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Coach Darin: Handling negative reviews for your company

No business wants to get a bad review for its products or services. However, since it’s impossible to please all customers all the time, the likelihood of encountering dissatisfied customer reviews online is high.

But businesses that respond adroitly, with a professional tone and determination to succeed, can weather these negative reviews and even win over other potential customers. The key is learning how to respond in ways that acknowledge a customer’s issues and demonstrate to everyone online that you take customer concerns seriously.

Here are five tips on handling bad customer reviews:

1. Don’t ignore complaints or become defensive.

You can pretend a negative review doesn’t exist online, but nobody else will. Ignoring these reviews only sends the message that you don’t care or are otherwise unresponsive when a problem occurs—a message that can result in more trouble down the line.

The same principle applies to the tone of your response. You don’t want to get a reputation of being “the raging entrepreneur who couldn’t handle negative feedback,” notes Fundera. A better approach involves taking time “to get your thoughts in order” and perhaps “write yourself an email to review later and see how your thoughts come across on screen.”

2. Respond promptly and professionally.

Never let a customer complaint fester online. Set up alerts to notify you when your business is named on a review site such as Yelp or Google business. The sooner you can address a negative review, the quicker it can be resolved, and everyone can move on.

Pay close attention to the tone of your response. It’s best to reply in a “polite and helpful tone so those reading your reviews can see that you are willing to make things right,” notes OpenVine, an internet consulting company. Also, “encourage the customer to give you a call or stop in so you can work with them on resolving the issue,” and if this resolution succeeds, “ask the customer to update their review in kind.”

3. Leverage the opportunity to build stronger customer relationships.

As we have noted before, responding to complaints is an opportunity to gain a better understanding of customer expectations and their preferred styles of communications. When you “take what could have been a negative customer experience and reposition it as a learning opportunity, the rewards will be tenfold.”

4. Refrain from escalating the situation.

Most unhappy customers will respond favorably to a business that takes their issues seriously. Occasionally, however, some irate customers will remain irate, no matter how you try to please them. In such situations, it’s easy for the online conversation to take a nasty tone (on the part of the complainant) and things can easily escalate from there.

Don’t get sucked into a vitriolic back-and-forth discussion on the strengths and perceived weaknesses of your business. Instead, continue to reply in a professional tone and repeat your willingness to address the issue at hand. Others observing the online exchange will recognize and appreciate your determination to remain civil.

5. Take action and be transparent about it.

Assuming there is some merit in a negative review, your job is to take action to resolve the issue and make sure everyone knows about it. You can reach out directly to the customer involved, but it’s also important to add a comment to the online review thread that shows you have investigated the complaint and made changes to address it.

It’s critical that customers and potential customers see that your business is deeply committed to high customer satisfaction.

Want to learn more about best practices for your business and social media? Sign up today for our free TAB Boss Webinar, “Social Media for Business Owners.”

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