Reading negative reviews on your Facebook page or website can feel like a punch to the gut. However, as much as we’d love all our reviews to come from happy customers, this simply doesn’t happen. Today’s generation of customers can and will talk about your products and services, take pictures, share information with others, or create a negative buzz about your brand, sometimes even without good reason.
With the speed and fluidity of social media, customer complaints can quickly fly around and affect your business reputation in one way or another. While most customer feedback may be real, some may be outright false. This can be shocking and pretty disheartening, to say the least.
Once you get over the initial shock after reading negative reviews about your business, you can find a silver lining and lessons from such incidents. If you don’t know how to do that, no worries. For your convenience, this article summarizes 13 key points on how to handle negative reviews correctly to minimize the negative effects.
1. Listen Carefully
If you want to stop the problems right at the onset and, at the same time, use the opportunity to build a lasting relationship with your clients, you’ll first want to listen carefully. In cases where angry customers may not want to speak to you directly, you will have to track all your mentions, branded URLs and hashtags to ensure you don’t miss any critical feedback from dissatisfied customers.
2. Know When To Respond – And When Not To
Many online entrepreneurs have realized that responding to both positive and negative feedback can offer perfect opportunities to strengthen your brand and to create better relationships with customers. However, there are some comments that are better left untouched. For instance, any feedback that is meant to troll you with sexist, racist, or outright derogatory comments deserves no response.
There are ways to address these types of comments without directly responding to them. For instance, you can include comments about the things that are considered as violations of your online community terms in your ’About Me’ section. You can also indicate that you reserve the right to remove comments that are not consistent with your terms, such as messages with vulgar, inappropriate, or discriminatory content.
Of course, you have to be careful about deleting comments. You could easily provoke even more anger or elicit additional negative feedback in more numbers and vitriol. Virtually every social media platform allows you to report derogatory content; find out if this can work for you. Of course, you can always choose to hide some selected feedback and reduce the potential for additional conflict.
3. Understand Your Customer’s Viewpoint
You may not always agree with what a customer is saying, more so when they’re talking about your business, product, or service. There’s no problem with expressing a different viewpoint as long as you are considerate about your customer’s emotions and divergent opinions.
When reading a review, try to figure out what the customer was thinking when writing. For example, if there was downtime on your website when a customer was making a purchase, the problem faced may not entirely be your fault and yet your customer will be cross. The best way to handle negative feedback is to begin by understanding the customer’s emotions other than just the obvious facts.
4. Admit Your Mistakes
Taking ownership of a problem is a key principle in handling negative customer feedback. When you own up your mistakes, you’re convincing people that you’re not the type of company that can’t or won’t take criticism. According to The Customer Rage Study conducted in 2015, at least 37% of aggrieved customers became satisfied when offered a monetary remedy. However, when the company offered an apology along with the credit, customer satisfaction jumped to 74%.
Still, there is an exception to this rule. If your company did not do any wrong, you have absolutely no reason to apologize. Of course, you can empathize by saying that you feel sorry that things may not have worked out as expected and then clarify why you’re not to blame. This will show that you are defending your ego, but that you want to let your potential clients know that the negative feedback does not reflect your product and service quality.
5. Respond Promptly, Politely, And Publicly
In this age of instant communication, response time matters more than ever. Common Service Level Agreements can fall anywhere between a few minutes to several hours depending on a range of factors such as the industry, your business falls, your team, specific events, and peak times. In any of these cases, one factor that is increasingly standing out is that rapid response time is quickly becoming the standard public expectation.
According to Edison’s study, ‘The Social Habit,’ at least 42% of customers who express their displeasure via social media expect a response time of no more than 60 minutes. At the same time, when dealing with sensitive issues such as emotion-packed complaints, you’ll want to respond earlier or risk giving the impression that you are ignoring customers.
Although negative reviews can be frustrating, they are generally good for business simply because they are free publicity. Never be rude or aggressive in your responses; this can severely damage your online reputation. Also, be as professional as possible, whether you are replying publicly or privately. No matter what the customer claims, do not express personal comments.
We cannot deny the fact that some negative opinions can bring up emotions that may lead to stern responses. However, you need to steer clear from expressing anger in any response you give. Customer management is all about collecting your thoughts and replying in the most decent way to the worst of critics.
6. What To Include In Your Response
It is essential to package your response in a way that a customer feels you heard them and respect their opinions. As a result, restating their complaint is an excellent way to start. You may want to start by explaining why a problem occurred when a customer was making an online purchase. You do not want to imply that you’re making an excuse for the bad experience. Whether you were short-staffed or had an issue with your system that day, the customer doesn’t care to know. Giving excuses may also give the impression that you don’t want to own your mistakes.
