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There will always be times when you will be unable to answer a question or come up with a solution to a problem that has been posed by a client or customer. How you handle this situation is extremely important.

If dealt with correctly -by asking forgiveness – by a representative from your company, such situations can actually help your brand rather than hinder it.

How you handle such situations is crucial because word-of-mouth marketing still plays a key role in the potential success of a business. People like knowing a business is honest enough to admit to a mistake or admit to not knowing always knowing the answer. This honesty is even more important in the world of social media – customers will often use it as a means to communicate to the world about some issue they have with your business. Ignoring these issues will reflect badly on you.

It only takes one
It is important to remember that it can take years to build a brand and its reputation; however, it only takes one disgruntled customer to undo so much of that work in a matter of minutes.

What follows are a number of tips on how to deal with such situations whether you are the actual business owner or merely an employee who is the voice of the company.

How to act professionally and kindly
The first tip is to make sure you use the correct phrases in your reply. Always ensure you word replies perfectly – it will be seen by people on sites such as Facebook or Twitter. You need to do more than just tell them you are sorry, but don’t come up with something long-winded that sounds like an excuse. Do also consider using warmer terms such as “forgive me” rather than the more robotic “I apologize” as people tend to throw that out automatically.

The second tip is to react quickly – speed of reply can really boost how your brand is viewed by others and will even impress the person posting the problem or asking the question. By being quick to acknowledge a mistake or a genuine inability to solve a problem, you are showing that you treat every customer or potential client with the utmost respect and there is no doubt that other people will then have more respect for your brand or business.

When you really don’t know
At times, you may wish to buy yourself some time to actually get an answer or solution, but only do this if you are sure you will be able to do so without it dragging on for a number of days. If this is indeed the case, then inform the person that you will look into it and get in touch. When you get that solution, ask for their forgiveness for not knowing the answer immediately. By being humble, your business and brand will then be seen as more welcoming to customers. If you show a willingness to learn, you will find, through word-of-mouth marketing, more people will appreciate you rather than view you as cold and uncaring.

Never rise to any attacks on the brand in an aggressive way – this will cause so much damage it will then be irreparable. It is essential the person who is going to be representing your brand is someone who is calm and does not lose his or her temper easily. Such a job requires a level head and the ability to make the most out of what appears to be a potentially bad situation.

By being brave enough to say, “forgive me” to customers, by admitting your mistake or lack of knowledge in a particular area, you make a good impression. By ignoring comments left online – which could be viewed by large numbers of people – you will weaken your business by letting people think you don’t care.

Maria Elena Duron, CEO (chief engagement officer), buzz2bucks | a word-of-mouth marketing firm, is skilled at making networks “work” and harnessing powerful online and offline buzz. She facilitates online visibility services and word-of-mouth coaching and workshops – taking companies and professionals from buzz-worthy to bucks-worthy,

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