If you’re wondering whether you should respond to negative feedback on social sites such as Facebook and Yelp, there’s only one thing you need to know. According to a , last year nearly seven out of ten consumers (68%) who wrote a negative comment on a social networking site received a response from the retailer. Here’s where things get interesting: after receiving this feedback, one out of those seven went on to become a more loyal customer or purchase additional products; two of the seven went on to write a positive review, while another two went back to delete the negative post that they’d written.

This essentially demonstrates that merely responding to criticism on social networking sites is an effective way to create customer loyalty, produce positive reviews, manage negative reviews, and sell products. If none of this appeals to you, perhaps your time is wasted on social media. On the other hand, if those benefits do sound appealing, you already understand how imperative it is to respond to negative feedback. In this light, it’s easy to see negative feedback as little more than a business opportunity.

How to Respond

Figuring out what to say to appropriately address grievances isn’t easy, and that’s why there are so many common mistakes made in how businesses approach the issue. Here’s a short list of all the fundamentals you need to know before responding to criticism online.

Respond Quickly

According to one study by , a quarter of all customers expect a social network response within as little as an hour, while one out of twenty people expect a response in less than ten minutes. Of course, how fast you can actually reply depends on the constraints of your industry. However, suffice to say faster is better.

Don’t Sound Like a Computer

Sticking to scripted responses is a good way to somewhat politely deal with a large volume of customer service, but unless it’s otherwise unavoidable, don’t choose a script as part of your own social media management strategy. While it’s a good idea to follow a guideline to stay positive and try and mend whatever problem the consumer has, the moment your response comes across as contrived, you’ve lost your reader.

Provide Information

The standard “we’re sorry” response is better than no response at all, but it comes too close to a scripted response to be compelling. In effect, a quick apology is worse than a somewhat delayed response as long as that response contains the substance necessary to answer the consumer’s question or problem.

Honesty is the Best Policy

Don’t give excuses. If you’re at fault, own up to your mistakes. If you’re not at fault or otherwise lack a compelling explanation, apologies and reassurances are the next best thing. Keep in mind though that the more information you can provide with those apologies and reassurances, the better.

Personal Attacks

While it’s easy to take negative comments personally (especially if you’re personally invested in your business), it’s crucial that you don’t. The Internet can be very impersonal in a way that guarantees you’ll receive at least a few very volatile remarks. The most constructive approach to the problem is to reinterpret negative comments as just another form of customer feedback that can help you understand things from the customer’s end.

The Customer is Not Always Right

If you do find that the customer is wrong, the politest way to defend yourself is to stick to the facts. Suppose a customer was to write a review for a pair of high quality headphones wherein he explained that the material they were made from felt cheap. Apologizing obviously isn’t the correct response. But suppose instead that the manufacturer offered a quality-driven reason for why they chose that particular material. That’s a solution that manages to remain professional while also fully addressing the complaint of the customer.