How to Maintain a Positive Online Community Environment

No one goes to a party to have a bad time, so don’t invite anyone to join a lackluster community. As online community manager, you are tasked with making sure that everyone is happy. This is no easy feat, given the different types of online personalities. Still, it’s important that a good time is had by all.

You’re going to have to deal with customer issues; there’s no getting around it. Some people are going to be less than cooperative, too. For a few, it’s more about making noise and making you look bad than rectifying the situation in a positive, productive matter. Still, community managers have an obligation to keep things positive, no matter how difficult the other person is trying to be.

Here’s what you can do when you have to deal with negative customers:

  1. Listen.

    Is a community member making a complaint? What is being said? If left, even for a little while, the situation can escalate, especially if the member has a clique of friends backing him up. Follow the entire conversation to see where it began and what led to the complaint or public outburst.

  2. Reach out.

    Offer to discuss privately via phone, instant message, or Skype. Listen to the other person’s story without being judgmental or confrontational.

  3. Take action.

    Do what you need to do to rectify the issue. You may need to handle it yourself or get another person involved, but do what it takes to get this customer satisfied and confident again.

  4. Follow up.

    Don’t rest on your laurels. Follow up and make sure that the situation was handled to the other person’s satisfaction. If it has been, wish her a happy day and move on. If it hasn’t, do what it takes again. And follow up. Again. Lather, rinse, repeat as often as necessary until there’s nothing more to be done.

This four-step process accomplishes a couple of things. By taking the conversation private, you’re keeping animosity or negativity out of the airwaves. This keeps bad issues out of the public eye, but also makes the customer feel as if she’s receiving personal care. Also, negativity has a way of spawning more negativity. If you take an issue private, you’re discouraging trolls and “me too-ers” from joining the party.

Also, by handling the issue immediately, you’re not sweeping it under the rug. You’re giving your customer faith and loyalty in the brand. By following up, you’re showing the customer and other customers that person may talk to that you’re seeing the issue through until it’s resolved.

The more people who view you and the company you work for in a positive light, the more positive and productive your community will become. Both you and the brand will be seen as caring, and your community numbers will only go up.

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