Got a nasty email from a reader or customer? Got a complaint? Maybe it is out in the public and you’re worried about the right way to handle it? This simple guide discusses the best ways to handle complaints in your online business.
This article was originally published in 2008, then totally rewritten and re-published in 2019. Which explains some of the dates on the comments below. 😉 Enjoy!
There is a simple fact of life when you run a blog or online business. Heck, this is just a part of simply being alive. And that is…
You’re going to have people complain.
The things people complain about can vary from legit concerns to trivial matters that you can’t believe they just bothered to email you about. Things like:
- Typos and grammar errors
- People taking offense on something you said, or a word you used.
- People ripping you to shreds over trying to sell something.
- People jumping to conclusions and calling you a scammer over the smallest things, or because you didn’t reply back to them fast enough.
I don’t list these things as an attempt to make fun of them. Not at all. However, these are some of the kinds of complaints I’ve seen over the years.
Sometimes they’ll email you privately or email your support address. Other times they might post it publicly on social media, in a blog comment or elsewhere.
So, how do you handle these things? What do you do about it?
Should You Let It Bother You?
Fast answer = NO.
In some cases, it may be hard to take. Sometimes you’ll have people really tear into you. It can be hard to be called a scammer or to have somebody tell you they’re offended by something you said. Not everybody can take the criticism.
It is important to maintain perspective. Always remember:
- Most people are good, decent people.
- Many times, a complaint was sent to you “in the heat of the moment” and the moment you reply back to them they will apologize. I’ve had it happen more times than I can count.
- There is always a small percentage of people who will find a way to be upset by something. Life is a big confrontation to them. It is sad, but the problem most definitely isn’t you.
Working with a lot of students over the years, I have found that beginning entrepreneurs who are making their first attempts at sales with their blog can be the most sensitive to negative comments. The moment somebody calls them a scammer, they just wilt. If you’ve ever felt that way, please check yourself.
When you stand up in this world and do anything out of the ordinary (and putting up a blog and/or selling something online is out of the ordinary), you’re more likely to get an arrow in your back. This is part of having an online presence… and it could get more common the more popular your site gets.
So, definitely don’t let a complaint bother you or get to you personally. This is simply part of life online.
How To Handle Typo And Grammar ComplaintsHow do you handle it when you get people complaining about typos and grammar errors on your blog? Like so...Click To Tweet
When you create a lot of content online, you’re going to make some typos and grammar errors. This just goes with the territory of doing something a lot.
Also, sometimes the way we type isn’t exactly grammatically correct. When I create content, I do so in a conversational way. I write in a conversational way. This is because my purpose is to effectively communicate ideas to you and to get understanding. My purpose is NOT to impress an English teacher! Truth is, when you are communicating effectively online, not everything you say or write is going to pass a grammar check.
And so, you have to take these kinds of complaints with the proper perspective. There are certain kinds of people who are just sticklers for proper word structure. To each their own, but just because they are that way doesn’t mean you have to change the way you wish to communicate on your own blog. In the end, words are meant to communicate IDEAS. And it is the IDEAS that are more important than some of the nitty-gritty rules of grammar.
So, how do you handle people who point out typos and grammar errors?
You handle it politely, of course. 🙂
Here’s what I do:
- Read the email and see what the error is that they’re pointing out.
- Reply back and thank them. That’s it. You really don’t need to comment any further on it. Just thank them for reaching out on the issue.
- Review the actual issue and decide whether it needs to be corrected. If so, do it.
If it is a legit typo, go fix it. If it is a gross grammar error, go fix it. If, however, it is just conversational speak, works just fine despite the fact that it might earn a red mark from an English teacher, feel free to ignore it.
How To Handle Rude Comments And Emails
What do you do if the person is just being rude? What if they’re calling you names? Should you even respond?
As I said before, don’t let this kind of thing get to you. In more cases than not, they emailed you in the heat of the moment and aren’t actually like that. In some cases, they’ve just got issues. 🙂 Either way, don’t take it personally.
First, always look at whether there is merit to what they say. Even despite the unfortunate tone and even if it is highly inappropriate, there might be a legitimate concern behind that email. Did you fail to deliver on a promise? Did something not get delivered? Did you go too long without replying to them and they felt ignored? Always look. Always look at any complaint as a potential symptom of a breakdown in how you are managing things. If there is something you need to fix, fix it and make it right.
Sometimes nothing is actually wrong, but they think it is. Perhaps they misunderstood something. If that’s the case, clarify it to them. Realize, however, that if they misunderstood or missed something, others might have as well and just didn’t bother to tell you. So, look and see if there’s something you need to change to make it simpler to avoid the situation again.
