Customer feedback comes in all shapes and sizes. Good, bad or downright ugly, it’s unavoidable.
The days of customer complaints being a private matter between a business and a disgruntled customer are well and truly over.
Social networks like Facebook and Twitter, and a myriad of websites such as Yellow Pages, True Local, WOMO, Google+ or Yelp, give customers a chance to share their experience with almost anyone in the world.
Potential customers are looking at these sites to make decisions on which companies they will do business with.
And a few scathing reviews can cause more grief for a business than scores of glowing references from happy customers.
A recent survey undertaken by Dimensional Research found:
- 66% of B2B and 52% of B2C customers stopped buying after a bad customer service interaction
- 45% share bad customer service experiences via social media
- 90% of participants’ buying decisions were impacted by online reviews, with 86% influenced by negative reviews.
Today, dealing with negative reviews is critical to building a successful brand.
The adage “the customer is always right” is even more true online. Ignoring customers who complain publicly is not an option. Antagonising them could be catastrophic.
But Forbes Top 10 social media influencer Ian Cleary won’t entertain complaints that are abusive or get too personal.
Here are six sure-fire strategies to deal with negative reviews:
Seek them out
As outlined above, there are numerous places where reviews may pop up.
Likewise, get familiar with the various industry-based review sites the business may be associated with, for example, Urbanspoon for restaurants and cafes or Trip Advisor for hotels and accommodation.
Read and think
Once a negative review has popped up, think about what the customer is complaining about.
Don’t respond right away, take some time to think over the event or discuss the issue with the relevant staff involved.
Of course, don’t leave it too long, and try to respond as soon as possible.
Don’t ignore… Or worse, delete.
The customer has taken the time out to write a review, this shouldn’t be ignored.
A head in the sand approach just inflames the issue.
Worse still, never delete a customer’s comment.
This can lead to even more negative feedback and dissatisfaction.
Be calm and professional
While negative complaints can sting, try not to take them personally.
Remember to respond as a business, so keep the tone of the response appropriate to the company’s brand.
In an interview with Entrepreneur, Yelp local business outreach manager Darnell Holloway said: “Think about what your customer service policies are for face-to-face interactions and apply that same logic to your written response.”
Don’t argue over minor points or be rude, irrespective of how unfair the comments are.
Acknowledge, apologise and solve the problem
If possible, try to respond to the complaint on the review site. Only use private messages if there are no other ways to contact the reviewer.
This ensures that others can see the response to the customer’s issue.
Don’t give standard copy and paste responses. This can make customers feel fobbed off or that their complaint isn’t valid.
Let the customer know that the mistake has been noted. Apologise where appropriate, instead of offering excuses for poor service.
Focus on the positives of the business and explain that complaints are not common or representative of the company.
Offer a solution to the problem, whether that is a refund, a new product/service or a discount on their next purchase.
According to Jans Vels Jensen of econsultancy: “Goodwill goes a long way in winning repeat business… by making amends you’ll be more likely to get their business again.”
Be thankful and learn
Be thankful for negative feedback. It shows customers care enough about the business to make a complaint.
Use the complaint as a learning experience to create new processes to avoid bad feedback in the future.
It’s important to realise that responding to a poor review and rectifying the situation can often produce a better outcome than a positive review.
Similarly, one review isn’t going to be the end of a business, nor will every negative review be resolved.
“You won’t hear back from every person you reach out to, and that’s OK,” says Holloway. “If you regularly implement feedback from your reviews and engage diplomatically with you customers, you will be in a much better position over the long term.”
Keep these tips in mind for a better experience when dealing with negative reviews. Or speak with one of our social media consultants for help with managing social media customer engagement.
And if all else fails, why not take inspiration from New York sandwich shop JoeDough, who after a negative review put a sign outside their shop that read: “Come in and try the worst meatball sandwich that one guy on YELP ever had in his life.”
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