We’ve all faced some form of negativity as an entrepreneur. I won’t sit here and tell you that it becomes more pleasant or easier to swallow, but you can change your mindset. We cannot control what other people say or do, but we can control how we react.

In this blog, I will address some common forms of negativity that both I have faced and members of the Vine Vendor Network have faced, plus give you some tips on how to react in these situations.

Negative Reviews

  • Just received a negative review? Stop, take a breath, and take your fingers off the keyboard. Our first reaction may be to lash back, especially if the negative review is false, grossly exaggerated, or particularly scathing.
  • Once you’re calm, ALWAYS write a response to the review. Here are two examples – the first to address a specific product/service, the second to address a negative review out of nowhere:
    • “Thank you for your review, [name]. We appreciate you taking the time to offer your feedback. We are sorry to hear you had an unpleasant experience with [product/service], but we are happy to work with you personally to resolve this issue. Please send us an email at [email address] so we may work together to fix this right away.”
    • “Thank you for your review, [name]. We appreciate you taking the time to offer your feedback. Unfortunately, we are unable to locate your order in our system. Kindly email us with your order number and specific [products/services] you had an issue with at [email] so we may address it appropriately.”
  • The key is to be kind and respectful. Buyers EXPECT negative reviews – it actually builds your product’s authenticity because not everything will fit everyone. Don’t worry, consumers are much smarter than you realize and one negative review amongst a sea of goldens will not bear much clout PENDING you respond respectfully. People will read how you respond and take note of that as part of your customer service.

Bad-Mouthing Your Brand

  • If a customer is bad-mouthing your brand in writing (such as social media), use the same process as though it was a negative review.
  • If you hear about a customer bad-mouthing your brand in speaking, simply reply with: “I’m sorry to learn that [customer] has had a poor experience with us. I will certainly follow-up with [customer] to learn more about the issue and work with him/her to resolve it.”
  • If another business is bad-mouthing your brand, address that business directly through email or a phone call. Express calmly and honestly (without naming names, if that’s the case) your disappointment in this business’s practice of bashing. You may get firm here – explain that you expect the negative comments to stop immediately or you will be forced to take it to the next level.
    • If this does not stop the bashing, I recommend you contact a lawyer to create a cease-and-desist letter for slander and/or libel. Your lawyer will advise you on the next steps from that point.

Friends or Family

  • Friends or family may have negative things to say about you or your business and this can come in a variety of forms:
    • Don’t agree with your business venture. (This type of negativity may actually be stemming from a place of concern for your well-being – you’ll know.)
      • If you know you have a great idea and a full business plan, simply thank them for their concern and reassure them that you have done your homework before engaging in this plan.
    • Don’t agree with the way you conduct business.
      • Thank the person and leave it at that. You do not have to conduct business with anyone who doesn’t like the way you conduct business – they are just not part of your tribe.
    • Always offering “suggestions.”
      • Thank the person for their idea and if you have a definite reason, explain why it will not work for your business.
      • If you don’t have a definite reason, state that you will “take it under consideration.”

Event Commentary

  • Sometimes people make negative comments about your business while at events. This can be in the form of criticizing your pricing, your display, your ingredients/materials, or anything else while at an event.
    • Do not react to the statement with your initial defensive gut. It may take some swallowing-of-pride, but kindly address the direct criticism, for example:
      • “I understand you find [product] to be too expensive. Our product is [list what makes your product superior] and that’s why it’s valued at this cost.”
      • “I understand your concern about the materials/ingredients of our products. We use [material/product] because it produces [quality/safe, etc.] results.”
      • “I’m sorry to hear you’re unhappy with our display. Do you have any suggestions that would create a better customer experience?”

The key point to remember with all negativity is that these people are not your tribe. Unless you feel their commentary actually has validity for your improvement – and frankly, sometimes our worst critics are our greatest drivers to success – then do not waste your time or energy on the negativity. That is not your customer, he/she is not your tribe, and anyone who will try to knock you down is not worth the investment. Simultaneously, you never know who is listening or watching and that negative experience may become a positive one all depending upon your reaction.

Kristen Fusaro-PizzoPresident

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