If you are a business owner, you probably already know that the customer is “always right”. Whether you have a storefront or an online clothing company, you know that your reputation is what keeps customers coming back. This is why maintaining your online reputation is so important to your success. In the past, it may have been relatively straightforward to ensure your customers experienced the best customer service in your store because you were there to make sure they did. Nowadays, however, it becomes more complicated because any client or customer who has a negative experience might not tell you while they are there, they might not just tell their close friends and family…they will tell the whole internet.
Yelp, Facebook reviews, and other similar experience sharing platforms are every business owner’s best and worst nightmare simultaneously. On one hand, it is great that any potential customers can read about all the great things your business has to offer. The positive experiences your returning customers share are a huge asset in convincing new customers to choose your business over someone else. On the other hand, customers with bad experiences are actually more likely to leave a review than those with great ones which means for every 3 or 4 positive reviews, you’re likely to have one negative one.
While negative reviews are scary, it’s how you handle them that helps maintain your winning reputation. With the right responses, other customers will be able to see you care about resolving the situation and you will avoid those reviews having hugely negative effects on your business. Don’t worry. It’s a lot easier than it sounds.
So you’ve received a negative review…now what?
First, it’s important to read through the review a few times to figure out what kind of reviewer they are. Is this customer upset because the line took too long or are they mad because their order was completely wrong? Is this reviewer complaining about a specific employee or just your business as a whole? Does this person have a history of hugely negative reviews? Knowing what kind of customer you’re dealing with can help you decide the best response.
If this customer is negatively reviewing because the line is too long, they’re likely impatient. Your prompt response can go a long way with this customer. You can apologize for the slower service they received and offer them something small for free or a discount on their next visit to make them feel like you’ve made up for their lost time. If the customer complains that their order was completely wrong, however, this is not just a sign of impatience. It would be best for you as the owner to figure out what went wrong on your end, whether it was a miscommunication or a misplaced order form, before responding to this reviewer. Once you do know what caused the issue, you can then apologize for the mistake, be honest about the situation, and offer to make it right free of charge.
If a customer complains about a specific employee, always follow up with that employee. Figure out what went wrong and if you’re employee was following protocol before laying blame. Sometimes angry customers are mad at employees because of policies they cannot change. Once you know the situation from both sides, you can apologize for any miscommunications and offer some sort of compensation for the trouble. If your reviewer is complaining about your business as a whole, you can thank them for their feedback and tell them you’re taking it into consideration. Negative feedback can be a good thing when it comes to making changes for the better.
If the reviewer just has a history of negative reviews, you can usually assume that their anger isn’t solely directed at you. Apologizing to this customer and making it very obvious you want to resolve their problem (even if you don’t) will go a long way.
Now that you’ve figured out what kind of negative review you’re tackling, the next step is to treat every review with professionalism and respect even if they don’t deserve it. It is hard to not take these criticisms personally because you pour our heart and soul into your business. You know you can provide the best service possible. How come they can’t see that? By remaining neutral in the situation, you can look sincere, concerned, and non-threatening. All of these will help other potential customers to see that their business is important to you and that you will rectify the situation fairly. Respond to each person with a unique response so you don’t look automated and be sure to acknowledge their problem in your verbiage. This makes it personal and thoughtful.
Never fight with your negative reviews. If you have to, outsource your responses to someone who can remain objective in the face of criticism. If you give in and end up fighting with your customers, your business begins destroying its own reputation. You can blame it on the review all you want, but if you’re fighting with them, it may be a problem on your end.
The last option to combat the negative reviews (which are completely inevitable, by the way) is to ask your happy customers to leave reviews. If they’re in your store and they seem to be having great customer service, hand them a “review us on Yelp” card and offer them a discount on their next visit. Call up customers you did work for and follow up with them. Ask them if they had a good experience or what you could do better next time. Regardless of what their response is, let them know that reviews really help your business and ask them to relay their experience online. A good balance of reviews, both positive and negative, make you look real and that’s the best kind of reputation there is.