Negative customer reviews can happen even to businesses with top-notch customer service. Mistakes will happen from time to time; and unfortunately, social media makes it possible for a disgruntled customer to quickly tell lots of people when something goes wrong.
However, a negative customer review doesn’t necessarily signal disaster. It may seem counterintuitive, but getting a couple of negative reviews every once in a while can actually create trust with customers. Too many stellar reviews can make your business appear fake. Shoppers understand that no business is perfect – and your response to a negative review offers an opportunity to demonstrate that you truly care about your customers.
By following these steps, you can transform a negative review into a positive experience.
Step 1: Respond Right Away
To keep a negative review on social media or another public site from adversely impacting your business, respond promptly. You may not yet comprehend what went wrong – or whether you’re just dealing with a demanding customer. At this point, it doesn’t matter either way. Publicly acknowledge their feedback and advise them that you’re looking into the matter. It’s essential to address the situation with urgency in order to stifle the complaint before it goes viral.
The proper response can even turn a negative review into a positive one! Data confirms that 33% of negative reviews on Yelp take a positive turn when a business makes the effort to respond to a dissatisfied customer.
Step 2: Follow Up Discreetly
Issuing a public apology helps safeguard your company’s reputation. Once you’ve posted a heartfelt apology for others to see, attempt to get to the heart of the matter in private. Contact the individual via phone or by using a free app like Clover Feedback.
If you choose to communicate by email or direct message, bear in mind that anything you say in response can readily be saved as a screenshot and re-shared. If the customer is still unhappy, it’s important to let them voice their concerns in private where you can address them directly.
Step 3: Support Your Staff
Mistakes happen. As a small business, your employees are in the trenches every day, representing your brand to your customers. When a complaint is lodged, your staff needs to know that you are going to back them up. This could involve providing additional training on how to handle dissatisfied customers, establishing a complaint policy, or immediately handing off negative reviews to managers (or to yourself, as the business owner) to lighten the load for your team members.
Keep an eye out for “constant complainers” or “barnacles,” two particularly prickly types of customers who can turn a situation toxic quickly. These customers enjoy airing their grievances, regardless of whether they’re valid or not, in order to try to get a discount or a freebie. When you confront one of these customers, take the high road. Do what you can to rectify the situation, and then move on.
Step 4: Make It Right
Customers take satisfaction in supporting small businesses, due to the fact that they routinely establish personal relationships with you and your staff members. Because you’re most likely acquainted with many of your regulars, you’re ideally positioned to personally and genuinely resolve a negative review.
Determine the quickest, best way to remedy the immediate problem. This typically involves either returning an item, replacing it, or providing a discount. Acknowledge that you value this individual’s loyalty; empathize and engage with them in a way that sets your business apart from the dispassionate customer service centers at most big-box retailers.
“Apologize for and explain the situation, issue a refund (if applicable), and offer an additional benefit for sticking with you. Have a set strategy for specific problems, but personalize each response. Great customer service can turn unhappy customers into brand advocates. Poor service does exactly the opposite,” says Carlo Cisco, owner of FoodFan.
Step 5: Prevent Future Negative Reviews
Lastly, take advantage of this bad review as an opportunity to improve. How can your business function better, assist customers more efficiently, or enhance communication? Establish formalized procedures, such as a refund policy or return policy, and review them often. Role-play with your team members and coach them on how to respond to an irate customer face-to-face. Implement a system or tool where customers can provide feedback directly, as opposed to on a review site such as Google or Yelp.
In essence, a negative review should be seen as a gift. It demonstrates that your customers are fond enough of your brand to go to the trouble of leaving you feedback. Even the worst reviews can end up being positive experiences, if managed properly.
Do you need help engaging more effectively with your customers? HighClick Media can help! Our brand development specialists are ready, willing, and able to help create a comprehensive brand strategy which connects your business to your audience. Our social media marketing strategies can help elevate your business by increasing its website traffic, brand awareness, and customer relationships.
Reach out to us today at 252.814.2150 or drop us a line here!
An earlier version of this article appeared here.