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    An area where companies often voice their concerns as we discuss setting up their own blog is that of negative feedback. They worry that people will use the comments section of their blog to express their dissatisfaction with the company and their products or services. Theyre also keen to understand how best to deal with them.

    From a personal point of view, I totally understand this concern. As a rule, we dislike negative comments being made about us thats just natural – and companies and company bloggers are no different. Theres an instinctive reaction when we receive anything other than glowing praise for something we’ve written: for the individual blogger, there’s personal pride at stake; for businesses, there’s the concern that it will reflect badly on their organisation and alienate customers or prospects who see it.

    So, for some, the gut reaction is to suppress it … moderate it out … pretend it never happened. Better still, don’t allow anyone to comment! That will also take away the guilt factor of knowing that the comment was made but that you haven’t approved it!

    Why this really isn’t an option

    The trouble is that this is the digital equivalent of sticking your head in the sand or perhaps jabbing your fingers in your ears and shouting La la la very loudly. Conjures up a faintly ridiculous image? Well, in social media terms, its equally ridiculous, Im afraid. Why? Because the person who wanted to complain on your blog will still do so, they will just go elsewhere … generally somewhere where you won’t have the chance to respond and engage with them.

    So whats the alternative? Well, instead, give people the chance to raise the issue on your blog let them vent their frustration. And, in the process, you’ll be giving yourself the chance to answer their concerns.

    For me, there are three key reasons why I’d want to do that and they’re nothing to do with blogging and everything to do with business:

    • Firstly, it costs much more, both in terms of time and money, to find new clients than it does to keep your current ones.

    • Secondly, customers with negative experiences are more likely to tell people about them than customers with positive experiences. However, customers who have had a negative experience which has been solved tend to be the most vocal;

    • Thirdly, it costs more to fix a problem than to prevent it in the first place.

    By responding and resolving their issues, we have the chance not only to keep them as a customer but possibly turn them into an advocate for your company again. In any case, by openly allowing the criticisms and answering them, you are more likely to gain respect in the eyes of other readers than lose it.

    Feedback has other benefits

    You may also be receiving valuable feedback which could help improve an aspect of your company’s activities and fix a problem which already exists. Without this feedback, you could remain blissfully unaware of an issue which is costing you clients who have decided not to complain but rather “vote with their feet” and look for another supplier.

    Certainly you need to make sure that the comments comply with any guidelines that you have in place – and in a corporate blog, they should exist – but those should cover areas such as abusive or racist language rather than constructive criticism. So rather than suppressing negative comments, you should encourage comments and feedback of all types. While it might sometimes seem a painful process in the short-term, the long-term benefits will prove far more valuable.

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    Companies still seem to get overly worried about receiving negative comments on their blog. Despite discussing this concern with a number (who have ultimately gone on to successfully run blogs, I might add), I remain uncertain as to the exact reason why.

    I think that it is either because they have a lot of “dirty washing” that they fear might be aired in public or simply that they just dont want to hear anything but positive feedback about their company, their products and their blog.

    For this reason, I wanted to share with you some recommended ways to avoid getting negative comments, taken both from the perspective of what you can do as a company and also some actions that you can take directly on your blog.

    From a company perspective:

    • Be mediocre – successful companies appear to polarise opinion and will always generate some negative feelings as well as all the positive ones. Just look at Microsoft and Google. To avoid encouraging negative sentiments which might then be expressed on your blog, avoid success like the plague and concentrate on remaining steadfastly average;
    • Supply faultless products – ensuring that your products never fail or break will cover you against any possible negative comments that might come from customers who expect that when they buy a product, it should work for life. Their life, that is … not the product’s.
    • Provide perfect service – we’re talking here about not only customers but suppliers, partners and staff too. This should make certain that people don’t need to resort to using your blog to ask service or support questions – in fact, hopefully they won’t really need to contact you at all or clog up your nice call centres.

    From a blog perspective:

    • Avoid expressing an opinion – there is nothing worse than opinions to get people’s backs up and there’s also a high risk that someone, somewhere will disagree with them. You may find that sharing information carries these same risks as it opens the door for dialogue and discussion.
    • Make your posts as bland as possible – by reporting little of relevance or interest in your blog, you will successfully be reducing the number of people reading it. An added bonus is that nobody is likely to make the effort to engage in conversation by posting comments, positive or negative. Longer-term strategy but still very effective.
    • Hide your blog – let’s face it, if people can’t find your blog then they are unlikely to react negatively to anything in it. This can either be done actively or passively: actively should involve regularly changing permalinks to break those unwanted inbound links, while passively you can simply sit back and steadfastly refuse to admit that the blog exists.

    Other Options:

    • Turn off comments – of course, this is a much easier way. You could simply not allow comments on your blog or perhaps refrain from posting regularly … or indeed at all. These are probably the best ways to avoid dialogue with customers and are very effective in annoying them as well. Luckily, they won’t be able to complain on your blog because you have cleverly sidestepped that possibility by not allowing comments (see above).

    Just as an aside: the trouble is that by making sure you don’t get negative comments on your blog, you won’t actually be stopping people from making negative comments – they’ll just go elsewhere with them. What it does do is stop you from hearing them and being able to respond to them.

    I trust that has helped and if anyone thinking of implementing these suggestions has a spare bucket of sand for me to put my head in, that would be much appreciated.

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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