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Managing Negativity

In any online community, negative content is bound to happen. How your company handles negative content ends up speaking more about your company than the negative content itself ever does. The content on this page was created to help your community team draft their own plan for managing negativity in your Get Satisfaction community. As you read through this page, consider any specific content to be on the lookout for that may be unique to your particular industry (legal, healthcare, etc.)

By planning ahead for potential customer service issues that may arise, you will be prepared to turn a potentially brand-damaging event into the complete opposite – a brand elevating event that illustrates how you both listen and respond to your customers.


Elements of a Negativity Plan

The basics of a negativity plan should answer the following questions:

  1. What is Negativity? Draft a clear definition of what negativity means to your company. That way it is easily recognized by all members of your team, and can be responded to immediately.
  2. What’s the expected time in which to respond? – In order to communicate to customers that you are listening, and they know that they will receive a response or update in a timely manner.
  3. What to do when it appears? – Create a  procedure checklist to follow when negativity happens. We have an example below.
  4. How to initially respond (style)? – You want to sound empathetic and as if you are listening, but are not over- committing.
  5. Who else to involve? – In order to further underwrite the fact that you are listening, and are involving others who can provide better answers. This will also help your internal teams pass along issues quickly and effectively.
  6. What is the expected level of on-going engagement? – To help illustrate continued engagement.
  7. How to close the loop? – To effectively and graciously end the conversation on a positive note.

Types of Negativity

There are many situations that could bring on negative sentiment toward your brand. For example, you may experience backlash after a new product announcement or feature release. Certain types of negative sentiment may require you to escalate the situation upwards within your organization, and other types of negativity can easily be handled by a trained community manager. The types of content that may warrant enacting the Escalation Path include:

  • Global Product Failures: Your product/ service is experiencing a widespread outage and is affecting many users.
  • Individual Product Failures: Your product/ service has failed one particular user
  • Marketing/ PR Failures: Negative sentiment surrounding a marketing campaign, press release, etc.
  • Demonstration by a Crowd: An organized demonstration of negative sentiment by a group of users (Rare occurrence, but it happens). This can tie in directly with pile-ons in a community or on social media.
  • Community & Social Media Pile-Ons: A post in your customer community can end up being a thread of negative replies. Sometimes this negative conversation could start on social media or transfer from your community onto social media.

The types of content that typically require a special touch from the Community Manager, but don’t necessarily warrant escalating to other departments or roles include:

  • Personal complaints: When someone posts “I’m never using your product again”; “I hate your company”; “You have terrible service,” etc.
  • Troll Attacks: Trolls are users whose primary goal is to disrupt the community, attack other users, antagonize community managers, and are never interested in a productive outcome.

Escalation Path

Determine an escalation path early on, so that your team is prepared to handle negativity at a moments notice. A specific escalation path will vary, depending on your company’s internal policy. We suggest that your community team have a sit-down meeting with different parts of your organization. Make sure that they are aware of what the goals of the community are and set appropriate expectations of their interaction within the community.

Use the tools that Get Satisfaction provides to make these people aware of their involvement. Use bulk invite to invite the relevant people to their community (such as a Product Manager), assign topics, email topics, etc. When people are aware of what is expected of the in a community and how they may be alerted of community content, it makes the process a lot easier when someone from outside the community team needs to be involved.


Response Framework

Now that you understand the various types of negativity that you’ll run into, create a framework with recommended response times and escalation paths. Creating Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) for different responses is really important. These SLA’s do not necessarily need to be communicated outside of your organization, but having them is important to keep your community running efficiently.

You may want to think about creating an SLA for the following types of negativity:

  • Global product failure
  • Individual product failure
  • Marketing/PR failure
  • Demonstration by a crowd
  • Community & Social Media Pile-On
  • Personal complaints
  • Troll attacks

Response Procedure Checklist
When responding to negative sentiment, follow this checklist to ensure you have all of your bases covered.

  • Understand the context and nature of the negativity: Re-read the issue, and do a bit of research. For product failures, try and reproduce the issue to fully understand what the user is experiencing. Try to avoid making assumptions about the issue without having all the facts in place.
  • Determine where the negativity came from: Find out who submitted the complaint and what their relationship is with your company. Figure out what the real issue is and who they are.
  • Escalate, if necessary: Once you have the facts sorted out, escalate the situation as necessary. Follow the escalation path you’ve created for your team. Deliver all of your findings to the person you’re escalating the situation to, and work with them to craft an initial response. The Notes and Assignments features within your Get Satisfaction community are great tools to use for this.
  • Deliver an initial response: A timely first response is crucial to getting in front of a particularly nasty situation, so it’s imperative to be mindful of how much time has passed since the initial complaint. The faster you can get a sincere, initial response posted, the better your overall outcome will be. Initial responses should be honest and empathetic, and not defensive in any way. Refer to your SLA times to see when a reply should be posted, but typically an earlier response is best.
  • Create a feedback loop: Depending on the situation, you may not need to give your customers detailed updates as things progress internally. Address the SLA and let your customer know that your team is working towards a resolution for their issue. Let them know that they will receive an update when your team has one to share. Any setbacks or delays should be communicated.
  • Monitor for lingering negativity: During the days and weeks after your crisis, you’ll want to watch closely for any follow-on negativity, or efforts to re-vitalize the issue. Nip any additional complaints in the bud, but be sure to provide an empathetic response when doing so. Use the Merge tool in the community as appropriate to consolidate duplicate content.

Response Inspiration Templates
When negative sentiment causes a crisis for your team you will post a minimum of 2 responses back to your users, if not more. Here are some templates you can use to base your responses. Please alter as necessary to fit the voice and tone of your brand/ community.

Initial Responses

  • Good afternoon, Thank you for reaching out to us on this, I can’t answer your question but I’m going to go find out who can and will keep you updated.
  • That’s a good question!  After talking internally, we believe this answer will help you most “_____”.   If I can help you with anything else, please feel free to post a reply here or create a new topic.
  • Unfortunately, we are currently experiencing a service outage. Please watch our main Twitter account – https://twitter.com/mycompany – for updates and information. Sorry for the frustration! If any additional details need to be provided, we will post a Company Update in our community once the situation is resolved.

On-Going Responses/ Status Updates

  • We’re still looking into this issue Joe, we’ll get back to you as soon as we figure it out.
  • Sorry you’re having this problem again. Does the workaround posted here help? [link].

Official Response

  • Thanks for your patience with us as we work through this issue. The bug has been thoroughly investigated and a fix has been released. Please check in your community and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any other problems or concerns. Thanks!
  • I hope this answers your question or problem. Please let me know if this response is not clear, so that  we can provide a more detailed explanation if needed.
  • Thank you so much for your ideas, we appreciate any and all feedback and we’re here to help!

System Status

Company Updates