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Dealing with negative reviews- a masterclass in customer care

With so many of us now turning to sites like TripAdvisor or even Facebook to determine where we eat, shop or buy, getting positive reviews on these sites is vital, particularly when it comes to generating new customers. So what happens when you get a negative review? You may worry that from a marketing perspective, a negative review could scupper your chances of success. How you deal with the impact a negative review may have on your business can provide an opportunity to demonstrate a masterclass in customer care.

Firstly- accept that negative reviews happen

Burying your head in the sand isn’t going to make that review disappear. Many websites won’t allow you to remove reviews, and deleting all your other reviews to wipe the slate clean is rather like cutting off your nose to spite your face. Dealing with the review promptly and professionally can send a powerful message to every other customer who is watching and waiting to see how you respond (and believe us, they are watching). Take a deep breath, and write a courteous, public reply, offering the complainer the opportunity to speak with you directly to address the situation.

Should I respond?

Yes. Always yes. But how you respond is important too. Getting defensive, argumentative, aggressive or listing reasons why the customer is wrong won’t instil a sense of confidence in your other customers. Being human, apologetic (if the situation calls for it) and empathetic demonstrates that you want to make amends. Also- bear in mind how fast you respond also has an impact. Did you know that when complaining via social media, over 40% of customers expect a response within the hour! (Side note: Automating your responses can be helpful here- if done correctly. Speak to us about how best to do this.)

Take it offline

Once you have responded publicly, it may then be best to take the issue offline and reply privately via email or with a phone call. The impact that a personal contact can have with someone who is unhappy can be enormous- it shows that you care, that you’re taking their concerns seriously and gives you an opportunity to rectify any issues. If there is weight to the complaint or negative review, this is your opportunity to offer them a discount or voucher. If you’re able to resolve the issue to your customer’s satisfaction, a brief comment in the public timeline to state “We’re delighted we were able to resolve this issue to your satisfaction” shows to those watching that you have taken proactive steps to rectify the issue.

What if the review isn’t true?

We know the trolls aren’t lurking under bridges or in dark caves anymore- they’re out there, sat behind their keyboards and unfortunately, the damage a keyboard warrior can do can be severe. If the review is defamatory or vilifying, do ensure you take steps to have the review removed by the site in question. If the customer has made a personal attack on people, rather than the problem itself, if they use profanity, are spiteful, or offer non-constructive feedback, respond professionally but don’t allow this to worry you. Most of your loyal customers reading the review will see it for what it is.

Take it seriously

Most people don’t go out of their way to deliberately defame or damage your reputation- they simply have an issue or concern and want to express their opinion. Again, if their concerns have merit, it may be a positive opportunity for you to look at that area of your business and identify areas that would benefit from improvement. Informing your customers that you are “taking active steps to address any issues in this area” is again a powerful, positive message that as a company, you care about the service you offer.

Remember also that stress often manifests itself as displaced anger- your customer might just be having a bad day, so taking a step back and considering the customer’s perspective before you respond is important.

Are negative reviews bad?

Negative reviews are inevitable, and as your business grows it’s likely that the number of negative reviews you receive will grow too. This is because your business can’t be the right fit for every customer- and often a negative review comes from someone who wasn’t the right fit for your business. Businesses make mistakes- it happens, we’re all human. But how you recover from that mistake is an opportunity for growth- and can actually help you build a stronger relationship with your customer than you’ve had previously. Marketing professors McCollough and Bharadwaj call this the “service recovery paradox”: The result of a very positive service recovery, causing a level of customer satisfaction and/or customer loyalty even greater than that expected if no service failure had happened.

Mistakes happen, and it’s impossible to avoid all mistakes- however, if you take advantage of the opportunities these mistakes present, you can ultimately build a better relationship with your customer.

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