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Getting slammed online? How to do damage control

July 27, 2012: 9:15 AM ET

When a scathing comment about your product or service goes viral, it's tempting to hit back. Here's what to do instead.

FORTUNE -- Dear Annie: Please settle an argument we're having in my office. If a customer posts a nasty review on a blog, and it then starts turning up all over the Internet, what's the best way to minimize the impact? I run a 20-person customer service team (half here, half in India) for a division of a regional telecom company. About three weeks ago, we ran into some glitches while switching over to a new computer system, and we screwed up a few customer accounts, which we have fixed. The problem is, somebody posted a very negative comment about us online, which, while it is vicious, is unfortunately also funny (although not to us), so it got reposted on Facebook, quoted on other blogs, etc.

This is an extremely competitive business and we take our reputation seriously. Some of my team members are really upset and want to respond by confronting the writer of this comment online and demanding he retract it. I'm not so sure that's the way to go. If we escalate the dispute, won't it just get even more attention? How do other companies respond to this situation? — Perplexed

Dear Perplexed: Kent Campbell sympathizes with your indignant colleagues. "When someone posts a nasty review online, it feels as if they had reached through the computer screen and smacked you," he says. Campbell is co-founder and chief strategy officer of InternetReputationManagement.com, whose bread and butter is resolving the very problem you describe.

MORE: Your next job: Virtual-workforce manager

He adds, tongue firmly in cheek: "I've often fantasized about developing an app that would give someone a mild electric shock when they post a mean comment. Imagine it. You'd be sitting in Starbucks and people would be getting zapped all around you." More

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