Everyone has something go wrong at some time and I always say “the true measure of a business isn’t what you do when everything is going right, but how you handle things when they go wrong.” So when something goes wrong and one of your clients places a negative post on-line which potentially can soil your business, you need to know what to do next. This may not even be a client, this is may be one of your competitors. This is a common practice used by competitors in a cut throat industry. I have seen this happen many times where competitors try to use this tactic to soil their competition’s image and take their clients. What NOT to do as the first action The truth is that most people either do 1 of 2 things, they either choose to ignore the post and ask “what can I do?”, or they freak out and look for possible legal action to get it removed. Both of these actions are wrong and can be the worst things to do, potentially generating a negative reaction to your business. The legal action should be your last choice if everything else doesn’t work. Not only is this costly, but it can cause the situation to become more inflamed and potentially lead to many more posts, etc… which serves to damage your business further. What steps should I take next? The best approach is to take a step back and have a think about how to handle the situation. There are many strategies which will work to not only improve your image, but also turn an unhappy client into a potential advocate of your business, i.e., turn a negative into a positive. The following approach can potentially lead to either the removal of the comment or possibly turn the bad remark in your favour to make you look good. I have used this strategy to turn disgruntled clients into advocates for companies I have worked for and turned negative competitor’s comments into a conversation string which discredits the competitor and makes your company look amazing. The first things to do A good strategy which I have used many times is to write back, or comment on the same medium which they have used and be sympathetic about the situation. An example of a response could be:- “Thank you for your feedback, I am sorry to hear that this has happened to you. Do you mind if I contact you to get the whole story, so I can find out what happened and how we can rectify the situation for you?” This will show that you are willing to work with them and that you are an understanding business owner, with your client’s best interests in mind. The Next Step The next steps are depending on either the response or lack of response which you receive:- A Disgruntled Client or Competitor – If the client sends a negative response saying that they don’t want to talk to you (usually because they realised that they were wrong), then place another well thought out post something along the lines of. “Thank you for your response, we have done everything in our power to get to the bottom of the current issue, but unless we have your side of the story we can’t work out what the full story is and how we can help resolve this issue for you.” This may potentially lead to opening the communication channels between yourself and them. But if there is no more discussion, this will show people that you are serious about helping your clients and will make you look good in their eyes. They will see you as a compassionate business owner who is willing to work with you clients and your clients opinions have true value to your business. In the case of a competitor posting negative responses: they will continue to respond back to all responses until they see that they either have the last say or they have a response from you which they can’t respond to without looking bad. This is like a chess game, so don’t rush your comments and responses, it is on-line and will be there forever. Think about each response carefully, use truth and facts to make your point, and include links if possible. Read over each comment and response a number of times before posting to understand how this could be understood by different people. Most of the competitors who do this type of negative marketing are bullies and are usually hot headed. They will make assumptions and will make comments which are not true. This will mean that if you can come back with proven data and facts, you can turn their negative response into a positive outcome, where you look good and they look bad. This tactic has worked for me time and again and has managed to only improve the image of the company which I have been involved with. Client Willing to Talk – If your client agrees to talk, or doesn’t respond. In this case, try to contact them via phone or e-mail if possible. Try to keep this off line and verbal if possible, otherwise if the situation flares up again for any reason, they may copy and post selected text from your e-mails which might make you look bad. If you get to talk to them, ask them what has happened, actually listen to what they have to say (all the way to the end) and DO NOT interrupt them. Try not to get offended by what they have to say or become defensive. (This will only lead to inflame the situation further.) Write down all of the grievances in point form, and clarify anything which you don’t understand fully (this shows that you are interested). At the end of the conversation say something like the following: “Thank you for your feedback and I really appreciate what you have to say. I will look into this situation and do you mind if I get back to with my findings? We are very customer focused and we take any feedback seriously. I would like to be thorough in my investigation and I will get back to you as soon as possible.” If you take this tactic and they are in the wrong, the client may potentially talk themselves into realising that they are wrong, and may apologise about the hassle which they have caused you and your company. I have had this happen to me a number of times and it is a great outcome. At this stage, they may either remove the comment, or the best outcome is to leave the response and get them to post a positive response on-line which thanks you for your time and understanding and mentions how you managed to resolve the situation for them. Everyone is looking for dirt on a company as well as good testimonials, but this type of outcome only works for your benefit as it shows when things go wrong (as they will eventually), it shows how well you resolve the issues and how much you value your clients. As I mentioned beforehand, there are many strategies which can be used to create a desirable outcome for you. These are a couple of ideas which have led to many successful outcomes for me through my conflict management training, and I hope this helps you. If all else fails you can then take the next step of seeking legal advice to help you resolve the issue, but even throughout the legal process there is usually a mediation step. So hopefully this simple strategy can mediate and resolve the issues with your clients before needing to seek legal advice. 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