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 naturally 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 and should never be neglected, whereby 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 vastly 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 upon them. And not responding in social media is akin to hanging upon them, only worse, because there are actually other people watching and listening.” — Dave Kerpen
Brands increasingly find themselves at the receiving end of customer ire online, often exaggerated and even outright fake. As the legend goes, when faced with adversity, ostriches instinctively tend to bury their heads in the 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 can cast the brand as potentially unresponsive, with a ‘couldn’t care less attitude that can potentially put off 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 eminently truthful in responding to negative sentiment in the glaring limelight creates long-term value. When there are genuine grievances by accosting 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 its 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 economically truthful reviews. So here is the bottom line: to create long-term value and brand advocacy, embracing negative sentiment head-on makes for a prudent strategy.