How to Deal With Negative Customer Reviews
When I get a phone call from a retailer, it’s often from someone who feels victimized by a negative consumer-written review. Social media has given a voice to anyone who wants to attack your business, and there are people out there who seem to revel in attacking for any reason — or no reason at all.
If your brand gets bashed in an online forum, respond publicly, honestly and as quickly as possible. Don’t even think about creating an alias; you'll get caught, and it will cause more damage to your reputation.
First, check the facts. Is this person a customer? A former or current employee? A competitor spreading rumors? Once you know the facts, offer to resolve any issues personally via email or telephone.
If you can, take the specific discussion offline. Then, as soon as it's resolved, go back to the site where the negative review was posted and post an honest explanation of what was done to rectify the issue. If you can’t identify the person and you're not sure the complaint is valid, post your policy on the subject and offer to resolve the issue.
Remember what your mother said: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. If other people post personal attacks, take the high road. Never sink to their level.
Most importantly, rally the troops. Encourage friends and satisfied customers or clients to post positive reviews. (Ideally, this happens long before the first negative posting happens. But in the real world, do it as soon as you can if you didn’t get there before a negative posting occurred.)
Reaching out to satisfied customers and asking them for permission to share their comments and experiences can transform social media into a powerful marketing tool that will have a positive impact on your bottom line. There are two parts to transforming a negative online review into a positive marketing tool:
1. You have to do a good job. If your service or product just doesn’t deliver, you're out of luck. You can’t transform a bad experience into an attraction tool. Let’s say you sell a blender and it breaks. A customer tries to return it, but your overworked employee says you just don’t take returns. This isn't an experience you want amplified.
On the other hand, if you do a great job, it makes for the perfect story. One of our clients is K9Cuisine.com, which sells premium dog food online. Nothing too glamorous, but its customer service is amazing. The brand goes above and beyond just delivering orders. If a customer orders regular shipping, K9 Cuisine upgrades it for no extra charge. If a customer says his dog didn’t like a specific brand, they swap it out and help him find something that his dog will like. K9 Cuisine is more than just a dog food seller; it's become a trusted dog nutrition advisor who cares about your four-legged friend.
2. Use success to attract more success. This goes beyond just regular testimonials. Tell your customers’ stories — i.e., what they achieved through your service or product. When K9Cuisine.com receives an email thanking it for helping a family's beloved golden retriever start eating again after a long illness, it asks the customer if they can share their story with others. The story then makes its way onto K9 Cuisine's Facebook and Twitter pages. Soon, lots of people know about how K9Cuisine.com helped. Next time they think about their dog needing dog food, they'll think about K9Cuisine.com. And if they have a great experience, they may tell their friends. The cycle continues.
Becoming an active part of the conversation that's already taking place amongst your customers, employees, prospects and competitors is the best way to prevent negative comments from taking over your online reputation. This is especially critical for cross-channel retail businesses, where customer service truly is king.
It’s no longer a question of whether social media is going to affect your business, it's how. The only question now is when are you going to take charge of your own online reputation?