Many aspects of inbound marketing are about building relationships, not only with other businesses and professionals in your niche or industry, but also with your customers – the people that are actually paying your bills. Before the advent of the Internet, if someone had a bad experience at your establishment, their negative feedback had the potential for damaging your business in only a limited scope. Unless the person with the bad experience was a writer for a national newspaper or something, their snarky remarks would only be heard by those ears they could easily reach within their immediate area – family, friends, maybe the folks at church, or the readers of the local newspaper, if someone took the initiative to write a cranky letter.

Today, however, the Internet has given everyone a platform with which to share their opinions on your products and services, and once those opinions are online, they are there for the whole world to see. If the opinion in question is a favorable one, this is great word of mouth and you’ll be happy to have it, but if the opinion is negative…that can open up a whole new can of worms for your business. In fact, it’s more often your company’s response to the negative feedback that has the most impact on your customers, because the wrong response can blow up in your face and take what was initially a small review only a handful of people might’ve seen and turn it into a viral Internet sensation that millions of people will get wind of. For this reason, any business that operates online should have a plan in place to let employees know how to handle negative feedback properly.

Negative Feedback Plans for Inbound Marketing

The plan you put in place for handling negative feedback should basically outline the actions that should be taken when your company gets a bad review or comment online. Since negative feedback can have a big impact on your business’s reputation, it’s important to be monitoring the Internet on a regular basis so you can catch things quickly and respond appropriately before anything gets out of hand. Having the plan laid out beforehand ensures everyone will know what to do when it happens, and that your business’s responses will be uniform and consistent regardless of who is doing the actual responding at any point in time. While every company’s plan will differ, because every company is unique, here are a few things to think about to get you started:

  • Know When to Respond – How to respond is one thing, but when to respond is where you should start. Not all negative comments deserve a response, and your plan should outline when to ignore and when to proceed. For example, sometimes, a customer just isn’t happy no matter what you do, and will take to the Internet to throw a fit. If the complaint is reasonable, then a reasonable response is warranted, but if it just looks like the poster is venting and angry, then ignoring it might be your best option.
  • Know How to Respond – Depending on the level of seriousness involved with the complaint, you should have a few different options for offering recourse to the customer. Sometimes, a simple apology and promise to not do it again will suffice. Other times, you may be looking at a refund or other similar direct action.
  • Watch Your Tone – It’s tempting to get angry at someone that’s tearing your hard work apart for all to see, but letting that anger show is a big no-no. Make sure your plan highlights how important it is to maintain a professional tone at all times, regardless of how much vitriol is coming your way from the customer.

Keeping these factors in mind as you build and implement your negative feedback plan will go a long way toward ensuring your inbound marketing efforts aren’t marred by a public relations disaster.

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