Nearly every business relies on the power of customer reviews. Regardless of the type of product or service you provide, whether you sell directly to the consumer or are just one part of a multi-step sales cycle, the way you engage with your customers matters. You and your business are being judged every day on a myriad of factors and there are plenty of tools at hand for consumers to share their opinions.
Not long ago, I had a “disappointing” experience at the hairdresser. By the time I left the salon, it looked like Edward Scissorhands had swapped places with my regular stylist. Right away, I knew that I needed to have a conversation with the salon owner. I dreaded it, but I felt she deserved to know how unhappy I was with the cut. I wanted to give her a chance to respond, and I was sure she would appreciate me approaching her directly as opposed to spreading my discontent via a poor review on social media.
My marketing company has very little in common with a hair salon, except for our shared focus on customer relations. I am fortunate to have earned the trust of a savvy bunch of clients, some who I see frequently in person and others situated further away who I work with virtually. I cultivate these relationships as if they were delicate seedlings depending on me for the proper nourishment to grow. I’m fully aware that without my clients, I would have no business. They are the mortar to my bricks, providing the foundation for everything I do.
If you’ve ever been faced with a disgruntled customer, or earned a less than favorable review, you know how unpleasant it can be. It creates a great deal of stress and forces you into a defensive posture. If you are like me, you probably take it very personally. Depending on how serious the situation is, and how long it takes to resolve, you may lose sleep and precious time worrying about how best to handle the situation. With the ease and omnipotence of social media, how you choose to address the negative review is essential, before it has a chance to take on a life of its own.
Here are a few suggestions for dealing with negative customer reviews from Tabitha Naylor, a marketing agent and blogger who writes frequently about small business topics:
1. Assess the Situation. It is important to closely assess a negative review and respond when you are ready to own the issue, willing to describe how future customers will not have this issue again, and offer a resolution. By taking the time to evaluate each comment, you are also giving yourself time to recover from the initial sting, which will allow you to react with a clearer head.
2. Respond to Your Entire Audience. While you should stay focused on the specific customer/review at hand, it is crucial that your response engages your whole customer base. Not only will this approach address the complaint itself, it tells your entire audience what kind of business owner you are and shows them how you prioritize customer service.
3. Acknowledge Your Mistake. The majority of review readers, aka potential customers, will always side with the customer’s reviews, positive or negative. Swallow your pride, apologize, and find a way to remedy the situation. Getting into a heated debate over “he said, she said” serves no useful purpose at all.
4. Fix the Problem. Often times, if a customer takes you up on your offer to replace, fix, or redo, they will edit their negative review without any persuasion. Even if they decline your offer, they’ll know that your business cares, and that the negative experience is not the way you aim to conduct business. Customer satisfaction is your ultimate goal, and offering a speedy solution is the best way to earn back your customers’ trust.
I’m sure things will smooth over with the salon owner once we do have a chance to speak with each other. After all, mistakes happen, people have bad days, products fail, and not every haircut will turn out to be flattering. Almost anyone can run a business when things are going easily. Proving our mettle and showing our good faith to our customers when times are tough is the truest test of a business owner.
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