There is a lot of advice out there on how to deal with negative comments online from your customers - typically it comes down to apologizing and offering a solution, just like with any medium through which complaints may be lodged. Yes, it might be more public than an angry phone call, but it isn't a particularly jarring process. But what about if an employee complains about your business? Or one of your affiliates grinds an axe online? How do you approach that situation in a way that doesn't get you on the news, as the Chicago Association of Realtors unfortunately could not avoid?
1. Don't answer anything until you meet with the person
We tend to be pretty quick on the draw when it comes to social media. You see something you disagree with, and the first response you'll have is to answer it. But trust me when I say that this is a bad idea. You don't want to engage with a person regarding something that could potentially damage your brand or company over the internet. It's far too impersonal, and it's too easy to say things that you'll later regret. So take a step back, and wait until you can meet face to face. And, while you're at it, make sure your social media employees do the same thing - they'll likely be the ones who spot the problem first.
2. Don't immediately fire anyone.
Again, there is a tendency for knee-jerk reactions in these situations. It is very easy, and might even be feel a bit good, to call someone who badmouthed your company online into your office so you can fire them. Don't... at least not yet. Present the evidence you have, and ask them to explain themselves. If they can't, or refuse to, then think about terminating the relationship. The main thing to remember is that you want to avoid bad press, and press is very attracted to these types of situations. An angry employee that was fired immediately after writing something online might make for a very attractive story. But if you opened the path to reconciliation, and they still refused to say they were sorry and undo the damage, there isn't a clear-cut bad guy anymore, and that makes for a less interesting piece.
3. Clean-up if necessary.
Protecting your brand, your business, and your other employees need to be at the top of your to-do list. So if things are looking a bit negative, and you have to do some clean up, go for it. Libel and slander, even when it is online, is still libel and slander. You can request that any comments that can seriously damage your company's reputation be removed. You simply have to remember to do it with a soft hand - the goal is to minimize the fallout, not give fodder to the local news to run a special about you. As with all things, remember to be courteous and polite with anyone you talk to from the site, and fully explain the situation. You'll get a lot farther than you will with an angry e-mail, no matter how many exclamation points you put into it.
Negative comments are always a pain to deal with, and the problems only compound when those comments come from an employee or associate of your business. But by remaining calm and patient, it is possible to fix things with only a small amount of noise.