In some cases, you’ll just have people complaining for little to no reason. Well, like I said… sometimes people just do that. Not every such complaint has to be actionable on your part.
Now, do you reply?
In almost all cases, yes. In fact, often you’ll just make the situation worse if you ignore them. One of the worst things you can do online is to fail to acknowledge somebody’s communication.
Now, do you get defensive? Do you tell them where to shove it? 😉
I wouldn’t. I always look at whether I’m in the right or not. If something needs to be corrected, I always do. However, if I evaluate things and determine the person is being rude and unfair incorrectly, I will put them in their place. I never respond in kind, but I remain firm.
In that rare case where a person is just being rude for the sake of being so, you can make a decision on whether you choose to do business with them anymore. For instance, in the last several years, I’ve probably had a couple of people who emailed into support and just ripped into my virtual assistant. Called her names, etc. I have zero tolerance for such things and will ban a person from my business for doing it.
In the end, you are the owner of your business and nobody is forcing you to do business with anybody. If I don’t want to deal with a person, I don’t. The good thing is, as I said, I think I’ve only had to do this a couple of times in my many years in business.
How To Handle Threats
It does happen (again, in rare cases) that you may get rude emails to you which threaten to do certain things. I’ve had people threaten to call the attorney general on me for a bad review of their product, for instance.
Ah, good times. 😉
Sometimes, people will express dissatisfaction with something you send on your email list and they’ll threaten to unsubscribe. My response? Help them do it. 🙂 Honestly, that just tells you they’re not the right person for your business anyway. It isn’t as if they’re doing you a favor by being on your list. If they don’t want to be there, show them the exit.Sometimes, people will express dissatisfaction with something you send on your email list and they'll threaten to unsubscribe. My response? Help them do it.Click To Tweet
If you get threats about calling the news media, reporting to the BBB, or some other agency, you can pretty much ignore it. In almost every case, they’re just blowing smoke in order to try to get a response. It doesn’t mean that you ignore the fact that they emailed you and they’re mad. You treat it like any other complaint. When people are mad, they often say irrational things. So, just look past it and evaluate it with an even keel.
What If The Negative Comment Is Out In Public?
This is often when people get the most worried about complaints is when it is out in the open. Will it hurt business? Will it affect what people think about you? Should you just delete it and go private with it?
As a general rule, you will make things worse if you delete the comment. For instance, a company I work with recently got themselves into a little PR jam because they handled a price increase pretty poorly. In the resulting reaction, they ended up banning one of the figureheads of their Facebook group from the group because he tweeted his dissatisfaction. The fact that he was banned caused even further PR damage and ultimately they reversed it, re-joined him to the group, complete with a pretty lame excuse for what happened that likely wasn’t even true. In the end, it just looked really bad.
People will usually make assumptions to fill in what they don’t know. And often those assumptions will be against you. They’ll assume the worst.
So, when a negative comment is in public, I say leave it there and respond to it in public. Be honest and transparent.
Did they say something snotty in a blog comment? Well, if it is a real comment from a real person, leave it there and reply to them.
Did they say something snotty on Facebook, Twitter or some other public forum? Leave it there and reply to them.
If what they say is incorrect, then correct them. If it is a customer complaint, handle it. Be polite and write your response knowing that others may read it that aren’t part of the transaction. Use it as an opportunity.
One Last Thing…
You are the owner and founder of your own blog and your own business. And guess what… you get to run it the way you please. You get to say things the way that you please. You get to do business with who you please.
Own it. Be confident in that. You always want to be fair and treat people well, but never lose sight of the fact that you are in charge.
There’s the old saying that says “The customer is always right.” Well, guess what… sometimes the customer is just plain wrong.There's the old saying that says 'The customer is always right.' Well, guess what... sometimes the customer is just plain wrong.Click To Tweet
The idea that “the customer is always right” carries with it the connotation that you must do whatever it takes to please them, to placate them…. no matter how unreasonable it may be. And that’s a rather large load of BS, to be frank.
All transactions are voluntarily. They can choose to read your blog, interact with you, or do business with you. Likewise, you get to choose who you work with. If you get yourself into a mindset where you feel you need to grovel for whatever you can get, then that’s not a mindset that will lend itself to success.
Always do what is right in your business.
Always treat people fairly and seek to over-deliver.
Always create the best content that you can and try to help others find meaningful solutions.
And, be willing to correct course if you got something wrong.
If you do all that, you’re in the right and you’ll do just fine. And for those rare cases where you might get yourself a person with a chip on their shoulder, you just let it roll off and treat it accordingly.
Besides… the fact that you even get complaints at all means they’re paying attention. So, well done! 🙂