The complainer isn’t always wrong, and being able to listen to customer complaints and address them is one of the many ways to mitigate the spread of negative consumer reviews and other disparaging online content about your business. This involves setting up as many lines of communication as possible and being able to listen and act upon as many legitimate complaints as possible.
However, even as you open up social media and corporate communications to your audience, you should bear in mind one thing: not all negative feedback is worthy of a response. Whether it’s blatant trolling or misguided ignorance that is impossible to satisfactorily answer, there are forms of certain negative feedback that would be a waste of time to politely acknowledge and are best left swept under the rug.
How does one tell whether feedback should be acknowledged or ignored?
Sifting through responses
The tricky business of sifting through social media comments and complaints for legitimate concerns is an important one. There are ways to methodize the process: The U.S. Air Force categorizes negative posts into four levels, which are given their own standard protocol of responses. Trolls and so-called “ragers” (detractors whose emotional state preclude rational discussion, at least temporarily) are merely placed under observation, whereas unhappy customers and misguided (i.e. misinformed) individuals are considered more legitimate commenters and are engaged as needed.
A word on trolls
Trolls are a difficult bunch. Unlike valid complainers who have a specific motive that can be addressed by your business, trolls usually derail conversations online for the sheer joy of it.
The old tactic of “don’t feed the trolls” (i.e. ignoring said poster) is considered insufficient; prolific trolls can still besmirch an organization’s reputation, no matter how outlandish their statements can be.
Dealing with them is a balancing act between keeping things short and polite; engage them respectfully and rationally, but do not dwell on them for long. Instead, divert your resources and time toward more valid concerns and draw attention away from them by starting an online reputation management campaign.
While some might find it fit to volley insults, your main concern should be the wellbeing of your customers and the service quality of your business. Finding the negative feedback worth listening to (and appropriately dealing with the ones that aren’t) is all part of the job in serving your customers well.