This is a guest post by Liz Krause, who writes for EtherSpeak, a company specializing in Unified Communications for internet phone service. They are a SIP trunk provider and also offer internet encryption for business class VOIP.
For anyone who has ever owned a small business, the adage, “the only bad press is no press” is completely false. For small businesses, especially really small businesses – any negative press can be totally devastating. One negative comment about a poor experience with support can have immeasurable impacts on sales.
If your company has experienced online negative reviews or comments left by disgruntled employees or customers, here are few things you can do to counteract their actions and make those bad press items disappear.
1. In online forums
I knew a company that had a major issue with one of their services. They were not ignoring their customers or trying to provide poor service, but it was simply taking a long time to figure out the remedy to this service issue. Finally by the time they found the solution, the customers had begun to lose confidence in the company – even demanding to be let out of their contracts – thinking they were being scammed or taken advantage of. This group of customers openly and bluntly made their feelings and thoughts known on a popular forum.
What was the company to do? The company had to address the issue – it was only getting worse and worse online.
Engage and be humble
In the end, the company chose to offer a no fee contract release for any unhappy customers within a certain date range. I’m not sure if that was the smartest choice of action, however a funny thing occurred – the negative comments came to a screeching halt. They proved they weren’t scamming and owned up to the problem. However, as service improved, positive comments started appearing and had started as a hopelessly negative thread ended up documenting the improvements which the company had put into place.
It is very hard to have comments removed from forums because that is exactly what they are there for – to tell the truth. Therefore, all you can do is engage with a solution which will stop them in their tracks. Whether giving a means of contact to request refunds, or to talk to a specific person to work out some sort of arrangement –offering a humble win-win solution will turn the negative into positive.
Ask for the thread to be removed
On the other hand, there are situations where you can get comments removed. This happened to a small software company that I had worked for when a user left some pretty bad press on a popular forum. They never approached us about their problems and went straight to the forum first to vent. I decided to avoid a public argument which would inevitably keep me up at night, so instead I wrote a polite private email to the customer, addressed his issues and gave clarity to the situation.
He apologized greatly and I asked if he’d mind asking the forum leader to remove his thread (especially since he mentioned some confidential information from being a beta tester for us). Within 24 hours the thread was removed and we moved on.
2. Hire a Lawyer… or Appear To
This is not always the best solution, but there are times when some people will be so emotionally upset about something they will threaten to spread negative things about your company. This happened to the software company I worked for about a whole mix up and although the company was in the right, the customer would not admit the issues came from their own internal issues and not a result of our software. You know the folks – the ones that when you tell them to go to their desktop, they say they are already at their desks. Yes, those customers.
Needless to say, we got a lawyer to draft a letter stating that we’d sue if we found there to be malicious slander instigated by this customer. Had we sent this letter ourselves, it would not hold much weight because they knew how small we were. However, coming from a lawyer’s office with a lawyer’s signature quickly put a lid on the matter right away. We never heard a peep since.
No matter which road or reaction you choose, getting rid of negative press is very hard, as it requires time, patience, a level head and strategy. When hard times come your way, clear your head, buckle your belts, set your emotions aside and figure out the best approach to remedy any negative press online.