Bouquets and brickbats come in two ways- in private (off-grid) and as a public shoutout (on-grid). The proliferation of social media platforms has made the latter more prominent. Brickbats obviously outweigh bouquets as the threshold for negative comments and reviews tends to be lower than that for positive feedback or compliments.
Off-grid feedback is relatively straightforward to deal with but nevertheless, should never be neglected. On-grid is a different kettle of fish altogether. When it comes to expressions of negativity in a seller-consumer context, there is a perception that making a scene in full public view to vent one’s dissatisfaction will have a greater impact either by embarrassing the seller if the situation is irretrievable, or enhancing the chances of getting the issue at hand resolved.
“If a customer calls you on the phone to complain, surely you wouldn’t hang up on them. And not responding in social media is akin to hanging up on them, only worse, because there are actually other people watching and listening.” — Dave Kerpen
Brands thus find themselves increasingly at the receiving end of customer ire online, which at times can be exaggerated and even outright fake. As the legend goes, when faced with adversity, ostriches instinctively tend to bury their head in sand, hoping for the danger to disappear. Opting for this strategy is a recipe for disaster, as it allows negative sentiment to fester and even amplify in the public domain. At the very least, it casts the brand as being unresponsive, with a ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude and can put off potential customers or change a positive opinion to negative.
How embracing negativity provides value?
To embrace negative sentiment is thus not a matter of choice for a brand. Being upfront, proactive and more importantly, truthful in responding to negative sentiment in glaring limelight creates long term value. When there are genuine grievances, acknowledging these not only helps in customer recovery and retention but can also lead to brand advocacy by the aggrieved customer. It also provides the brand with useful insights into what needs to be improved or needs fixing in the delivery of their services. For fake or unreasonably exaggerated reviews of which there is no dearth, being transparent and calling out the culprit provides reassurance to existing and potential customers about the brand’s convictions.
There is a growing body of evidence emerging from posts on multiple review sites that the victimized brand actually gets support from its advocates whose sense of justice and trust in the brand militate against the reviews that are economical on the truth. So here is the bottomline: in order to create long term value and brand advocacy, embracing negative sentiment head-on makes for a prudent strategy.
Follow us on LinkedIn for more conversations about digital, customer experience, employee experience, and performance improvement.