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A five step plan for dealing with negative reviews

30 Nov 2015

3 minute read

Bad online product reviews or public complaints on social media can seriously affect your business. Here are some tips for minimising the damage and perhaps even turning negative feedback to your advantage.

The way that social media and online commerce have made it so easy for customers to provide feedback is something of a double-edged sword for businesses. Great testimonials can do more for your reputation than any number of advertisements, while word-of-mouth recommendations can spread much faster thanks to social media. But negative feedback can be hugely expensive, and you don’t have to be ‘on’ social media or selling things online to be affected.

Two of the key problem areas are:

Bad reviews – Amazon, Google+, TripAdvisor and many other platforms allow customers to give detailed reviews of all kinds of products and services. These are increasingly important; reviews are a major factor for potential customers when making a purchase decision. A series of ‘one-star’ or highly critical reports is guaranteed to put some people off buying.

Social media complaints – Twitter and Facebook enable users to ‘tag’ you when saying something critical about your business, which means that anyone else looking for you on those platforms could potentially see it.

However, a sensible approach can minimise the damage to your reputation and even work to your advantage.

A five step plan

  1. Act quickly. Keep track of your reviews on key websites and mentions on social media and when a complaint comes up, act quickly. If it’s a specific gripe from a dissatisfied customer, thank them and tell them you’re working on it even if you haven’t yet decided on the best solution. Provide a realistic timescale for when you’ll come back to them – and avoid conveying the sense that their views aren’t important to you.
  2. Assess the value of the feedback. Resist the temptation to object to bad reviews or argue back. Instead, try to honestly evaluate the feedback. Even in the most intemperate review a valid problem may have been highlighted, and you can use that to improve your service.
  3. Be upfront, admit mistakes andrespond personally. On social media, a straightforward personal message promising to resolve the issue will disarm most unhappy customers.
  4. Fix the problem. Don’t just respond to complaints with an apology; try to resolve problems as quickly as possible. Ask for their details and contact them personally.
  5. Be generous with recompense.Sometimes, a customer just needs to let off steam and there’s nothing you can actually do to resolve their problem – in which case it’s usually best just to be courteous and offer some sort of recompense. If you’re surprisingly generous with this you’ll often turn the complainer into a happy, repeat customer and even an advocate for your business.

Prevention is better than cure

Occasional bad reviews are virtually inevitable, however good you are at your business, but there are some simple preventative things you can do. Make sure you have transparent procedures and visible contact details for people to make complaints directly to you. You could also make it a habit to ask happy customers to give you online reviews soon after their transaction: a large number of positive reviews will minimise the damage of a few bad ones.

The best methods of dealing with bad feedback – valuing the customer and responding quickly – are the same as they’ve ever been. Along with the risks come opportunities to enhance your reputation: exceed expectations and the word will quickly spread far and wide.

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