Businesses, for the most part, diligently work to provide the best customer service experience possible. Notice I said “for the most part”. Some days, no matter how good your intentions are, customers may have a less than pleasant experience. Maybe you just got off the phone with a supplier telling you the shipment you were promised for an urgent job today won’t be in for another week. Maybe half your staff called in sick so you’re stuck answering the phones, scheduling appointments, ordering supplies, and keeping the jobs running. So when a customer calls with their “frivolous” complaint, you sound less than sympathetic.
Today’s customers are empowered by the Internet. A satisfied customer will tell a few people about their positive interaction with your business. An unhappy customer, on the other hand, will tell everybody they know, plus they will Facebook it, tweet it, post a video on YouTube and find every reviews site they can to tell the world your business sucks. How you handle that negative review is critical to your reputation, both online and off.
The first step in the process is establishing a company policy for negative reviews. Will you answer them or ignore them? (I always recommend answering them.) Who is responsible for monitoring review sites? Who’s responsible for responding to customer reviews, good or bad?
Here are five steps you can take to help negate the impact of the poor review:
1. Keep an Online Vigil – You have no chance of turning a negative situation into a positive if you don’t know it’s there. If someone posts a bad review on your Facebook page and you don’t see it for a month, it’s too late. Use monitoring tools like Google alerts, Nutshell Mail or Social Mention.
2. Engage Brain Before Opening Mouth – Remember, your customer is emotional. They feel they’ve been wronged or cheated so it’s up to you to soothe those emotions. The last thing you want is to respond with emotion. That’s a guaranteed grease fire waiting to happen.
3. Just The Facts M’aam – Read their review carefully, looking for the facts hidden behind the emotions. Who did they deal with? What are the specifics of their complaint? Talk to your employee that dealt with the customer. Remember, they will be responding with emotion as well so don’t make it an inquisition. Step outside your owner/manager body and try to see the situation from the customers perspective.
4. Carefully Craft Your Response – Be apologetic and sincere in your answer. Defending your company’s actions will only fuel their arguments. Have someone else read over your response to make sure the tone is what it should be. Does it sound condescending or sincere? Does it sound like you’re calling them an idiot?
If possible, offer them a discount or some other concessions. Offer to discuss their issues off line and give them phone number where they can reach you (or someone in authority) easily. The last thing you want is for them to call and they get put on hold, get shuffled around the office or leave a message and don’t get a prompt callback.
5. Overshadow The Negatives – Negative reviews are inevitable. And negative reviews don’t hurt if you have enough positive reviews to offset it. In fact a negative review when mixed in with several positive reviews shows that your reviews are genuine. Be proactive and encourage your good customers to write reviews in places like Google + Local, Facebook, Yelp and some of the other local customer review sites. Then when a prospective customer looks at the reviews, they will see that one negative among the dozens of positive reviews as a flake, “You know you can’t please everyone”.
Ultimately, there’s going to be that one customer that you just can’t satisfy (or shut up). Remember though, this conversation is not taking place behind closed doors. There are hundreds, potentially thousands, of prospective customers watching. And those are the ones you’re after. When they see you trying your best to correct a bad experience, they feel reassured that, if they do business with you, you will bring the same level of customer satisfaction to them.
How do you handle those irate customer reviews?
Gary Wagnon is the owner of 800biz Ninja Marketing Strategies and the Ninja Marketing Dojo, a program designed to help businesses master all aspects of online marketing. The goal of the Ninja Marketing Dojo is to improve search engine rankings, increase web site traffic and convert more browsers into buyers.