Social Media Strategy, Social CRM

4 Keys to Turning Negative Commenters Into Brand Advocates

Guest post by Chris Book, CEO and co-founder of ChatterPlug, a live customer engagement and analytics platform.

Nobody likes being told something negative about themselves. It stings, and as a business owner or manager, you immediately start kicking yourself for the missed opportunity. The key to surviving, however, is to embrace these negative comments for what they actually are: golden opportunities.

One of the beauties of negative feedback is that you always know where you stand. You know what went wrong and what you need to do to improve. There’s nothing more dangerous that a hollow review, or a 3 star rating. What can you do with that?

 More importantly though, when receiving negative feedback, you have the power to turn the very same authors of this feedback into walking, talking, raving advocates for your brand.

If one of your customers is going to go to such great lengths to give you this negative feedback, whether tweet, Facebook post, comment card or review site, there’s clearly a great deal of emotion in the experience and passion within the individual. Anyone that has that much negative emotion can easily have an equal amount of positive emotion with just a little bit of TLC.

Here’s how:

1. Give a damn. And mean it

The foundation of any culture of listening – and in turn action – is simply caring. Take great interest in what your customers are saying, and demonstrate that interest publicly. Actively soliciting feedback from your customers in your store and on the web carries the sense that you are constantly striving to improve. Showcasing the ways that you make changes based on the feedback cements that idea. If you care about your customers, your customers are going to care about you.

2. Respond in real time

Your customers are INFINITELY connected. At any given point I can email, call, text, Facebook, Tweet or send up a good ol’ fashioned flare to someone that I’m trying to get in touch with. Why would paying customers not expect that same connectivity out of the businesses that they interact with? Your response time as a business is a direct indicator of how much you value your customer feedback. With each passing second, a wall is building up between you and your customer base that has expressed a certain level of dissatisfaction.

Further, while the ability of your customers to diffuse negative information about you increases, so does your risk for reputation hell. Each and every customer that you have now carries an audience with them. You can’t afford to have a single negative experience turn into the loss of hundreds of customers simply because you weren’t equipped to deal with customer feedback in a timely fashion.

3. Offer to make it better – yes, even if it’s not your fault

Anytime you receive negative feedback, you have the ability to showcase your businesses’ ability to go above and beyond to satisfy customers. In many of these situations the customer doesn’t necessarily deserve it, but that’s not the point. You have to account for the larger picture. Going above and beyond for one customer can touch far more potential customers and drastically improve your brand’s perception in ways that no other marketing tactic can. It’s not about that single customer at that specific point in time; it’s about using that situation to create a customer-oriented stigma for your brand. In a sense, these are investment opportunities with the potential for huge return.

4. Follow-up (The extra mile)

After you’ve immediately addressed and remedied the situation with your customers, follow-up. Ensure that you’ve rectified it not only your mind, but theirs, and let them know how much you’d like their business in the future. This gesture shows your customers just how committed you are to their long-term business. It also demonstrates the extraordinary effort you made to keep a customer happy – an action that should win back multiple customers.

There certainly is no magic pill that makes negative feedback sting any less, but by acknowledging it for what it really is, and creating a culture that embraces all types of feedback, you can dramatically curtail the instances of negative feedback and ensure that you’re turning each customer into a living, breathing billboard for your brand.

(Convince & Convert is a strategic advisor to ChatterPlug)

Facebook Comments


  1. teriel says

    Customer service is definitely important to engage in on social media. All of your tips are good ones to remember AND implement, especially because you want to turn every customer service issue into a resolution where your company wins. With that said, part of it comes down to scalability, and also a realization that in some cases, no matter what you do the customer won’t be happy. Of course, in some cases, a company will also adhere to policy so much that their customer service is a superficial gesture, and as you mentioned they need to give a damn and mean it.

  2. says

    This is a great article on customer satisfaction.

    One of the key ingredients in running a successful business.

    Negative comments are inevitable. You have some great tips on how to handle them

    The customer is always right!

