December 9, 2014
Websites and social media pages are a great way to reach new patients and to keep in touch with your current ones, but dealing with negative online comments can be challenging.
When you read the comments, the criticism can feel personal. After all, those negative posts are about the business that you put your time, hard work and passion into.
The best way to address negative online comments is to understand the type of complaint, and then respond to it appropriately. Here are some of the most common types of online complaints and some tips on how to respond to them.
These users write long, rambling posts that might have little or nothing to do with your pharmacy. The vent might include complaints about everything from the weather to their workplace. Chances are, they had a small inconvenience or mishap take place in your pharmacy and now they associate everything wrong with their day with your business.
How to respond: Always respond promptly
You might not always be able to solve every problem, but you should always respond. Leaving comments unanswered can make you look apathetic. Try viewing negative comments as an opportunity to engage with patients and win back those who might just be having a bad day. Sometimes, a simple apology can go a long way.
It might start with one small complaint. After reading the comment, you respond and consider your job done. But then, the same person replies, quickly and frequently, with complaints about the response, or with another critical comment.
How to respond: Continue as usual
If your first response was appropriate, and the commenter’s reply doesn’t require a response, don’t respond. Sometimes people seek to engage in unproductive conversations on social media and review sites. Maintaining that conversation thread keeps negative comments at the top the review site or your social media page. And those comments aren’t what you want patients to see when they find you on Facebook, Twitter or other websites.
Patients might turn to your social media page or a review website with a legitimate problem. Maybe no one had time to help them find the product they were looking for in the front end. Or, maybe they tried to pick up their prescription during business hours and your pharmacy closed early without notice.
How to respond: Correct the problem
If a commenter points out a legitimate problem in your pharmacy, make sure you work to fix it. Responding online is only the first step. Use your response to outline your solution to the problem.
Sometimes patients will raise complaints about situations that aren’t problems for them, but are concerns for others in the community. For example, someone might complain that your pharmacy isn’t open late enough for people to get their prescriptions after work. The comment becomes more important if it garners several ‘likes’ or additional comments in support from other customers.
How to respond: Respond publicly
Instead of responding in a private message, reply to these types of complaints publicly. This way, you won’t have to answer the same comment multiple times. If someone posts a community concern, but doesn’t receive a lot of public support, considering asking patients personally or putting up a comment box in your pharmacy to survey people about the problem. Remember, this feedback can be a valuable tool to improve your business.
These users will pair their complaints with a threat to leave your pharmacy or a demand for store credit or some kind of compensation in return for their inconvenience.
How to respond: Address them privately
If their criticism is individual, like if they had one negative experience with a staff member, invite the commenter to send you a private message via email. This way you can gather information and figure out how to rectify the situation appropriately. Sometimes it might be as simple as offering an apology, and other times you may need to offer compensation, like a discount or store credit. Responding publicly to a request for compensation is risky because it sets a precedent that might not be appropriate in every circumstance.
Occasionally, you might receive a nasty comment or spam post from someone who wants to upset people and start arguments. These users are known as trolls.
How to respond: Resist responding personally
As a small business owner, it can be difficult to resist the inclination to take professional criticism personally. But remember, these types of commenters probably don’t know you or your pharmacy. Remembering this will help you keep your emotions at bay when dealing with these comments. Use the tools at your disposal to report or delete abusive or spam posts, and to block troll users from posting again. Some review sites, like Yelp or Yellow Pages, will remove a post if it is profane, or if it was written by a paid reviewer or competitor. Check the site’s content guidelines to see if the review qualifies as a violation.