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How to Navigate the Negative← back
It’s a sad story. An unhappy customer (you’ve played the role yourself) posts an unflattering, or downright damaging, review of your company or service to one of your social media accounts. You want to defend yourself, in the heat of the moment you may even want to give this person a taste of their own medicine. But in today’s digital age, literally every single person is watching your reaction, watching what you do and how you respond.
It’s a sad story. An unhappy customer (you’ve played the role yourself) posts an unflattering, or downright damaging, review of your company or service to one of your social media accounts. You want to defend yourself, in the heat of the moment you may even want to give this person a taste of their own medicine. But in today’s digital age, literally every single person is watching your reaction, watching what you do and how you respond. And really, instead of thinking ill of that customer, you should be thanking them because they have given you an opportunity. A golden one. You may never get them to sing your praises from the top of the social media mountain (although that is always the goal), but you do have the power to make the situation right, in front of a huge audience. And during this process (if you’re doing it right), you can certainly learn a few things about your company and its internal and customer policies—and you might discover there are some things that need revising, which improves your company, product, services and customer relations. It should be noted that you also have the power to make the situation worse, much worse, in front of that same huge audience.
There are countless examples of such mishandlings—a customer representative does or says the wrong thing, or doesn’t do anything at all when they should have acknowledged an issue, or has said reaction too late—the list goes on and on. And it’s a lot of pressure because everyone has easy access to your mistakes and they can shout them out from the rooftops. It can be scary. And it can also be overwhelming. Why develop a social presence at all when there is so much potential for viral disaster? The truth is, that potential for disaster is always there, with or without your presence. If there is a conversation taking place regarding your brand, don’t you want to be a part of it? Don’t you want to take an active role in understanding what the issue is and then work towards a solution that will satisfy your customer and then (hopefully) improve your reputation? If you want to stay in business and even grow in business, the answer is yes.
Last month, a former Imagery employee wrote an extremely negative review about his experiences working at our agency. When we were notified of this review we spent some time as a team dissecting what was written. Some of it just wasn’t true! Some of it, though, admittedly, was. When we discussed our options, we came up with three potential solutions: 1. We could ignore the review; 2. We could delete the review; 3. We could respond to the review.
We felt that ignoring the review was impossible; there were a lot of half-truths to what this former employee wrote, we couldn’t just let that sit out there and “be.” We discussed deleting the review altogether, because separating half-truth from mostly whole-truth is messy and nearly impossible, and deleting the review altogether means no one has to deal with that (after some investigating we learned that in the spirit of authenticity, the platform wouldn’t allow removal, which is understandable—and we are glad). We couldn’t ignore it and we couldn’t delete it, so we dealt with it.
How, you might ask? How do you do what Beyoncé does and take the sour lemons that life will inevitably hand to you and turn them into a beautiful, delicious, genre-blending, giant money-making visual album, and literally title it Lemonade? You show up. You face it, you acknowledge it. You engage. You listen. You tell your truth. And then you find ways to productively move on. To be clear, what our team did is nothing in comparison to the amazingly awesome, life-changing creation and drop of a mind-blowing album. But like Beyoncé, we took what was real and what actually happens in life, and we defined it. We called it what it was and owned it. We published a response that we felt was honest and thoughtful (not defensive and dismissive). We acknowledged what was stated in the post and tried to offer up a productive exchange. Our agency is not without its challenges; we understand this and work hard to be part of the forward movement, not the roadblock. When you unveil your faults (we all have them: individuals, companies, Jay-Z, the super-rich and devastatingly poor) and you lay them out to admit to them and identify them, you make yourself (or your brand) relatable. And that’s respectable.
Once we unpacked what was stated in this review, we were able to identify that yes, there are areas we can improve on. We started having conversations about identifying the issues we face and working towards improving those scenarios. Not only that, but part of this review (there was a tinsy bit of positive buried among the muck) reaffirmed one of our strengths. We have a really great, hard-working team of creative individuals. We know that already, but this was an excellent reminder.
This inward reflection and evolution on process and teamwork would not have happened had we not shown up. Had we not received notification about this review, we wouldn’t have known its existence—and we wouldn’t have gone through the process of responding to it. What a waste that would have been. While what was posted about Imagery wasn’t pretty, the internal process we engaged in as we prepared to respond to the post was a growing, necessary moment for us.
Be present with what your customers are telling you, where they are telling you. Listen. Learn. Use each exchange as the fresh, sparkly chance to improve your company’s product or service.
Written By: Abby Roetheli