Instead, be sure to highlight your strengths. Let your displeased client understand that you have served thousands of customers successfully. Let them know you have been in business for many years. Then, offer a solution regardless of the cost.
For instance, if your customer had a bad experience with your product, you can recall the product and provide a full refund. Although it may cost you a little money and time, making your customer understand that you value them is priceless. This is one of the best ways to retain a dissatisfied client as they will know that you will fix any of their issues in the future.
7. Take The Claim Further
Whenever you get some negative feedback, try responding publicly as much as possible. If you leave negative feedback on social media unanswered, other prospective clients may think you are shying away or simply ignoring a complaint. Such actions may taint your reputation and turn potential customers away.
However, there are a few claims that cannot be solved publicly, for instance, in a situation where your customer’s personal data may be at risk. In such cases, you can respond publicly to the feedback by asking the reviewer to send their sensitive information (credit card number, order number, address, and so on) privately so you can follow it up. This shows that you’re doing your best to resolve their problem and that you’re taking steps to protect their personal information.
In most cases, asking publicly for a direct message is much more helpful and genuine than a generic reply such as “call/ email us for assistance.”
Always remember that your response aims to convince customers to give your product or service another shot. It is, therefore, indispensable to see where they’re coming from, meet them where they are, and provide an appropriate and immediate solution. For instance, if you direct customer complaints or comments through a complex customer care system, you are never going to win. Identify the best solutions for every feedback and be quick about resolving issues.
8. Show Some Concern
Did you know that reviews help in raising your search engine rankings? In addition to that, they help you gather valuable feedback about your product without spending money on a survey. This is one of the most important reasons why you need to acknowledge and express gratitude for every feedback that you receive.
Inform your reviewers that you are investigating their issues and that you will keep them posted on the steps you are taking to mitigate similar problems in the future. The right approach is to make up for your mistake by offering an invitation for them to accept something such as a free service or a gift coupon for their next purchase.
With a polite and contrite response, you can actually influence an angry reviewer to change their feedback or, at least, give your business another shot.
9. Offer Some Form Of Help
Negative reviews are crucial for fine-tuning your customer service. You can use such reviews to create a list of Frequently Asked Questions that can eliminate the confusion or issues that your negative reviewers have expressed. Negative reviews can also help step up your staff training. Map out the weak links and let your training team know about these so that they can train your staff to go above and beyond in the areas of concern.
Furthermore, you can also use negative customer reviews in your social media platforms to create content that can offer quick solutions to recurring issues. This content can be in the form of helpful tips or links that include the details of your products or services.
10. Tweak Your Staff Training
When you have limited channels through which customers can relay their feedback, they’re going to use social media to express their displeasure. You can quickly avert the possibility of receiving negative reviews by paying keen attention to your customer inputs and by meeting their needs. For example, if you’re running a fast-food service and your servers attend to your customers quickly and cheerfully, chances are high that they won’t leave your restaurant feeling ripped off.
11. Ask Reviewers To Reconsider Negative Reviews
You could be thinking that escalating every client’s claim and attempting to resolve each one of them is enough — it isn’t. Negative reviews can still be visible long after you have resolved your customers’ issues. This is the reason you need to ask your reviewers to consider revising their feedback.
When a customer complains about your product or service and you, for instance, send them a free alternative along with a discount code, they may be quite delighted and their negative review ceases to be relevant. If this happens, it is reasonable to ask them to consider removing Facebook reviews or other negative feedback. Then, you will have eliminated a negative review and perhaps even added a positive one.
12. Stay Up-To-Date
There are many sites where customers can post their reviews about your business. Monitoring all these platforms can be overwhelming. Nonetheless, you need a proactive approach to keep your online reputation intact. Tools such as Google Alerts can notify you whenever your brand is mentioned. At the same time, you need to keep a constant eye on platforms such as Yelp, Foursquare, Bing, Zagat, and Open Table, to mention a few. If you can, try and hire a team of dedicated professionals to manage your feedback streams.
13. Build Online Credibility
An effective way to build your online credibility is by including positive customer testimonials and reviews on your platform. If you don’t have a methodical way of collecting feedback, you can track your positive mentions on social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and include them on your website.
Finally, cultivate an environment where positive reviews can thrive by ensuring you meet customer expectations in product quality, customer support, and product delivery times.
Customer feedback provides many opportunities to understand your customers’ expectations and needs. Since there is no such thing as perfection in business, negative comments cannot be entirely avoided. Keep in mind that not all negative comments warrant a response, but when they do, handle them proactively. Consider each negative review as an opportunity to demonstrate your company’s dedication to addressing customer issues with empathy and transparency. The key points summarized in this article can help you get started.