It has happened to all of us in email marketing or with a web presence; you turn up one morning and there it is, the one star review. The irritation is, whether the criticisms are justifiable or not, a certain amount of damage has already been done. You need a plan to limit the fallout and, if possible, get some benefit from it. So you should:
1/ Do something immediately
And that something is to wait before responding with anything other than a palliative. Google ‘Streisand effect’ if you think otherwise. If you go into defensive mode without investigating with an open mind, then an apology further down the line will make things much worse. Further, an aggressive rejection of what the person has posted might well put off potential subscribers. Whilst someone considering signing up to your email marketing list might hesitate on reading the criticism, an abrupt response could convince them to go elsewhere.
Another consideration is that one of life’s big disappointments is not coming up with the perfect reply. “If only I’d said . . .” is a very sad thought.
2/ Respond quickly
Not quite the antithesis of the point above, but leaving a complaint to fester only makes it worse. Avoid trying to justify your actions, or point out that the complainant is wrong. Post a: ‘Thank you for your comments. We will look into the circumstances at once and reply as soon as we have done so.’ A holding statement must say little, and should neither accept nor deflect blame.
Whether you continue the matter on public media is up to you. You might consider that as the person has made it public then you need to publish the result via the same medium. However, if the matter is minor, you might well think it better to contact them and deal with the matter personally.
3/ Do not prevaricate
If you find you have done something wrong, and that the complainant has good grounds for criticism, admit your error as soon as it is confirmed, subject to any legal advice. Say that you will change your systems or that you are investigating alternative methods. As long as the wording of the criticism wasn’t abusive, now is the time to thank the person for bringing it to your attention. If one or two points they raised were incorrect, highlighting these can be seen as petty.
4/ Defend yourself
If the person is entirely in the wrong and there is no substance to their complaint, then ensure that this is made clear via the original medium. However, do not go for the jugular, nor make them appear foolish, tempting though this is. Remember that your potential customers will be reading this and they will remember the tone when deciding whether to subscriber to your email marketing list.
5/ Use the criticism to improve
Even if the complainant was utterly unreasonable in their accusation and tone, what it shows is that somebody is dissatisfied with your performance. Work out why this occurred and improve your systems or product. After all, you do not want a second or subsequent person reacting in the same way.