negative reviews

What's the best way to respond to customer feedback?

How can businesses best respond to customer feedback- either public or private?

Receiving positive feedback on your business efforts can be an excellent feeling. Those hours upon hours of dedication to your business and product/service have finally paid off with a happy customer. It all feels a little bit more worthwhile simply knowing someone finds your solution genuinely helpful. When you receive positive feedback, it's naturally easy to respond and know what you want to say to your happy customer. The smile that creeps across your face adds a warmth to your tone when you reply.

However, when things go wrong it can be trickier to respond in a positive way. Yet this can be one of the most underrated opportunities in your business.

How you handle a problem will make the difference between having an irate customer spreading negative reviews, and a customer that says "things went wrong, but they did a great job of fixing them". The latter can have a huge influence on potential customers.

"97% of people say customer reviews influence their purchase decision." 

We all know things can go wrong. As consumers, we're not looking for a perfect business to buy from where nothing has ever gone wrong. Instead, we look for a company that cares, and is capable enough to put things right when they do go wrong.

Is social media to blame?

Not quite, but social media and online sites like Yelp and Tripadvisor have certainly made it easier for customers to voice their views to a lot of people.

Business owners around the world would rather a customer raise the issues to them before voicing their complaints online. The reality is that not everyone feels comfortable sparking confrontation by making a face-to-face complaint. It may not be that they feel emboldened from the safety of their living room, but they may be concerned about the risk of their complaint being met in public with an angry business owner.

Even though you may prefer to receive feedback in the moment and have the opportunity to put everything right there and then, that may not be possible - or even the best way to manage a complaint.

So what do you do when a bad review suddenly appears online?


Responding to negative feedback

The first thing you need to know about responding to negative feedback, especially online, is that taking a breath is always the best first step! Receiving criticism is never easy, especially if it's about the work you've done. Rather than unleashing the dogs of war, step away from the computer, make a hot drink, and come back once the initial frustration has subsided. This can also give the customer an opportunity to cool down, as they are likely also feeling quite frustrated.

In many cases, a complaint is actually your best marketing opportunity. But it can also make your business a bit of a laughing stock if not handled correctly. Instead of lamenting that a negative review has appeared, use it to your advantage.

Here's how...

Actually reply

Getting back to the person that left the review (whether positive or negative) shows that you care about their experience with your business. You don't have to respond within minutes, but a response will give future customers confidence that you are making an effort in your investment to rectify any problems.

Be empathetic

Even if you don't agree with the complaint, put yourself in their shoes. They paid money for something that didn't meet their standards, and that's not good news for anyone! Their expectations may be unreasonable (like going to McDonald's and expecting to change fries to wedges), or unrealistic their complaints about things that cannot be fixed. However, the first thing you should do is empathise with their complaint, and state that you're apologetic that their experience wasn't excellent.

Take the issue offline

It can be very tempting to get into a slanging match with a disgruntled customer, but this will do little to persuade future customers to use you.

Tell the complainant that you want to put things right and understand their situation better, and suggest you arrange a time to discuss it further over the phone or via email. In many cases the customer may not choose to take things further, but make sure to offer them an apology if they do contact you and endeavour to offer them a solution to put things right.

Don't give a canned response

Offering the same automated response shows people that you don't think their feedback is of any value at all, and may give the impression that you haven't actually read the feedback. Respond to each one personally. Doing so will remind people that you're human too, and will reinforce that you are empathetic to their situation.

While it is difficult to take criticism, it's also important to remember that feedback can be a great way to learn and improve your business offering. Not every piece of feedback needs to be acted upon but if you see a trend developing then, as a business owner, you should probably investigate whether it's something you can change.

Business success does, in part, rely on having happy customers. And whereas you can't please everyone, it's important to acknowledge the bad as well as the the good to grow your business further.

Want to understand how you can set goals for your marketing plan and customer feedback? Download our SMART goals template to get started.

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