As the number of local businesses increases, the number of choices facing consumers also increases. This means potential customers need help deciding on where to spend their money.
Business reviews are increasingly becoming the yardstick for whether a new customer uses the service the business is offering. But no matter how good a company you are, you will eventually receive a negative business review from a customer. That’s just the law of averages.
When you do, it would only be normal human nature to want to push back, be angry, and retaliate. Especially if you feel the criticism is unwarranted and invalid. But that would be entirely the wrong approach and will almost certainly backfire in your face.
Today we are going to look at various ways you can deal with negative reviews, and still come out looking like the cherry on the cake.
Take a Deep Breath & Leave Responding To a Little Later
If you see a negative review online, such as on Yelp, it would be normal to want to sit down in front of the computer right away and, with the steam coming out your ears, compose a 2,000 word response on why you think the customer is a terminal idiot case.
But here’s the thing – when you’re angry, you are not acting reasonably. Logic and politeness fly right out the window, and you let emotion and anger take over. As the wise Yoda said in Star Wars, “anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering”.
So if you get a nasty review, tempting as it may be to verbally hit the person over the head with your cutting prose, it would be better instead to leave it for a hour or two. Cool off first and take a deep breath.. When you approach it again later, you will most likely be in a more reasonable frame of mind, and less likely to say something you’ll never be able to retract afterwards.
Constant and real-time review monitoring is still the best way to manage your reputation. This after all is one of the reasons why you should sign up for Optimum Feedback.
Be Extremely Nice Throughout – Leave Out The Sarcasm
When you finally do respond, the golden rule is this – be extremely nice. Remember the phrase “the customer is always right“? Well as much as you may privately disagree with that sentiment, for the purposes of effectively dealing with the complaint, that is EXACTLY the sentiment you need to adopt – they are right and they deserve meaningful recourse.
Most people complain because they feel they have a legitimate grievance, but some people complain simply because they like creating chaos. They want a reaction and a reason to keep the argument going. But if you smother them with kindness, not be defensive, and be unfailingly polite and amazing, you are cutting out their feet from under them, so to speak. You are taking away their reason to be angry and you are disarming them. Suddenly they may be thinking to themselves “hey, this guy isn’t so bad after all….maybe I misjudged him?”.
So, make no sarcastic remarks. They have a bad way of coming back to bite you up the rear. Take the moral high ground, no matter what they say to you.
Don’t Lie Your Way Out Of It – Own Up To Your Shortcomings!
If you are caught having short-changed your customer in some way, it will be extremely embarrassing being called out about it in a public review. That carefully cultivated image of always caring for the needs of your customers has just been damaged, and it may look now as if you cut corners. So the temptation to lie and disown the accusations being levelled at you might be overwhelming.
But like all lies, they are almost always nearly exposed. If the customer can prove you’re lying, and the proof is put online, you have just blown a huge hole in your reputation. You’re suddenly dishonest, shifty, and a snake oil salesman.
So don’t lie. Instead, when the customer accuses you of something, own up to it (if it is true obviously – don’t admit to something you didn’t do). Instead of running away from the potentially damaging accusation, run towards it. Take full responsibility and give the most epic apology in the history of apologies.
Customers love companies who are honest. You’d be amazed what you can get away with if you just own up to your blunders and apologize profusely.
Negative Reviews Can Be a Blessing, Not a Curse
If you were shopping around for a particular company, what would you think if there was 100 five star reviews and NO negative reviews? Is it really possible for the company to be THAT good that there was nobody who found something slightly bad to say about it? No company is 100% perfect.
A 2015 Harvard study found that the best review score was 4.5 out of 5. If the score was higher than that, customers were less likely to buy from you, precisely because of this very suspicion.
Here’s a breakdown of the study’s findings :
- The purchase likelihood peaks when the business’s star rating reaches 4.2 – 4.5 stars.
- The purchase likelihood starts dropping when the star rating reaches 5 stars.
- 58% of consumers pay most attention to the overall star rating.
- 47% consider the content of reviews to be the most important.
- 41% consider how recent a review was written as highly important.
- 87% of people would only buy from a business that has 3-5 stars.
- 13% of consumers would consider buying from a 1-2 star business.
Negative reviews ARE going to hurt your business, at least in the short term. But as an entrepreneur, you always need to be playing the long game. Negative reviews are to be seen as an opportunity.
- By having a mixture of positive and negative reviews, the negative ones give the positive ones more legitimacy.
- By having negative reviews, customers can see how you respond to criticism.
- By having negative reviews, you can see what customers don’t like about your company. This feedback is invaluable to improving as a company, by streamlining your processes.
- By having negative reviews, you can display outstanding customer service which helps greatly in the PR & Marketing departments (assuming you do it correctly of course).
Don’t Treat Your Customers Like Clueless Children
Right now my wife and I are having a bit of an online tussle with the company where we buy food for our dog. They have inexplicably sold themselves to an international corporation with an absolutely terrible worldwide reputation, and outraged customers are flooding the dog food company’s Facebook page to complain.
But the dog food company, which previously had a spotless stellar reputation, is now undergoing a bit of a serious image problem, because of the ham-fisted way in which they started dealing with complaints. Instead of taking the customers seriously and explaining things to them calmly and maturely, the company instead chose to go down the patronizing and condescending route instead.
They started implying the customers had no idea what they were talking about, that the customers have no clue about running a business, that they had their hands firmly on the steering wheel, and that basically everybody should just calm down and shut up. Predictably, customers are not appreciating being told they are imbeciles, and the PR situation is getting worse by the day.
Whatever you do, don’t treat your customers as if they know nothing. You wouldn’t like it if you were in their shoes being told that. Take their concerns seriously and reassure them.
Offer Discount Vouchers Or Even a Complete Refund
I have mentioned this several times before, as I am a big believer in this, being self-employed myself. I started a policy this month where, if I miss a deadline to complete something, I would knock off 20% from the bill. I haven’t had to do it yet – and hopefully I never will have to – but you can bet it’s something that would knock the hard edge off any complaint I may receive.
The inescapable truth is people like to receive things, whether it is freebies or money. Especially if they are not expecting them. Imagine waking up one morning and discovering money waiting for you. Wouldn’t that be an amazing feeling? Wouldn’t you agree that it would suddenly make any anger you had towards the business lessen or disappear entirely?
Giving a refund for unsatisfactory service, or a discount voucher for future service, is just plain common business sense. If the customer is not happy, why should they have to pay full price (or pay anything at all)? Obviously, for the company it sucks, since they are taking a hit in revenue, but bad reviews have a really bad habit of hanging about like a bad smell.
Remember the old phrase “nothing ever disappears from the Internet”? That applies greatly to customer reviews and you have Google and social media to thank for that.
To be totally honest, dealing with complaints is not really rocket science. The key is to simply put yourself in the customer’s shoes and ask yourself “how would I want to be treated if I was them and they were me?”. That simple question should then be able to guide you in how you respond to an angry complaint.
Nevertheless, some businesspeople are so caught up in their own egos that they can’t handle criticism and they immediately feel all complaints are unjustified. They then inflict a mortal wound on themselves, since customers have so many buying options now. They can simply dump one company and move onto another. Social media will continue inflicting damage long after the customer has departed the stage.
So start improving your customer service policies today with regards to dealing with complaints. Then reap the rewards in the Karma department.