19 Apr Help, haters attack! How to deal with the online image crisis?
In everyday work, we face many challenges – we save patients, support their owners in difficult moments, solve dozens of clinical riddles, we deal with ever higher requirements of our clients. So why in the face of a negative comment on the web (Google or Facebook), or worse – the attack of haters, do we feel as if it was the end of the world? The last thing you should do is block your fanpage. Do not get overwhelmed by one negative opinion. All the more so if it is undeserved or someone deliberately tries to destroy your reputation.
Don’t take it too personally
The most difficult part of the whole process is not to treat such opinion personally. Many veterinarians are highly sensitive people, prone to criticism and very worried in the situation of a personal attack. Remember, someone is dissatisfied with the service because his expectations have not been met. The fact that they happen not to be clearly stated is another matter. The trick is to understand that the client is not angry with you, only that the veterinary services provided by you are not satisfactory. Do not let that person completely destroy your perception of yourself. Research shows that many veterinarians lose a sense of control and self-esteem in contact with an angry customer.
Don’t feed the troll
Along with the expansion of the Internet, the conviction that we have an easy access to everything and we can express our opinion on every topic has increased. We can participate in discussion groups, Internet forums, exchange opinions, discuss, recommend, advise, etc. In many cases anonymously, which gives a field to act for so-called “trolls”. A troll is none other than a person who aims to discredit our actions, arouse controversial discussions and feed on our wrongs that he wants to cause. Trolling is considered to be an anti-social activity that aims to offend or ridicule the interlocutor.
The troll’s goal is to get attention and create confusion. Through his malicious insults, he wants to draw us into a barren discussion and undermine our authority. Trolls tend to be disappointed and dissatisfied customers, dishonest competition or people specially sent by them. It is not difficult to imagine how their behaviour can affect our image on the web, so you should know how to effectively defend your clinic against them.
How to recognize a troll? This person has his point of view, for example, a false image of a visit or treatment of his animal, which he will defend to the very end and against common sense. He will try to discredit us at all costs, without realizing that he denies himself, is inconsistent, and sometimes denies his own theses. He often operates under a pseudonym, because he does not want to reveal his real name. He makes it difficult for others to make statements, insults them, repeats himself and uses a strong language. A troll writes chaotically, uses numerous exclamation and question marks, writes in capital letters. Instead of sharing his negative experience with a visit to our clinic and naming what upsets him, insults and challenges members of our team and throws invectives on the entire clinic.
The best technique to deal with the troll is to completely ignore him. In practice, however, this is rare, because fans of our Facebook page almost always will enter the discussion with a troll making the situation even worse. “Don’t feed the troll” it is said nowadays, that is, absolutely not to enter into any dispute with him.
Delete a comment or not?
Sometimes the client is simply frustrated and resentful and decides to express it on the Internet. In this case, such comment is not worth removing, and you can answer it calmly. By giving yourself time to cool down, analyze the situation and provide a reliable, sympathetic, compassionate and understanding answer. However, if we sense that we are dealing with a troll whose sole purpose is to discredit our clinic, or to create confusion (eg about the patient we treat – internet users love to express aggressive opinions about negligence made by the owners of the animal) you can hide in a very easy way. Just click the three dots to the right of the comment and click “hide.”
Then such comment will be invisible to other users, and the commenting person will not know about it. However, in situations where, there is the use of hate speech, intentional insults and the use of vulgar language, we have the right to delete such comment and give the reason why we did it. At the time of repeated aggressive actions on the part of a particular user, we can block him or report him to the Facebook team for analysis. In practice, such accounts are temporarily or completely blocked. (note by the author: I also reported online hate, which was positively considered by Facebook).
Haters gonna hate…
So how do you distinguish a hater from a troll? Often, these terms are used interchangeably, but they do not mean the same thing. A hater is a person who expresses aggressive and hostile comments. He uses hate speech, criticizes us and our clinic. His goal is to destroy our reputation, but unlike the troll – he does not try to focus attention on himself. Hater often envies us for our achievements and his goal is to point out all our stumbles, flaws and shortcomings. He feeds his low self-esteem with our mistakes and lurks only for the opportunity to criticize us. This constantly dissatisfied malcontent is potentially our competition, which envies us for success, hard work and the fact that we can simply do better than him. What to do? Do your own and not get upset 🙂 Do not ignore the haters because the criticism should be the driving force for our action and the provision of even better services. By carefully looking at such an exaggerated comment, maybe you can also consider whether something wrong is really going on? This is a great opportunity to analyze the problem and think about what you can do to make our clients love us even more.