  3. C_Pappas says

    This happened today! I saw a tweet come through from someone that was a negative comment about our interface. I immediately responded and apologized that the experience did not meet and exceed their expecations and aksed what they were trying to accomplish and offered to help. I got nada for response. The person on Twitter has about 75 or so followers and no profile. So not only do I only know them as a pseudo handle, I cant even see what state they are in or what company they are with. What to do? And should I reach out and offer something else or re-state my initial offer to help?

  4. says

    Customers are willing to accept honest mistakes provided you take a common sense approach to resolving their issue. But let’s face it, to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat you have to actively transform common sense into common practice.

  5. says

    As the old saying goes, if you don’t have any critics then you’re not doing a good job. I thrive on negativity because I challenge myself to turn it into positivity.

  6. jennabroadbent says

    Great article Chris! I know companies can feel a little powerless that their brand/reputation is out of their hands with consumers now using all the self-publishing/social platforms. Great insights! Thanks.

  7. CaraFuggetta says

    Chris- Awesome post! I’m with you all the way. In fact, I attended a panel discussion recently where this same issue came up regarding what to do when an angry customer is blasting your company on social media. One of the panelists suggested to take the conversation off the social web and onto email. I completely disagree (and I’m sure you would too) because the outcome of how you deal with the angry customer will probably make its way back to Facebook or Twitter anyway. I wrote a follow-up blog post on the importance of companies embracing transparency-

    Cheers to turning detractors into Advocates!


  8. ChrisBook says

    @teriel There’s always going to be the customer who is incessantly complaining or simply trying to game the system. That played heavily into how we designed ChatterPlug – by dealing with customer feedback in a public forum you not only get to show off your service skills, but it makes it difficult for someone to play you when there’s a crowd watching their each and every move. Additionally, over time, you’ll have digital tabs on these folks and recognize them more easily.

  9. ChrisBook says

    @andy_mcf Totally agree – it’s a paradigm shift that results in empowered employees, capable of instantaneously handling situations rather thank running issues up the chain of command.

  10. ChrisBook says

    @CaraFuggetta Thank you. You’re spot on – you’ll never be able to keep conversation from happening, which is why businesses need to rapidly shift their focus to having a voice in these conversations and ensuring that their consumers are speaking well of them. Transparency is absolutely vital – it showcases the businesses willingness to make situations right, but it also polices someone who is unjustly bashing them, as there’s a build in accountability when writing in front of an audience.

  11. ChrisBook says

    @C_Pappas Assuming you’re a web-based tool, unfortunately there are going to be instances where faceless folks attack you – for reasons both justified and unjustified. If they have any intention of seeing their experience with your product improve or their poor feelings rectified, they’d take you up on it. In your case, the best thing to do is put that sincere offer to help into the public eye and let them take you up on it. If you’re brick & mortar I’d be happy to talk more with you off-line

  12. ChrisBook says

    @Ari Herzog They truly are golden opportunities. You can create advocates and shape your strategy with the feedback.

  13. ChrisBook says

    @carmenhill It all starts with empowered employees. The people that you have dealing directly with customers need to be able to assess, act and rectify immediately. The chain of command has really undermined customer service, as it’s taken away immediate resolutions and made a lot of forward-facing employees apprehensive to help.

  14. McKerihan says

    @chambaby23 @Hallie495 @jaybaer – NICE! Brand Reputation is becoming so so so important in Social Media!

  15. says

    Great points here Chris. I think in many ways this is a list of good customer service practices in any situation, online or no, which is exactly the benefit of this post–it is useful to think of every online engagement as one at a point-of-sale, where some of the same things need to happen, where customer satisfaction and immediacy are of the utmost importance. The only difference is that this “point-of-sale” in social media engagement is spectacularly more public, so one’s customer service practices serve not only as a business methodology but as a kind of indirect marketing, the kind more and more customers are paying greater and greater attention to

  16. C_Pappas says

    @ChrisBook We are a web-based tool and still no response. I always hesitate with these especially on Twitter since our followers will see the response if they are ‘listening’ but they saw the original tweet bashing us too so.. In any case, I responded straight away as I always try to do (weekends are tougher) and will see if he comes back with anything.

