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.

Be the labor…

When I was growing up, my Dad always used to say,

“Be the labor great or small, do it well… or not at all.” 

These words were usually spoken when I decided I was too tired to finish raking the leaves in our yard or when my room was “clean enough.”   Little did I know I’d be using them as the theme of my first blog post, and that they would make perfect sense.

How does my Dad’s adage factor into YOUR small business marketing?  It’s simple really.  Working with small businesses, I talk to many business owners who are faced with a dillema: they KNOW that they need to market their business, but at the end of the day, they are expending all of their resources and energy on simply RUNNING the business.  At the same time,  they are being bombarded with questions:

“Are you on Facebook?”

“Do you tweet out your specials?”

“Can I register on your website?”

“When is your next sale planned?  Will you be advertising it?”

“Can I find you on LinkedIn?”

“Can I purchase on your website?”

In an effort to be all things to all people, business owners will usually jump in and try to respond to these types of requests, but they find that the day-to-day operations of their business keeps them from staying on top of a million different social media outlets and marketing functions.  Let’s face it.  Without a full-time staff, it would be virtually impossible to be current on all channels all the time.  Did you know, on average, consumers’ accepted response time to social media posts is about one hour, regardless of the time or day they post?

Be the labor great or small, do it well… or not at all. Have a plan and then follow through, follow through, follow through.

I tell my clients to have a plan. Choose the channels that are most appropriate for YOUR audience, and do them well.  Your customers or clients will forgive you for NOT being on Twitter, but they won’t be so quick to forget if you never responded to the  comments they tweeted.   Be the labor big or small, do it well… or not at all.  Choose to have a regular e-mail campaign or post your new arrivals to Instagram each week, but whatever you choose, follow through, follow through, follow through.  When it comes to marketing, your customers will value consistency over variety.