It has never been easier for customers to communicate with the companies they buy from, and that presents both challenges and opportunities for the business owners involved. The ease of customer feedback means business owners can instantly see what they are doing right, and where they can improve. At the same time, the public nature of those negative comments can sometimes create a misleading perception, scaring away would-be buyers and hurting sales for those very companies.
If you run your own business, you already understand the challenges a single unhappy customer can create for you and your firm. Whether those comments come via a third-party review site, an online message board or your own social media feeds, the results are much the same.
It is easy to become defensive in the face of those negative comments, especially if you think the criticism is unfounded or unfair. But before you lash out, take a step back – and look for ways to turn that negativity around. When handled properly, those disgruntled customers could become your most loyal brand ambassadors. Here are 10 tips for turning negative comments into a steady stream of good publicity:
- Express empathy – Even if you think the criticism is unfair, try to see things from the other person’s point of view. Acknowledging the legitimacy of the negative comment is the first step to turning things around.
- Delete comments with threatening or obscene language – No one likes censorship, but putting up with obscene language or threatening behavior is bad for your business.
- Reach out to the disgruntled customer – Reach out personally to the customer who complained, get as much information as you can and find out exactly what went wrong.
- Propose a fair solution, and do so publicly – The complaint was public, so make the proposed solution public as well. When other customers see how fair you are being, their opinion of your company should improve.
- Do not be afraid to bend the rules – Being too rigid can be bad for business, so do what you think is right, even if your regular policies say otherwise. Accepting the return of a defective product, even after the return period has expired, could turn that unhappy customer into a repeat buyer.
- Keep track of your complaints – Frequent complaints about the same issue could indicate a systemic problem with your business, so keep track of what your customers are saying.
- Apologize for any misunderstandings – Things happens, so do not be afraid to apologize, even if the bad situation was not entirely your fault.
- Coach your team – Learning to handle customer complaints should be a team effort, so make sure your employees understand your expectations and appreciate the importance of great customer service.
- Research each situation – Every customer complaint is different, so do your homework before responding. A fast response is great, but an accurate one is better.
- Learn from your mistakes – If you make a mistake that results in an unhappy customer, think about what you did wrong and how you can do better.
No one likes to see negative comments online, least of all business owners. While a negative comment on Facebook can make you feel bad, a negative review on Yelp or another review site could seriously harm your business.
That is why is so important to take those negative comments seriously. With the right approach and a little bit of understanding, you could turn that negativity into a wealth of positive publicity.