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If you a run a company of any size that deals directly with members of the public, chances are you will eventually have a customer who—for some reason or another—will not like your service or products and decide to defame you online. In fact, you should count on it. And no matter if they decide to give you a bad review or write a lengthy rant on their personal blog, those negative comments can end up hurting your online reputation by showing up on a search results page for your business.
Although there is some content that you will never be able to remove from the internet because the site owners have made it impossibly hard to find any contact information for them. There are some instances where you have a chance at protecting your online reputation simply by contacting the customer, opening a dialogue, and asking for the comments to be removed (or changed).
If this has happened to you, and it is hurting your online reputation, here are a few tips to dealing with a person who has published negative comments about you online.
1. Be polite and apologize
It doesn’t matter if you were in the right and they were in the wrong. What matters is that they perceive that they have been mistreated or disrespected in some way. So, before you do anything else, apologize and be polite about the situation. Treating the customer with respect will go a long way to helping change their mind about your company. And when you are polite, you open a door toward communication, which will help you change their mind about your company and recant their comments.
2. Don’t argue
Although it may be tempting, don’t argue with the customer. They already feel powerless, or they wouldn’t have written negative comments about you in the first place instead of contacting you directly to resolve their issue. So don’t make them feel like you are trying to win an argument. That attitude will only add fuel to the fire, and you’ll never be able to remove the negative content.
3. Offer to fix the problem
Once you’ve been polite and created a dialogue with the customer—slowly rebuilding their trust in you and your company—offer to fix the problem. Depending on your business, you can offer to exchange their defective product, give them their money back, offer them extra goodies like free products or services, or offer to fix the problem in a way that only your company can.
4. Add value
If you really want to win over your dissatisfied customer and encourage them to remove their negative comments, go above and beyond fixing their problem. If they don’t like the product you sold them, offer to replace the one they have with a better model and give them another on top of it. The more you can do to go out of your way to make this customer feel like you are genuinely sorry and willing to do whatever it takes to make them happy, the more inclined they will be to help you.
5. Ask their advice
As mentioned before, many people post rants online because they feel powerless in some respect and think that they best way to vent their anger is online. Many times these people simply want you to listen to them and understand what they are going through. In all cases, seek the customer’s advice, so you can be sure to avoid these problems in the future. When you do that, you give your customers the chance to be part of making your company better. And this may be the most powerful tool you have in turning an enemy into an ally.
Reputation Management Strategies
Most bloggers will post contact information or a contact form on their website so you can get in touch with them easily. And many review sites will let reviewers send messages to each other. But in many cases you will not be able to contact the person who wrote the comments directly, and may have no way to contact them at all. Or they may not want to respond to your request to fix the problem for their own reasons.
In extreme cases when someone has published slanderous information about you or your company online, you can take legal recourse and eventually remove the page from the Google index. But this is very hard to do, and Google won’t remove any web pages considered slanderous unless they are directed to do so under court order.
This is why reputation management is so important. Although contacting site owners and reviewers directly should be part of your online reputation management strategy, you should also implement other reputation management tactics to push negative content down and bring positive and neutral information about your company up in the search engine results pages. But whenever possible, contacting dissatisfied customers directly should be a first step in resolving reputation management issues.