They said WHAT?!?!? – Handling Online Critics

It’s inevitable.  If you’re in business long enough, you’re going to have a disgruntled customer.  What you hope, is that the customer will come to you and tell you about their dissatisfaction so that you can address the issue right then and there.  However, more times than not, the customer won’t say a word to you, but they WILL tell their friends.

This was bad enough BEFORE social media, but now, cloaked in the safety of the internet, unhappy customers can take to social media and post about whatever it is that upset them at your place of business and they are usually much bolder than if they were speaking to you face-to-face.  Many times, this comes in the form of a review. Ouch.  Now, not only are they telling THEIR friends that they were dissatisfied, but they’re also telling your potential customers or clients.  What’s a business owner to do?

How you respond to social media critics is really situation dependent.  Most interactions can be grouped into one of three categories:


Nobody likes to admit when they’ve made a mistake, but if you have, there’s no sense pretending you didn’t .  The criticism is already out there, and an honest response always beats no response in this situation.  The key is to act quickly before the review or the comments snowball.   If your customer service wasn’t at its best or your product wasn’t up to par, acknowledge the short coming.  A simple responses is best. “We’re terribly sorry to hear about your experience.  Our goal is always to provide excellent service and a product you’re pleased with.  We hope that you’ll try our X,Y or Z again.  We will be contacting you in a private message to get more information.  Thank you for your candor.”  In a private message or phone call, do what’s necessary to make it right and offer the customer an incentive to try your business again.  This could be in the form of a discount or special offer.


The customer is always right.  But what EXACTLY does “RIGHT” mean?  If you want to keep that customer and prevent her from sharing negative feelings about your business with others,  allowing her to be “RIGHT” may simply be acknowledging her feelings.  She thought your Seafood Pasta was too fishy? They felt like you rushed them through their photo sitting, allowing only 4 hours? He feels like you overcharged him for his tax preparation when you were clear about your fees up front?  These things are all a matter of opinion, but when the opinion is in such a public forum, you want to make sure these opinions are managed.  Again, acknowledge the critic’s feelings, but you don’t have to admit wrong doing.  “I’m sorry that you found our Seafood Pasta fishy.  We pride ourselves in using a variety of our local seafood in ample portions.  We hope you’ll visit again and perhaps try something from our chicken menu which is a customer favorite.  Please ask to speak to the owner on your next visit and we’ll find a special dish you’re sure to enjoy.”



Sometimes you’ll encounter a critic who is obviously looking for a fight.  It’s best to simply NOT engage with this type.  Abusive language, rude remarks or commentary that is simply uncalled for does not warrant a response.  The average consumer will give that review the merit it deserves.  This isn’t the customer relationship you want to preserve and odds are, you don’t want his friends, either.

When faced with online criticism, be proactive.  Respond quickly and professionally to legitimate concerns and always offer the customer a reason to come back to your business.


  Handled correctly, you can turn a critic into a fan.