Criticism can be difficult to take, especially from a customer. But for any business to survive, negative comments must be addressed, and promptly, no matter how they’re received.
Word of mouth used to spread to only a handful of people—usually the customer’s friends and family. Now, customers can broadcast their experiences to the world via social media, amplifying the reach of your company’s service, good or bad. This can also lead to additional publicity when social media messages go viral.
A strategy for handling public complaints should be part of any integrated marketing program, especially given the growing number of new media channels for customers to air their grievances. The fact is, negative reviews can be seen as valuable opportunities to convert unhappy customers into enthusiastic brand evangelists.
Here are eight principles to keep in mind in order when dealing with bad online reviews.
1. Don’t Delete or Fake
Deleting negative comments only infuriates the disgruntled, causing them to redouble their efforts and vitriol. By the same token, don’t try to write your own positive reviews. Review websites can find out when someone is writing multiple positive reviews for one business. Eventually you’ll get found out. That would be negative.
2. Respond Promptly
Your customers are living at Internet speed, always plugged in and connected. The longer it takes to respond to a negative (or potentially false) representation of your business, the more time it has to spread. Then the proverbial genie is out of the bottle.
3. Show You Care
When you get a negative comment or review, don’t ignore it. Reply respectfully and sincerely. But rather than emailing privately, use the same forum in which the negative remark was received to post your response publicly. Show other readers and prospective customers that you are listening and acting accordingly.
4. Take Serious Complaints Offline
Once you’ve responded publicly to let everyone know you’re addressing the situation, take the details offline. After apologizing, ask the customer to email you so you can resolve the matter. This helps to protect the privacy and dignity of both sides and reach a more positive outcome.
5. Monitor the Conversation
You don’t have to subscribe to every blog or forum to see what people are saying about your company online. Sign up for Google Alerts. It’s a free service that notifies you with an email alert every time your name or any other key phrase you specify is used on the Web. People pay big money for focus groups to get the kind of consumer opinion that’s now available free online.
6. Make It Right
Acknowledge the mistakes. Apologize—even if it’s not your fault. Then make it up to the customer somehow. This is the opportunity, the chance to exceed expectations with a huge potential return on investment. Do whatever it takes to turn that frown upside down.
7. Bury the Bad
If you don’t have a website, LinkedIn profile, or any social media presence, then any negative reviews have a higher likelihood of rising to the top of search results. By consistently generating your own positive online content through blog posts, press releases, videos, and social networks, it’s possible to bury the negative results further down in the listings.
8. Watch for Trends
One bad review could be a fluke or an off night for someone. Or it could be an early warning sign of an operational problem. Investigate the incident carefully. Ask open-ended questions of your customer to learn more than they may have been willing to write in a public forum.
Last modified: July 17, 2017