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)