Horse-flies and hand grenades: A guide to managing negative feedback

One of the great things about the internet is that it’s a forum where people can express themselves openly and freely. Although this is great for connecting with people, it’s both a blessing and a curse. On one side you have many people who take advantage of the internet to discuss openly about personal issues and seek help under the guise of anonymity. On the other side, there’s also those who feel the need to cause trouble just because they can. So unless you live in North Korea where just about everything is condemnable by corporal punishment, you’re going to have to occasionally deal with some flies in your proverbial ointment.

The old adage that there’s no such thing as bad press isn’t entirely accurate. Bad press can cost a lot of money and every brand has to expect some negative commentary at some point. Sure, not all bad press is a major event, but we all have to deal with poor reviews, disgruntled customers, and disagreements with your company policies or philosophies. It’s how you handle those negative interactions that will help delight current and future customers.

Don’t swat those flies with a hand grenade

We can’t control everything that is said about us on the internet, so when someone publishes a bad review or nasty comment about your company, it’s important not to become too defensive and start kicking butt and taking names like you were in a Jason Statham movie.


Where do they get off calling me a womanizing, abusive, thieving, drunk? I mean, I've been sober for months!


Doing so can make matters much worse. It’s important to analyze the situation first. What happened with this person? What was their issue? How was it handled and how can it be rectified? For example, if someone were to receive poor service at your restaurant and they decided to reach out on the company Facebook page, you may want to start by apologizing for the inconvenience, stating that you understand there was a problem and that it is being rectified and offer that disgruntled customer something of value – perhaps a discount off of their next meal. This shows that customer that you value their opinion and that you value their loyalty as a consumer. As outlined in our inbound marketing methodology, delighting customers and cultivating happy customers leads to those customers sharing their stories with others and starting the sales process over again with someone new, so it’s important to leave customers feeling great about their experience.

If things really get out of hand and you believe someone is being downright slanderous towards yourself or your business, there are precedents for legal positions you can take. A New Brunswick newspaper was recently ordered to provide the identity of an anonymous poster who was posting some defamatory content on its website. Other similar cases are popping up all over Canada and the United States.

Although you can’t really control what people are saying about your business online, what you can do is ensure that you delight your customers by responding to negative criticism in a timely and most importantly professional fashion and help build and solidify those client relationships.


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