People talk. They always do, and they always have. How you respond to it as a business (if you should respond at all) depends on the nature and severity of what people are saying, and who is saying it.
Your response to it should be essentially from two angles, and the first part will probably be painful: Take heed to the comments and actually make some changes, as needed. Then, directly interface with the people who are saying those things to address whatever problems they have with your business.
Here is a pretty good action plan for dealing with bad feedback.
Step One: Decide to Handle It
First and foremost, don’t take the easy way out and just ignore negative comments. Mind you, what I’m referring to here is not just a random, one-off comment from an individual once in a while. You can probably ignore those.
What you need to pay attention to is when a bunch of people are making the same complaint. Even if they were all wrong, which isn’t likely, the head of the business still needs to face them because if you don’t, you risk that negative feedback becoming stronger and hurting your business.
What are They Telling You?
Though it may not seem like it, these people are actually doing you a favor. Whenever you have multiple people confirming something that they don’t like about what you are doing, that is basically free advice. Now you know how to improve… or at least look into it.
It’s a golden opportunity to work out kinks in your business. They are holding up a mirror for you to see what you’re doing wrong, and you should take a good look.
Facing the Music
When you see those negative comments come through, don’t hesitate to bring it out in the open. To address it, to acknowledge it openly and tell the people how you’re going to fix it, is to deprive the negativity of all its fuel.
You might be saying that you’re now going to give customers exactly what they’re asking for, or explaining why the complaints have no merit, but either way, that is how you will squash it.
The moral of the story is that you can’t hide from negative word-of-mouth, and you can’t ignore it. Actually, you can, but nothing will improve if you do. The seemingly innocuous complaints can quickly morph into a public perception of your company that is no longer in your control. The best course of action is always to confront your customers’ feedback, not to ignore it.