Businesses must use caution when facing online criticism

On Behalf of | Jan 5, 2024 | Business Disputes, Business Litigation |

Online reviews are a fact of life for any business-to-consumer company. Whether it is brick-and-mortar retailers, digital entities, restaurants, or landlords, businesses are at risk of encoutering unhappy customers complaining online. B2C companies should handle these complaints with great care to avoid significantly impacting their professional reputation and the value of their brand. It could also cause a problem with partners or staff who disagreed with the response.

Be professional yet empathetic

Companies should not ignore customer feedback or online comments, but it’s best to take it with a grain of salt. If a response is warranted, professionalism, empathy and careful strategy should drive it. It is essential to avoid aggressive or defensive language.  The content and tone of the response should measured and fact-based. Avoid speculation or statements that could later cause damage.

It’s different than face-to-face

Dealing with customer complaints face-to-face can be uncomfortable, but delivery and additional conversation can clarify or resolve the matter. Sending them an email is complicated by the fact that they cannot read the writer’s body language nor hear the tone of voice when he or she shares their thoughts. Emojis help with that, but they certainly don’t work in a professional setting if discussing criticism with a customer or the terms of their service. It becomes even more fraught when the recipient has little or no personal experience with the writer.

It’s a public record

The writer should also be aware that their response is documented online. Instead of a “you say/they say” scenario, the two parties can refer to the actual exchange or, worse, share it online with others. Deleting or withdrawing the message may not work if the recipient took a screenshot and saved it. If the matter ends up in court as part of a dispute, the message may be admissible as evidence.

An escalation of words?

People certainly have a right to defend themselves and their business, but rather than shooting off a response, it may be best to discuss the matter with others. There may be legal action to take in extreme cases, but prudence can help avoid escalations and headaches.