How well do you manage negative customer feedback?
Sure, you record complaints, pass information on to key staff members and may even put a process in place to ensure that the incident never happens again – but what if the feedback is online for all eyes to see? How can you ensure that your reputation remains intact?
“In an era where customers feel empowered and have reviewing platforms at their fingertips, even the best business can be face the brunt of a disgruntled customer,” says Fiona Adler, founder of Australia’s business review website, WOMO.com.au.
“Learning how to minimise the consequences of less than positive reviews, and turn them on their head to work in your favour, is the key to effective reputation management.”
Adler has created an online forum which currently attracts customer reviews every five minutes, adding to its 300,000+ reviews daily.
Here are her tips to respond to negative reviews online:
1) Don't panic!
The moment you first become aware of a negative review is not the time to respond. “Yes, you should reply and address their feedback quickly, but you need to make sure you're in the right mindset,” Adler says.
“For business owners, it's very easy to take any criticism personally as it can feel like a personal attack. Keep the review in perspective and don't take it to heart.
"Remember that it's only one person's experience and everyone understands that things can go wrong - even for the best businesses.”
2) Respond publically:
Adler explains that even if you know the customer, responding publically is a great idea as it gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your business' values and showcase your concern for customers.
“You should comment on, or reply to, the review and apologise unconditionally, while still showing others the best sides of your business," she says.
"Remember that potential customers will be reading your response and forming opinions based on what you do when things go wrong."
3) Be gracious and keep your cool:
This can be tricky so take a deep breath and think carefully about what you're going to say.
“Even if the reviewer seems to be making unfounded claims, don't lash out, get personal or argue against their review," Adler says.
“Remember, this is one of your paying customers."
4) Offer to make amends:
“While you can allude to this publically, I suggest that where possible, you contact the customer directly with some sort of offer to resolve their issue or compensate them for having a bad experience, whether you think their grievances are legitimate or not," Adler says.
“This could be in the form of a refund, a free service or product, or some type of special treatment on their next visit.
"With proper handling, often an unhappy customer can turn out to become one of your most loyal fans."
5) Take feedback on board:
“No, the customer isn't always right, but if you get a similar complaint several times, chances are you should do something about it," Adler says.
"If something's broken, you need to fix it. So get your head out of the sand and work out what it would take to address the problem.
"Customer reviews are basically cheap market research so use them to your advantage."
6) Address dubious reviews:
Adler advises that if you doubt that a review is from a real customer of yours, or believe it to be factually inaccurate, avoid making your feelings public as you'll only sound bitter.
“Flag the review as "Inappropriate or Suspect" to the host website and explain the reason for your suspicions, they should be able to investigate directly,” Adler suggests.
7) Encourage other reviews:
“The more positive reviews you have, the less impact each negative review has," Adler says.
"Rather than let one negative review attract all the attention, ask some of your happy customers to share their experiences online."
Has your business suffered bad reviews? How did you react? Tell us your experiences below