How do you handle negative feedback?

The internet, in addition to social media tools, makes it much easier for businesses to have direct conversations with their clients, customers, etc. The tools are available for business owners to easily keep those interested in their offerings up to date on new features, content, sales, share interesting items, and receive feedback on their product or service. Praise is great but sometimes the feedback will be negative. How do you handle negative feedback?

Washington Post sets new policies

Earlier this month, the Washington Post published a controversial article about homosexuality in their religion column. GLAAD wrote an article on their blog disagreeing with the article and tweeted a link to the blog entry on their Twitter profile. A staff member from the Post responded to GLAAD on Twitter:

Hi @glaad, we’re working to cover both sides. Earlier, we hosted Dan Savage of It Gets Better in a live chat.

GLAAD thought the response was inappropriate. Two days later the Post published an article by Jarrett Barrios, President of GLAAD, sharing a personal experience, called Tony Perkins (the author of the original article) a bully, and stated media outlets like the Post should not publish Perkin’s articles.

In response to this situation, the Post sent a memo to their staff saying the following:

The intent in replying was to defend the decision to publish the piece, but it was misguided both in describing our rationale for publishing the piece and as a matter of practice. It shouldn’t have been sent.

Even as we encourage everyone in the newsroom to embrace social media and relevant tools, it is absolutely vital to remember that the purpose of these Post branded accounts is to use them as a platform to promote news, bring in user generated content and increase audience engagement with Post content. No branded Post accounts should be used to answer critics and speak on behalf of the Post, just as you should follow our
normal journalistic guidelines in not using your personal social media accounts to speak on behalf of the Post.

As a business owner, what do you do?

I picked this example because it is a good example of how a well-intended gesture can have the wrong impact and how much the company might have to do to make up for the damage the employee inadvertently caused. Employees usually do not mean to make these kind of mistakes, but when they do, it can be costly and time consuming to fix.

While creating the business, the business owner takes great care to decide what the brand and image of the company will be. All actions should be consistent with the brand and image choices. Unless the employees are fully versed in what the company brand is, the image attempting to be adhered to and has skill and grace with interacting in public situations, it would not be wise to allow employees to respond to criticism on social web sites without any direction. The Post is a good example of how an employee with good intentions can add fuel to the fire instead of putting out the fire. Just as you hire a developer to program something for you and a designer to design your web site, hire experienced people to interact with critics or deal with the issue yourself.

Set up policies for your employees

I can imagine many reading this thinking a situation like this would not happen to them because they do not discuss controversial topics. It could be feedback that the prices are too high, or people sharing their negative experience with your product or service. These types of incidences can arise many ways. Having policies in place and educating employees on how to handle these situations will greatly help the situation have a positive outcome.

It is impossible to please everyone all the time. Marriott had an experience where one of their customers complained about his bad experience. He posted a picture of his leaky ceiling and the unsatisfactory response he initially received from Marriott. His article caught Marriott’s attention and they responded. Unfortunately, the comment was not well received.

In the end, the customer was satisfied but Marriott took quite a beating in the process. It was a learning experience for Marriott who admitted they need to improve customer service and employee responsiveness. Many of these instances can be avoided by educating employees on what to do when these types of situations occur.

More important, having the right employee handling the situation is crucial to a positive resolution. In both cases, the situation would have been better handled if deferred to someone experienced in mitigating negative situations. Instead of having a customer stay in a room with water leaking on the bed, how about seeing if a nearby hotel had an opening? The customer suggested setting up a temporary bed in the conference room or offering free nights. The employee might not have had the authority to make arrangements like that, but there should be someone on call who could. Happy customers lead to returning customers.

If your company does not have employees, you have time to think about how you want to handle these types of situations. Have policies in place when you start hiring and take the time to educate your employees. If you have employees, create policies that reflect how you want your employees to react in these types of situations. How they interact with your customers will make the difference on whether the customer purchases your product or service again. Most times, the employees want to do the right thing but are not given what they need to do their jobs properly.