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We live in a world where everybody has a voice. Your customers can talk, take pictures, interact with others, and creative positive or negative buzz about their experiences with your business and worst of all, it isn’t necessarily true.
Head over to Yelp, TripAdvisor, OpenTable, or any of the social media sites and within seconds, you can read opinion after opinion of your business. Many are likely positive but what should you do when the negative reviews come in?
Here are 9 steps for effectively handling negative reviews:
1. Don’t Take it Personally
What kind of advice is that, right? Your business is YOURS and that makes this very personal. In actuality, it’s not personal. The reviewer is responding to their experiences with your business just as they would with any other business. Put on your business cap and remember that it’s not a reflection of you as a person.
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2. Respond as a Business Owner
It’s understandable that you might want to challenge the person to one of those wild-west-style duels but that’s a sure-fire way to compound the damage. Nobody likes a hothead so don’t act like one. It should still be true that the customer is always right. Even if you don’t believe it in a certain case, your response should indicate it. (More on how to respond later.)
3. Don’t Allow Posts on Your Facebook Page
Yes, Facebook, like all social media is about interaction but most businesses turn off the feature that allows anybody to post on their page. Remember that you’re only turning off original posts—not comments. Make sure your brand is the outgoing voice on your Facebook page and let others only comment on your posts. If someone posts a complaint, you can respond in the comment section.
If that seems a little, well, rude, consider this: Those who are savvy enough to write a Facebook review likely know of the myriad places where they can write a review online including your website, Twitter, and many others. If they wrote on the windows of your virtual storefront, you would quickly remove it. Your Facebook page is one of the windows of your virtual storefront.
4. Always Respond, No Matter How Busy You Are
Your competitors are probably finding time in their busy schedule to make it right with angry customers on social media. You should too. If you’re running your business well, it’s likely that only a few negative reviews are coming in but it’s important to address each. “I don’t have time” doesn’t cut it when you’re doing business in a digital world.
5. Restate the Complaint
The person is annoyed and when people are upset, they first want to know that they were heard. If the person is complaining that their food took an hour to get to their table, start your response with, “I’m truly sorry that it took an hour for you to receive your dinner.”
6. Don't Make Excuses for the Problem
Your first reaction is to give a reason why. “We were short-staffed” or “it was an unusually busy day” or “we were still recovering from the weekend” are excuses and send the message that you don’t own the mistake. Why it happened isn’t their problem so don’t risk an excuse sounding like an attempt to pass blame to others. Instead, say something like, “this was uncharacteristic of us and we would like to make it right.”
7. Highlight Your Strengths
The complaint is framed in the negative so respond in the positive. “We’re truly sorry that our sales associate was unfriendly. We’ve been in business for more than 15 years serving thousands of customers per week but each customer is important to us. We would like to offer you…”
8. Resolve the Problem, Even If It Costs You
Your response to angry customers will say more about your business than the positive reviews you receive. Regardless of who is right or wrong, resolve the issue in a way that makes the customer whole.
If it was a dining experience, refund their check. If it was a product, offer to take it back with no questions asked. Whatever price you have to pay, it’s a way to show potential customers that your business values people. Think of it as advertising at a discount.
9. Work Out the Details Privately
It’s completely reasonable that you ask for verification. If you’re going to refund a purchase, you want to see proof that they actually shopped or dined at your business - but don’t put that in the public response. Tell the customer to call or email you (provide contact information) to provide details needed to process the refund.
Most important, remember that most people who frequent review sites and look for your business on social media know that all of your reviews won’t be perfect. Don’t sweat it if you receive a few bad reviews. Simply make it right and show everybody that you care about your customers.
Finally, watch for patterns. If numerous people are posting complaints to your social media pages about slow service, they’re right and it's something you need to address. Negative reviews sting but they’re valuable feedback you can use to make build a better business.
Related: 10 Powerful Steps to Defuse Angry Customers
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