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4 STEPS To Preparing Your Response To Negative Comments

This past weekend I had the pleasure of presenting on one of my favourite topics right now – “What To Do When Shit Hits The Fan” – at the fantastic Social Capital Conference. It was such a great conference with some amazing content that was being shared!

It really hit me in my prep work for this presentation that people are always looking for some formula in how they can start dealing with some of the negative comments that they deal with. They want something that they can easily adapt to fit the particular context of the situation and be able to copy and paste into a response, but here’s the thing…

There’s No Easy Formula

Whenever you have an upset client or an angry customer that you are faced with (online or off), there is no easy formula for you to copy and paste to the person. There is no canned response that will work, there is no pre-meditated statement that you can give them. Why? Because they are people, and each person deserves to be treated as an individual. They each are looking for different things, they all have different circumstances, they all have had different experiences (or at least have experienced each thing differently) and because of that, each situation needs to be handled differently. This difference may not be drastically different from one instance to the next, but it should be personalized.

I’m not going to get into all the reasons why it should be personalized, that’s a whole other post, but needless to say there is no easy formula. There is, however, a framework in which you can begin to craft that response to that negative comment or angry consumer. Ready for it?

The STEP Approach

I’ve broken this framework down into the word STEP. It goes a little something like this:

Show You’re Listening

Take Responsibility

Explain Intent

Personalize and Thank

Let’s break that down a little.

Show You’re Listening

If you’ve been reading this blog for a little while you’ll know I’m bullish about listening. In fact, I think that our biggest problems that we have is that we don’t know how to listen. I’m not going to spend too much of your time explaining this one (for more information about listening this breaks it down for you), but needless to say, make sure that you understand the problem that you’re trying to help resolve and make sure that the person you are talking to knows that you are listening to them.

Take Responsibility

Own what’s yours. If you were late commenting back to them, own it. If you gave them the wrong order, own it. If they had crappy service, own it. Own what you did, or didn’t do. We’re all human, we are all going to make mistakes, but what separates someone who cares is the person or business who is willing to own what is theirs. Have you ever watched the movie 8 Mile with Eminem? There is a great rap battle in it that Eminem starts and he lists everything that is “wrong” with him. He owns who he is, he owns what the other side is going to say about him and he leaves his competition with nothing to say. His competitor has nothing to say at all about Eminem because it’s already been said. He has no material except to repeat what has already been said which loses him the battle.

How about you? Would you rather own what’s yours or have others continually pointing it out?

Explain Intent

Miscommunication comes from keeping our intent in the private realm. So by explaining our intent and the processes that we are able to share with the client or consumer, we are bringing that intent into the public realm. Granted, there will always be things that we are not allowed to share for many different reason; confidentiality, legal, etc. With that being said, there is always things about what we are doing or the process behind how we came to a specific decision that can be shared and should be shared. This helps the person on the other side begin to see where you are coming from.

Personalize and Thank

Last, but certainly not least, make sure that you personalize the message and thank the person for leaving a comment or engaging in a conversation. We’ve already talked about a couple of reasons to personalize, but it really shows that you care about your customers or clients and you should care for them! After all, they are the ones that are keeping you in business! Thanking them also lets them feel valued, because they have brought a problem or concern to you that you can learn from and grow from.

What do you think? Is there anything that you would add or take out of this framework?


Jason Dykstra

Jason is a Conflict Management Specialist who is helping organizations and congregations move from conflict situations to creative solutions. He specializes in relational and communication issues and uses his experience and training in mediation, group facilitation, conflict management coaching, speaking and teaching to aid you and your surroundings to better… MORE >

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