How to deal with very negative users / feedback

  • 20 June 2018
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Every community needs a little bit of drama sometimes, this is very normal. Dealing with very negative users however can be extremely challenging for moderators. Ignoring them will usually not be the best choice, as it indirectly could confirm their point of view. It usually is the better choice to address negative users and their feedback. Even if you might not be able to convince this user, it will most likely improve the situation: Many other visitors will read your response and appreciate the fact that you are addressing this. This will benefit your own reputation on the community as well as their perception of your brand.

Below I have added some situations which you might encounter while moderating the community. None of these tips are the ultimate solution, however they hopefully will guide you on the way to a better handling of this type of feedback.

First things first: be there for your users

If a user is (repeatedly) very negative on your community, he will have his reasons. Nobody will sit down and invest time and energy for nothing. Ask yourself:
  • What does the user want to achieve with his negativity?
  • Is there something you can do directly to ease his pain?

If you understand yourself as a Mediator between the company and the customer, you will be likely to have a more efficient approach towards dealing with user feedback. Not just that you can help your colleagues to improve the products, processes and services, but even more you can teach the user a few things about your company. Most of them will appreciate to have a transparent, in-depth view on how the things actually are working.

I am convinced that you will be able to counter a lot of negative feedback on your community by simply listening to them, and ensuring them that you are aware of their feedback. Often enough users just want to get their point of view recognized properly. I have had it many times myself that a user will be much more friendly and understanding after I have responded to it.

General negativity by users:

When a user shares a very negative experience with your support / website:
Try to find out what caused this experience. Was it a bug on your website, or a current limitation? Are you already working on a fix for this? Be as transparent as possible in explaining the reasons behind it. By putting the user experience in context, you will be able to show him how this could happen. Ideally, you will also be able to show that his experience is not the same experience that other users are having.

When a group of users is complaining about certain aspects of the product / missing features:
It is common that the feature requests are outweighting the capacities of your product team. It is unrealistic to expect that 100% of the requested improvements can be realized.

Ask yourself:
  • Do you happen to know why certain improvements cannot be realized in the near future?
  • Do you think you are able to communicate these reasons?
Often it can help to sit down with the colleague / team who is responsible for this, and try to find a good way to communicate. Of course your PR / Marketing department might also want to be involved in finding the right words for you. Don't be afraid to escalate these topics to them: You can make a difference for your users, when they are really worried about something, then your colleagues also need to know about it.

Negative feedback on moderation action:

Private messages about Moderation actions:
After you moderated a topic and notified the user about it, you might receive a private message where the user will try to discuss the legitimacy of your moderation action, or asking for a proof where the user broke which rule exactly.

It is perfectly fine to give this information to the user. Simply copy/paste the conflicting part of the comment into your reply (or describe what he said in case you have deleted it already), and add the exact part of your guidelines which this comment was in conflict with. Also link to the terms & conditions page for reference. After that, do not engage in further discussions.

Discussing moderator actions in public:
Should a user try to discuss your moderator actions in public, delete it right away. This will undermine the credibility and authority of you and your colleagues. Should you not specifically mention in your terms and conditions that it is not allowed to discuss moderator actions, I really recommend adding this as soon as possible.

Some additional tips

Long public posts, short private messages
A longer reply will restore the trust of your user (and those who read it), as they see that you invested time to sit down and reflect on the feedback. While answering private messages though, it might be the better choice to either re-direct to the public community for further discussion, or keep your reply as short as possible if you don't desire to continue the discussion. If you send a lenghty reply to a private message, expect a long reply back.

Show empathy
This does not only include the mandatory "sorry to hear that" message, but should also include that you show that you can relate to how they feel. E.g. say that you also would be frustrated, disappointed, etc. in his/her situation.

Promise improvement
You are the public advocate of your company. If you surprise them and show that you actually do care (something that most regular users will not expect), then your users will appreciate and remember this. This will not just stimulate the user to come back to the community in the future (as he has experienced genuine, real engagement from the company here before), it will also have a positive effect on his perspective on your company in general.

Forward their feedback
Even if you think you might not be able to change something with it, let the responsible teams know about the negativity around that subject. It happens more often than you might expect that they come back to you with something that your users will like to hear. Tip: Use the Post Field Analysis to track, collect and report on what your users are complaining about exactly.

If you are having questions, worries, or even specific situations where you need assistance, please let us know here!



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