The Art Of Giving And Receiving Online Comments

There's an art to giving and receiving comments that few take time to learn. An article published in the most recent edition of Harvard Business Review could have easily been titled "The Art of Giving and Receiving Online Comments," but the authors or editor chose to title it "The Art of Giving and Receiving Advice." One thing is certain: when the exchange goes well, both sides benefit. The person commenting provides an opinion, and the receiver gets valuable feedback. As the headline suggests, there's an art to giving and receiving. Flawed logic, limited information, background and culture can sway a comment one way or another.

Comments are a gift. They provide an inside glimpse into a person's thought process, acceptance and anger. Those open to guidance, and not just looking for validation, develop better solutions to problems than they would on their own, per the authors. While Harvard Professors David Garvin and Josh Margolis discuss the art of advice, the alternative perspective in comments provides a very important point of view not only for authors, but for brands and retailers, too.

The authors provide guidelines for each stage of advising that could very easily apply to online commenting, from thinking you already have the answer to defining the problem poorly because you read the article or misjudged the product. Discounting opinions in comments without offering a viable solution presents lost opportunities to educate readers. Since our experiences define us, sometimes people fail to interpret or treat responses as valuable input in an ongoing conversation where both parties learn to improve a situation. Instead they criticize. They criticize. And they criticize without offering positive feedback or alternative solutions. It happens all across the Web. 

It's important to develop a shared understanding and not offer self-centered guidance. Provide enough information for readers seeking knowledge to grasp the issue. Consider all the options.

Sometimes it takes technology to monitor comments and recommendations. At the MediaPost Search Insider Summit earlier this month, Sears Hometown & Outlet Stores CMO David Buckley told attendees the company uses a platform from Yext that captures comments verbatim and star ratings identifying specific stores when the review occurred. The information helps the retailer learn from its customers. Nordstrom, now willing to pay for reviews, asks its customers to write a comment for a chance to win a gift card.

Sears Hometown & Outlet Stores follows a protocol to deal with constructive feedback. If the customer had a subpar experience with the retailer, "we'll move mountains to fix it," Buckley said. Rather than funneling off the issues to a customer service desk, the comments go directly to the retailer's management team that is responsible for the specific store and who have the ability to solve issues. "We wanted to follow the exact same approach for online reviews," he said, explaining how the reviews and comments become part of the company's culture, rather than a "social media thing that lives in its own silo."

The reviews are communicated, measured and tracked for resolution the same way the company responds to survey feedback, quickly and efficiently. It meant training the staff and adding in-depth response guides that address the technical nuances of different platforms the company monitors. There are technical differences between the channels for contacting a customer on sites like City Search, Yelp or Facebook, he said.

Look for the positive. As the New Year rolls in, perhaps we can all do a better job at offering comments and advice.

"Guy kissing his girlfriend while giving her present" photo from Shutterstock


6 comments about "The Art Of Giving And Receiving Online Comments".
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  1. Neil Mahoney from Mahoney/Marketing, December 30, 2014 at 3:37 p.m.

    Offering comments and advice in a better way is important, but even more important is the promptness and quality of the response that the providers of the products or services give to the customer.

  2. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, December 31, 2014 at 2:13 p.m.

    Not so sure I agree that my right to comment on something requires a quid pro quo of any kind beyond the response itself. Are you proposing that absent an alternative or solution one should keep criticism and opinion to oneself? That's like saying "If you don't have anything constructive to say, don't say anything.". Stated another way, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it only wastes everybody's time and energy to suggest it's anything but a duck, the chickens among us notwithstanding. The good news is bloggers like you have the courage of your convictions and are willing to risk your opinions in the open market -- a decision that you freely make only in full acceptance of letting the chips fall where they may. Remember, for any meaningful dialogue to ensue, it has to start somewhere.

  3. Rick Noel from eBiz ROI, Inc., January 1, 2015 at 10:25 a.m.

    Happy New Year Laurie! Comments should always add something to the conversion. Offering solutions of value works best in my experience. I agree with Neil that the promptness and quality of the customer response is super important. Here's to an outstanding 2015!

  4. Violet Weed from SGVWT LLC, January 1, 2015 at 5:15 p.m.

    Well having just stated on a Wordpress support forum that I thought wordpress was not the 'be all end all' solution for robust ecommerce sites, and immediately getting FLAMED for making that comment, your email with this article showed up at just the right moment! :) I believe that commenting on articles/posts online is the same as it would be in the physical realm: TELL THE TRUTH AS YOU SEE IT TO BE. End of story. If you think something is good or effective, say so and give a point or two as to WHY you think that. DITTO FOR THE FLIP SIDE.

  5. Laurie Sullivan from lauriesullivan, January 2, 2015 at 12:50 p.m.

    All, thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy New year! Here's to a progressive 2015, where we all learn from each other. Keep them coming.

  6. Tara Crow from Resumarea, May 25, 2016 at 2:14 p.m.

    Sweet suggestion. I do believe that sincerely sharing attention is the best way to get noticed as well!

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