No matter how flawless your customer service practices are, you will inevitably be faced with an unhappy customer who may post their feelings online. Now potential customers that have never even been exposed to your product or service may opt to use a competitor based on one person’s negative review. Unfortunately for many small business owners, you’re not alone. Nearly half of adults in the U.S. say their Google search results are negative.1 We also know that has a grave impact on the customer experience: 88% of consumers admit that online reviews have influenced their purchasing decision.2
The reviews we receive greatly affect how customers view the business, and as such, should be handled in a particular way, whether they’re negative or positive. While we hope all our reviews are positive, there will come a time when you will have to manage a negative review. Here are a few ways you can diffuse the situation and control the outcome of the customer’s experience.
1. Regularly Monitor Reviews
A timely response is the first crucial step to managing the problem. A slow apology or latent solution gives off the impression that their satisfaction is not a priority to you. Instead, have a system in place where you are aware of reviews right away and can address any issues within 24 hours. You can enable notifications for some review sites, but others you will have to manually check. If that’s the case, set an appointment for yourself at the same time every day, much in the same way you check your email. Taking small moments here and there can help prevent bigger issues later on.
2. Understand the Problem
Read through the complaint and make sure you completely understand the problem before you respond to the review. This step is not always as straightforward as you may think. When you’re reading online reviews, you don’t have the benefit of hearing the customer’s tone of voice or seeing their body language. You have to interpret the complaint as written, which, depending on how emotionally charged the review is, can be a major challenge. Is it the product itself that disappointed? The range of products available to meet their needs? The employee that helped them with the purchase? The possibilities are endless.
If the negative review is straightforward, answer accordingly. If you can’t quite decipher what the customer really needs, don’t be afraid to take it offline. Respond to the review with a request to follow up via phone or in person so you can clarify the issue at hand. That way, other potential customers will see you’ve responded to the complaint and you can get to the bottom of the problem with the current customer.
3. Use the Feedback
Just because the review you received is negative don’t mean it’s without merit. Instead, reflect on the issue from start to finish. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Does this problem occur frequently? Why?
- Could this problem have been addressed before the customer even entered the store/received the service?
- How can the product improve?
- Could the employee have prevented this issue or solved it?
- How could the customer’s experience have been better overall?
- What went poorly during the customer service follow up? What went well?
- How can this problem be prevented in the future?
Use these take-aways to help improve the aspects of your business that need it most.
4. Remove Reviews That Go Too Far
The majority of your negative reviews will probably be based on a poor experience and are worth addressing. However, there may come a time when the negative reviews are just inappropriate and should be removed. In most cases, the easiest way is to ask the customer to remove the review themselves. In the case they refuse, you can reach out to the customer review site. Most of them will only remove negative reviews if the information within the review is blatantly false, attacks an employee, is defamatory or is otherwise offensive.
Remember that there is a benefit to addressing negative reviews publically, so only opt to remove the reviews in severe situations such as these.
Negative reviews don’t have to tear down your business. See them as an opportunity to get to know your customer base better, see your business from a different perspective and make strides forward.
1Erskine, R. (June 19, 2017). Have negative Google results? Here’s how long It takes to push them down. Retrieved July 12, 2017, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/ryanerskine/2017/06/19/have-negative-google-results-heres-how-long-it-takes-to-push-them-down/#3af18fc824a9
2Chany, P. (March 23, 2015). 10 ways to deal with negative customer reviews. Retrieved July 13, 2017, from http://www.practicalecommerce.com/10-ways-to-deal-with-negative-customer-reviews