Last updated: January 3, 2019
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Tips on managing and responding to negative feedback (mostly intended for schools)
The way we see it is when someone is reporting a problem (e.g., a website error), he is not being negative but actually helpful, and responding to them quickly makes them feel valued and helps the brand improve.
Why segmenting types of comments is important
Each negative comment deserves to be considered carefully – segmented as in the above table – before a response is issued.
Nevertheless, whatever kind of comment – or noted support-issue – an institution or agency is faced with, it is generally a good idea to respond in some fashion, and with a generous, solution-based attitude to encourage the best possible resolution. There are caveats, of course:
- Do not respond to trolls, and feel free to block them or remove their comments. But do not mesh valid negative criticism into the realm of trolls! It’s tempting to remove all negative feedback, but such practice is transparent to regular visitors and can really escalate. There are many cases where critics of a brand – but responsible critics with heartfelt and valid points – saw their comments deleted and made a much bigger public fuss about it than would have occurred were their opinions responded to differently.
- Sometimes a response should include a couple of steps: Some people are just ill-tempered or having a bad day. They will post comments in an unhelpful tone; the best thing to do is to respond promptly and simply to their social media comment. For example, the user says, “Your application process is awful! Step into the digital age, why don’t you?” The response here might be to offer a simple apology online (e.g., “We’re sorry you’ve had a bad experience, and we’d like to try to make things better for you.”). Then, follow up with an invitation to a more personal exchange: “Can you please email us with more specifics so we can address your issue more fully?” If the person remains antagonistic, the best route may then be to discontinue the conversation. Continuing it will attract more visibility to a problem that may well not exist, say in a case where the commenter is simply determined to pick a fight. At least you will have tried, and that counts for a lot to the watching public.
- Make sure you have the right information and authority with which to respond: If the complaint is specific, make sure the right staff member or department sees it. For example an explosive comment like, “Your English department is racist and discriminatory to women!” begs top-level institutional input about how to respond.
Be prompt, but also be patient
Promptness is essential on social media, but speed isn’t. Promptness is responding to a problem in a timely manner – not letting it drag on unnecessarily. Speed without time taken for consideration, on the other hand, can be dangerous; it can be an emotional reaction. Andy Sernovitz, writing on Social Media Examiner, offers this advice regarding being prompt but patient enough to issue a considered response:
“Hi, my name is ____ and I hear you. We’re looking into it now, and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. If you have any questions, contact me directly at _____.”
He notes these two advantages to such an approach:
- “The ranter knows he or she has your attention – there’s much less incentive to keep spreading the anger;
- It makes a real person with real contact info available, so if the person is still angry, you’ve at least specified a place to vent other than online.”
Patience may also open the door for the rest of the social community to chime in. For example, Comment A: “I heard that professors aren’t very good in this programme.” Comment B: “They are! At least in my experience. I had an amazing course with …” The first commenter will likely be more convinced by their peer than by anything the institution might say in response.
A final note on promptness: Ensure you are regularly monitoring the conversations people are having about your institution or agency on the web and social media (for example, using Google Alerts for your brand name and your keywords) is the first step in being able to respond in good time before a student’s complaint gains too much momentum or anger.
Full article originally appeared here: