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Why You Shouldn’t Fear the Negative Customer Feedback in your Community

5 minute read

June 15, 2022

Having spent so many years building communities, I sometimes forget that some topics never die. One of those is the fear of detractors. Those not familiar with having an open, authentic and transparent brand as they explore branded communities are sometimes fearful of the prospect of unhappy customers voicing their concerns publicly, or in other words; negative customer feedback. 

In a recent blog post, I discussed the importance of community feedback and how much your customers appreciate it. In fact, 88% of buyers agreed with the statement that: "I appreciate companies that provide a shared space for customers to provide feedback and share experiences." 

So community feedback is important to your customers, and to the development of your solution. 

I recently presented at a tech conference and spoke to the value of community and the prospect of creating a community-centric hub. The senior team of a brand at the conference 100% bought into the value of community for their organization, but one pressing question was left: there was a looming fear of negative customer feedback.
 
“We don’t want negative conversations about our product in our community, so what are your thoughts on moderating all comments and removing all negative comments?” 

This is not the first time I have heard this concern, but I was surprised by the brand it came from, and it made me wonder if there were more companies struggling with such concerns. For the benefit of you, them and community builders everywhere, let’s review what you need to know about negative customer feedback, detractors and “keeping your community clean.” 

 
Do not moderate every post  

The main thing you need to know is that only in a few exceptional cases should moderating all comments be used. Indeed, light moderation for new members may work in your case, but that’s not what I am referring to. I mean companies who have a plan to moderate every post.   

This is a bad idea and a fast way to kill your community activity. Moderating all comments actively kills conversations and communities. The speed of your manual review thwarts the natural back and forth of discussions. Even if automated - moderation tools are meant to look for spam, not to protect your feelings from an upset customer. 

The protections are there 

In most B2B communities, there is no need for such complete moderation. The reason for this is you should set (or plan to have) these protections from the start: 

  • Accounts are tied to individuals via SSO (single sign-on) and have details related to their business accounts. Members are not anonymous individuals leaving comments.  

  • There are some common guidelines in the community on how customers’ feedback should be shared – with a clear expectation it’s constructive. 

  • There is an active community manager or a trained person who understands how to engage with negative comments – beyond deletion

  • There are processes and playbooks for the team to handle, escalate and respond in a human, transparent and authentic way

If not here, then where?

I think the most significant error I see in those wanting to prevent negative comments in their community is that it will happen regardless. If not in your space, they will go elsewhere, and not seeing it on your platform doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.  If anything, it will go somewhere that you likely have less control and less specific customer data to respond appropriately. 
 
I have rarely seen the worst-case scenario that most executives imagine ever occur in a B2B community. However, if your concern is that a community will turn into a large toxic place full of negative feedback, maybe the issue isn’t your community. Could it be that your company is not listening to customers and providing feedback?  
 
The only time that a community will turn to such a consistent negative space will be because there are deeper issues way beyond the community, and therefore it is just a reflection of more significant problems. 

Why should you allow the negative in? 

If I leave you with only one takeaway, it’s the following: “people trust their peers more than a brand.” More importantly, we know from our research how potential customers will look at your community not only to see what customers have to say but also at how you react.

You also need to give your potential customers credit; they will recognize a lack of negative or constructive feedback in a community. People are not stupid. If they happen upon a seemingly perfect community and negative commentary in an outside space, they will quickly understand that your brand is not open to criticism or feedback. This is not a good look, especially when openness and collaboration are key trends and differentiators. Overwhelmingly customers are turning towards companies who really listen. 

 

If you’re ready to let your community have a real space – review the checklist shared on the protections noted earlier, and you’re prepared to embrace the power of community. 

Check out our survival guide to help you get through the rest of your community heartburn! Download it for free here!

Community Manager Survival Guide

 

Community

Adrian Speyer

Written by Adrian Speyer

Adrian Speyer is the Head of Community and Lead Evangelist for Vanilla by Higher Logic. Besides spending many years in digital marketing, Adrian has been building communities of all sizes for over 20 years.

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