  17. teriel says

    @ChrisBook Sounds like a very useful tool for businesses to use to turn the tables on customers and put them in the public spot light. I like it.

  18. MikeSKing says

    Great advice for any business owner/manager to follow. You mention in point #2 “Respond in Real Time” the only issue with majority of business owners/managers is that they don’t have time or the resources to monitor all the review sites, there are so many out there and new ones popping up, and who knows you can have a negative comment on someones blog and not even know it.

    I’m an independent marketer and I utilize an online tool called <a href=””>chatmeter</a> to monitor review sites, social media, blogs and more for all of my clients. It’s a great tool there is even a free version you should try it out :)

  19. MissionEngage says

    These are excellent points on customer service and providing happiness to customers. This topic has actually been on my mind lately after reading some information about firing clients. I tend to think in those situations that they’re just experiencing a communication problem. Stopping and listening to the customer could’ve saved the relationship and turned them into a fan of the business that ended the contract. I had a client that was once very hard to please, but with the company I worked with, we all worked together on educating the client toward meeting expectations, quality and speed of work. It was a good experience for all of us because it was her first time using online services and she didn’t know what to expect, plus it gave me additional communication skills… and she loved me after seeing the results!

  20. OnlineBusinesVA says

    Awesome post ! Great tips to do good customer service and giving the customer a better feel and make them to come back to us for more. We are doing services for small business owners and we do try to better service each day to make them happy.

  21. Tikydo says

    Thanks a lot for writing this article. I don’t think that it is easy to pass the bad feeling that critizism can create. I also believe that addressing one real issue pointed out by a customer could be beneficial in the long term.

    Nonetheless, concerning your suggestion #3 about making it better, I don’t know if it should be done for every single negative comment. This is due to the fact that while certain customers can have true concerns, and the marketer should be humble enough to questions his ways, all customers might not always come with valid criticism. I am thinking about the value of the time that could be used to resolve each issue.

  22. ChrisBook says

    @Tikydo I agree that not all customer criticism is valid. The value of dealing with it in a public forum is that it holds the customer accountable to not be over the top, and it allows you to deal with them in a graceful manner. When the interaction between you and your customers is public, the audience can certainly determine if someone is taking advantage of a situation or acting unjustly.

  23. ganceann says

    @AnnTran_ @jaybaer @panah – The rise of Social CRM gives rise to untapped potential growth for brands of all size.

  24. ganceann says

    @AnnTran_ @jaybaer @panah – The rise of Social CRM gives rise to untapped potential growth for brands of all size.

  25. RichQuigley says

    @micheleruiz01 Thanks for the RT. Hope you had a great weekend. I unplugged from tech this weekend. Was kind of nice :-)

  26. garious1 says

    @ChrisBook I love your insights here, especially on the part where you should immediately give your customers that great experience after they had a bad one. Thanks gazillion for the awesome tips!

  27. says

    You make a good point that “addressing one real issue pointed out by a customer could be beneficial in the long term.” In fact, I think that’s the greatest value of keeping an open mind when it comes to negative comments. Often times they are helpful in identifying opportunities for improvement. I think negative comments can help us all be more accountable no matter what product or service we offer. @Tikydo

    • jmuschamp says

      @PepcoConnect -hopefully it gets their attention. Glad to have yours- a step in the right direction…if they execute on strategy

  28. letstalkandchat says

    I just found a great company that builds websites for info products. To keep your costs low, they’ll mentor you on how to create your site, design a marketing funnel (one of the guys works in Hollywood and makes really slick videos), and the other guy programmed Myspace. If you’re looking to have professional web design for your small business and not waste any time or money then check their site out. Check them out:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *