Small businesses live and die by word of mouth. Endorsements from happy customers can translate into further customer enquiries and sales. Likewise, if someone recounts a horror story about an experience they had with a small business, the company concerned may lose out on new customers and revenue by not addressing the negative customer review.
With the advent of the internet, customers can tell a global audience about their experiences with your company. For example, when a customer does a search for a handyman in Milnerton, Cape Town, your small business may pop up on Google alongside your contact details, a star rating and a clickthrough to customer reviews. A good rating and positive reviews may prompt a potential customer to call you before the other businesses that turned up in the search.
Customers can also review businesses on social media platforms such as Facebook, consumer activist sites such as HelloPeter.com, and industry-specific sites such as TripAdvisor for tourism and hospitality, or Zomato for dining. This is a benefit for your business when the reviews are positive. You will get a warm feeling from seeing your business’s name alongside a five-star rating and a glowing review.
However, as committed and passionate as you may be, you will not always get everything right for your customers. You may run into a particularly difficult customer. When you do not meet a customer’s expectations, they often head straight to the web to write a furious review about how, for example, your online store failed to deliver little Jane’s 10th birthday present on time or how their steak at your restaurant was tough and overcooked.
As a small business owner, it will always sting to see a negative review for your company, its services or products. If you are like most entrepreneurs, you pour your heart and soul into your business and it hurts when you have failed in the eyes of the customer. But if you get a negative customer review, take a deep breath and think about how to fix it. It’s seldom the end of the world.
You can handle it with a few practical steps. Sometimes you can even make it work in your favour. Here are four tips for dealing with negative customer reviews:
- Claim your review pages
- Keep track of customer reviews
- Respond quickly and calmly
- Make positive reviews work for you
Now let’s look at those pointers in more detail:
1. Claim your review pages
If you search for your business online and come across a review page on Facebook or Google that you didn’t set up yourself, you should see a link that says, “Is this your business?” or “Claim This Page”. You should make it your own, not only to respond to any negative posts or reviews, but also to ensure the information about your business is correct.
Once you claim the page, go through the steps to verify your business so you’ll be able to update your information and respond to any reviews. Add or update all essential contact information including your phone number, e-mail address, hours of operation and street address. You can also add assets like menus, photos or other services you provide.
2. Keep track of negative customer reviews
Keep an eye out for new customer reviews. Most of them won’t be negative, but it’s a good idea to thank users for positive reviews or neutral reviews with constructive feedback, too. You can track Google reviews on the GMB dashboard. You can get mobile notifications via the GMB app or set up e-mail notifications.
3. Respond quickly and calmly
Once a negative review comes to your attention, you should respond as quickly as you can. Ignoring the negativity won’t make it go away, but a sincere response may defuse your customer’s anger or soothe their disappointment. What’s more, no response to a customer complaint may put off a prospect looking at web reviews more than the negative review itself.
Here are some tips for writing a response to a negative review that will help boost your reputation in the eyes of the customers who see it:
- Try get in direct touch with the customer. You may need to make a quick phone call or e-mail to get the full details of the incident. A personal call shows you care and are accessible.
- Make a public response. “Thank you for bringing this to my attention. As per our phone conversation, we will send you a replacement for the broken widget by courier.”
- Keep it simple and sincere. Offer an apology from the heart if necessary. Be warm, direct and succinct.
- Don’t focus on excuses. Offer a solution. “We were not at our best on Sunday. Please give us another chance and your next main meal will be on the house.”
- Be polite, even if you feel the customer is wrong. Taking a confrontational or defensive stance on a negative review is not a good look for your business. Thank the customer for the feedback and move on.
- Be personal. Use the customer’s name and write a response that shows you understand the details of the incident. There are few things that alienate customers more than cut-and-paste apologies that indicate you are not really listening to them.
Most platforms have rules and guidelines for customer reviews. If a user posts a review that contains bad or inflammatory language, personal info or slander about you or your employees, spam or hate speech, you may be able to have it removed. Check the platform’s guidelines and report the post if it’s in clear violation of the rules.
4. Make positive reviews work for you
Every review of your business has an incremental impact on its star rating. Don’t let managing reviews only be about responding to negative reviews and flagging the ones that are unfair to your business. Be proactive about bringing in more positive reviews for your business, too. Ask happy customers to leave a comment and a rating for you.
Inviting your fans and social media followers to write great reviews can bring in more positive feedback, help increase your star rating and, ultimately, attract more customers. Cross-promote your positive reviews on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to build trust across all your social media channels.
Reviews are a great currency for your business
Whether positive, negative or neutral, constructive customer reviews can be an asset to your business. Use them as an opportunity to learn more about what customers want and expect. Then refine how you communicate and do things, so you continue to improve your business. Managing your reviews well will help boost your company’s online reputation, which is critical to business success in a digital age.
Image by: https://www.graphicsfuel.com/2012/05/thumbs-up-thumbs-down-icons-psd/