Be a professional
Remember that something once uploaded on the Internet will stay there forever. Well, unless we remove our comment right away, but there is always a chance that someone else will take a screenshot. The person who left you a negative opinion/comment is under the influence of strong emotions. Do not let this overwhelm you and cause your nervousness, anger, regret, etc. The last thing you want is an escalation of the conflict (colloquially functioning under a different name 😉 on your clinic fanpage. Believe me, the use of a very formal tone in which you bring all medical counter-arguments based on a status-quo of the case will not help you at all, but only harm. They can be picked up by other observers for heartlessness and extreme formalism, and yet we do not like such perception as veterinarians. This will only result in a barren discussion, the involvement of other Internet users, and the conquest of such a negative review up the list of our opinions, due to considerable commitment under the post. They are our competencies and self-confidence, but most importantly, COMPASSION and UNDERSTANDING, that will help us keep our face and get out of the situation. Do not forget that everyone has an insight into this discussion – your co-workers, friends, colleagues, competition, parents (yes, if they have Facebook, they follow your actions 🙂 and most importantly – clients and potential clients). Think about what impression you make on them and whether they will want to use your services after reading your answers.
Win the battle
Monitor the discussion, but know when to let go. It does not make sense to give out more than two answers, especially if you have a negative comment. Remember about compassion, competence and responsibility. Try to address this person privately, especially if you know the client and you have his contact details – the phone call and the invitation to mediation in the clinic will be the best solution. Resolving disputes on a public forum, especially regarding the treatment of the animal or dissatisfaction with the service is unprofessional and will be badly received by the others. Also scaring articles or accusing you of lying will not bring the desired effect. If you are amongst those who always have to be right and have the last word – unfortunately you have to give up this habit, otherwise, you have a dead end. Endless online disputes do not lead to anything, they only harm our image. We do not want to go out as overconfident and argumentative, right? In controversial cases, it is best to choose a person from the team who will take care of responding in a given situation and with a cooler judgment will take away our responsibility. Our emotional reactions will only make matters worse and will not be conducive to resolving the conflict. Not saying any further comments in the discussion is not a personal defeat, just a quiet saying “no”. An invitation to direct contact and offline conversation will be the best you can do. In a situation where you are faced with threats or legal liability – contact your lawyer and ask for mediation in the so-called “real world.” Unfortunately, there are still few cases in the courts related to cyberbullying in Poland, while those that appear rarely are considered positively, due to the lack of financial losses or threats to the health and life of the plaintiff.
Extinguishing the fire
Although social media crises are short-lived, they can have a significant impact on your well-being and team spirit. No one wants to be persecuted publicly, and destroying our reputation online can affect the decision of a potential client about choosing a different veterinary clinic. If the situation gets out of control, and the problem overwhelms you and does not allow you to function normally – look for the help of a specialist such as a qualified therapist. Do everything to protect your well-being, mental health and self-esteem.
Social media have their own rights and our reputation created thanks to them is key to our existence in the industry. It is social media that is the real leverage of marketing and should be our ally. Building a dedicated, local community of customers who will be our online supporters significantly helps in responding to hate and trolling. While caring for the high quality of the offline relationship on the veterinarian-owner line also builds loyalty, it translates into leaving a positive online review. Do not be afraid to ask trusted and satisfied customers to leave us a comment, or “stars” on Facebook – it is thanks to them that our credibility on the web grows, and the potential client will decide to visit us sooner. Remember, bad opinion ≠ bad clinic! Customers also tend to have extreme polarization – we rarely see 2/3/4 stars on fanpages, usually 5 or (fortunately, much less frequently) 1.
Also, the nature of the response to negative comments and reviews will influence whether the owner wants to treat his pet in our clinic. This is a great opportunity to demonstrate our competences, communication skills and show that we are empathic, animal-loving specialists who care about the satisfaction of their clients. The preparation of an action plan in the most common cases, eg customer dissatisfaction with waiting time, medical costs, client misinformation etc., will allow easier and calmer reaction in the future in the similar situation. They can be quickly and easily modified and used in a similar case. Make sure that the whole team follows the guidelines we have prepared and that the flow of information between employees is smooth. If clients regularly evaluate us negatively in relation to the same issue, eg with a long wait time or being uninformed about the additional costs of treatment at the right time, maybe it is worth considering whether there is some truth in this matter and changing something in our ways? 🙂
And what if we were attacked by hates?
Author: Natalia Strokowska DVM MRCVS