a bit. Through interacting with the comment, you show that your company cares about satisfying the customer or visitor. Instead of just an apology or referring them to customer service, you can take it a step further and explain what caused the problem.

This can be tricky because the customer is not always right. Sometimes the issue is not the fault of the organization at all. There can be circumstances outside of the company’s control that caused the problem the commenter/reviewing is speaking of.

Make sure to give a comprehensive answer to the problem if it is possible. You don’t need to always put your explanation on the public forum where the comment or review is either. A simple reply of “direct message us if you have any questions” will work fine.

  1. Be timely

A rule of the thumb in public relations is the timeliness of the response. If a crisis arises, a spokesperson should publicly address it instantaneously.

This same rule applies to negative comments and reviews. A quick response time is key.

You must give yourself ample time to reply appropriately, but try to post a reply ASAP. The longer you let the comment sit unanswered, the more time you give the customer room to get frustrated further. They may even think you are blatantly ignoring them! Answering them quickly shows how much you deeply care about their concern.

  1. Show kindness

Let’s be real. Negative (and even rude)comments and reviews can grind your gears. It is almost the equivalent of getting yelled at, and no one enjoys getting yelled at. While these comments can be unsettling, you have a unique opportunity.

Romans 12:17-18, 21 gives a wonderful template we can use when dealing with these Cranky Karens online:

“​​Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

In our human nature, it can be all too easy to be mean when someone else is mean to you. But as organizations, nonprofits, and churches, we must choose kindness. While someone may be rude to us, we should never repay “evil for evil,” but we should make a point to do good to others.

There is a lot of anger, strife, and negativity on the Internet. Instead of adding to the junk, your organization can add a bit of light instead. Showing kindness shows the negative commenter/reviewer that you care. Plus, it demonstrates to other people who see these reviews and comments that your organization is reputable and is diligent in engaging with the customer. Who knows, your kindness may even win the disgruntled customer back!

Let’s use a few examples of bad reviews and comments and see how we can apply the above principles in our response.

“I am so aggravated. This company got my entire order wrong. I will never order again!”

“Hello there Lindsey. We are so very sorry that your order was inaccurate. Please allow us to correct our mistake! We just send you a direct message which will connect you to one of our representatives who will make this right for you. Thank you!”

“0/5 stars. This church is ridiculous. There are strobe lights everywhere and the music is far too loud.”

“Hey Jim- we’re really sorry our church wasn’t the right fit for you. If we’re not your cup of tea, there are a few other churches in town that we think would better suit your needs. Send us over your email address and we will forward a list of churches and their service times! We hope you find the right church for you!”

“Worst customer service ever.”

“Hey Brenda, we’re sorry you have been disappointed with your experience with us! We want to make it right. Would you mind shooting us a message? We will directly connect you with one of our representatives. Talk to you soon!”

Some comments or reviews you run into may be far more extreme than the above examples. However, as long as you develop a well-thought-out response, you should be able to deal with almost everything!

Every time you reply to a negative comment or review online, it is an opportunity to show your true character as a business.

While the easy route may be to completely ignore the negativity, engaging is the best course of action. What you say in reply to the commenter says so much more about your company than even their negative words.

Dealing with these negative comments takes a bit of practice, but as long as you apologize, offer a solution, explain yourself, maintain timeliness, and show kindness, you will be golden!

Whether the feedback you’re getting on your social media accounts is good or bad, engage your community like never before with PMF Creative’s social media services. We’ll help you strategically elevate your digital presence where it matters most.

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