Business

How to Address Misinformation Shared by Customers

Some customers love sharing their opinions and while they can be helpful, they can also be harmful if they’re misleading. As the expert, it’s your responsibility to respect opinions while correcting the misinformation.
Photo Credit: ATA

Author: Jackie Holbrook

Customers have access to a lot of information. Sometimes it feels like information overload. That’s why manufacturers and archery shops serve an important role not only in providing customers with equipment and services, but also in being a reliable source of information for customers to trust.

Customers look to you, as a professional within the archery industry, as an expert. This is a big responsibility. It also means it’s your job to ensure customers receive good information at the shop and online. This can be tricky when well-meaning customers start swapping stories during league night or spread wrong information on your social media platforms.

Here are some tips for addressing misinformation shared by customers.

Monitor Your Social Media

Some businesses have a love-hate relationship with social media platforms. They generate brand loyalty, create conversation and get the word out about events, specials and new products. Customer engagement on social media is a great thing. But it’s important to monitor what people are saying.

Sometimes commenters go rogue. This can include bullying and spreading misinformation. Unfortunately, people might associate these comments with your brand. Always monitor discussions on your page. While it’s important to allow your customers to express their opinions on your page, good and bad, there are times when it’s necessary to step in. This can look like replying to a comment, ending the comment thread or deleting comments. There are cases for all these approaches, but it’s important to understand the proper context for using each of them.

If you see a misleading comment on your page, reply directly to that comment. Politely address the issue. Explain why the information is incorrect, as succinctly as possible. Brevity allows you to convey your message in a way that’s easy for people to read. It also ensures your message is on point. Don’t veer off topic. Cite your source for your expertise. For example, if a commenter is encouraging unethical shot placement, you could direct them to the National Bowhunter Education Foundation’s bowhunter education curriculum, which discusses ethical versus nonethical shot placement. This can help you spread proper information while showcasing that this information is not opinion-based but rooted in knowledge from the experts on the subject matter. If the commenter continues spreading misinformation, you can use social media settings to end the ability to comment on the thread.

It’s a better practice to address misleading comments than to delete them. This shows you’re engaged and willing to have a conversation. Deleting comments is viewed as censorship, and people don’t like that. They appreciate when brands and companies are transparent. Deleting comments could give the impression you’re prone to hiding things like negative reviews or feedback.

Still, there are times when deleting comments is appropriate. If a comment crosses a line like name-calling, includes profanity or is highly political, delete the comment and send a message to the author about why the subject matter was deleted. You can also take it a step further. If the commenter’s behavior is inexcusable, you can block that user from future commenting.

Having a social media plan in place that includes what type of content to post and how to respond to comments can help create a clear vision of how to handle these types of incidents.

Reference your own experience when talking about topics you're well versed on. Photo Credit: ATA

Reference Reliable Sources and Personal Experience

If you work in the industry, you’re likely an expert for several reasons. Maybe you’re a lifelong hunter or a competitive archer or have been in the industry for decades. When customers come in with questions, find a way to cite your knowledge as you offer insight. For example, when addressing a hunter’s questions, share your own experiences from the field. Offer personal examples of how you’ve used equipment or experiences you’ve had.

There’s a polite way to sneak in your credentials when addressing misinformation. Never sound braggy or like you’re a know-it-all. However, it’s appropriate to cite your expertise. For example, if a customer is trying to give another customer bad advice about shooting form, reference being a certified instructor with training in teaching the fundamentals of archery form.

To validate your advice even further, you can direct people toward additional expertise that you’ve used to boost your own knowledge. For example, for information about hunting ethics and safety, refer them to the NBEF’s hunter education curriculum. If they have a question about rules, tell them what you know, help them find the answer in the state hunting regulations guide and give them a copy from your shop.

Make sure your tone doesn't make it sound like you're just trying to make a sale. Photo Credit: ATA

Tone Matters

How you say something is often as important as what you say. The tone sets the stage for how the conversation will progress. If people think you’re pushing an agenda like a sale, they may be less receptive to your advice.

If you overhear bad advice, you need to decide if it warrants immediate intervention in a conversation. Or you might choose to approach the customer later to have your discussion and offer a correction. You could say something like, “I overheard the advice you were given earlier, and I’d like to offer up my perspective based on…” You don’t have to call out the other advice as bad; just offer up your insight based on your expertise.

If you’re in a group discussion where advice is given that you find misleading, politely disagree. Once again, don’t call out the other information as bad or misleading; instead, offer your counterpoint and base it on your expertise. This is a situation where people can sometimes get defensive if they feel like they’re being individually “called out.” This is something you want to avoid if possible. Always remain calm if the conversation escalates and try to avoid an argument. You can firmly disagree without arguing. Remember, your job is to remain professional and an expert. You are, after all, representing both yourself and, more importantly, your business in these conversations. Remain firm in your correction, especially if it’s a safety issue.

Stepping in and giving customers the right information positions you as an authority. It shows the customer you’re committed to their success.

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