The 5 Types of Online Complainers and What You can do About Them

What could be more discouraging than working all day to build trust and excitement about your company, then seeing your company bashed and its execs persecuted online?

You will hear me say again and again that in our business, trust is everything, and in many cases that trust can be severed in an instant by internet “commenters” with too much time on their hands.

One of the most pernicious challenges in our industry is the advent of “complaint sites” and discussion forums dedicated to serving as supposed advocates for the downtrodden consumer.

What most direct selling companies don’t know is these sites are optimized by legions of programmers to ensure that the (mostly) negative comments hit the company’s search radar whenever anyone looks them up. For the most part, they are aimed at driving huge amounts of traffic to sustain an often sizable income from internet advertising.

What’s an honest direct selling company to do?

Well it turns out there are some things you can do to protect and even repair damaging forums and blogs, the focus being to try to ensure few people ever see them.

I believe there are five types of complainers, each with their own appropriate response approach:
 
Legitimate Complainers
 These folks have a legitimate gripe and, even though they may be telling the truth, the posts can still be very mean-spirited.
  • Engage the poster in an authentically helpful way.
  • Explain the problem.
  • Fix the problem quickly.
  • Report successful fix to the poster and forum.
Unrealistic Expectation-ers
 These folks are valued customers or distributors, however as many of us know sometimes they ask for a bit too much.
  • Engage and explain, as above.
  • Goal is to inform others, not necessarily fix a problem.
  • Careful of over-apologizing, capitulation could set a precedent.
Lunatics
 These are the ones who are either in it for the money, crazy or just plain unhappy with life and want to take it out on you and your company. Or all three.
  • Engaging is like wrestling with a pig; you both get dirty and the pig likes it.
  • Any response should be aimed at other readers, not the Lunatic.
  • You still may want to inform others, just be careful you do not fuel the fire.
  • Be honest and truthful or suffer the consequences when someone calls you out on it.
  • But don’t expect fairness or good intentions on your part to help too much.
  • If you respond, keep emotions out of it and have neutral parties read your response before you post it.
  • Consider legal approaches –  but very carefully.
  • Attack with SEO reputation techniques.
Former Employees or Field Reps
  • Usually easy to spot, both for the company and for readers.
  • May be worth responding, to inform others.
Press/Media
 The search engines LOVE announcements from real news agencies and government entities – which is not good news if you find your company in regulatory hot water. Be sure to:
  • Use standard PR interface techniques.
  • Ask for correction, if and when appropriate.
  • Ask the site to include or rebut with your point of view.
  • Attack with SEO reputation techniques although these links are notoriously difficult and costly to move.

Regardless of how squeaky clean you, your company, field leaders or distributors are, all companies at some point will face this issue. The best approach is to always own up, be honest, respond in a smart way, and never, ever panic.

There’s always tomorrow.

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