They can change to meet their customers’ need faster, have better engagement, and face less red tape to make decisions. However, being a small company, especially one that’s face-to-face with its customers every day, means that a bad review of your goods or services can have a real impact on the bottom line.
For example, TripAdvisor notes that a whopping 83% of respondents used reviews to select a hotel, underscoring the need for hotels to ensure their reviews are good and send the right message if they want to be competitive. On top of that, an annual review from US based BrightLocal says that 90% of consumers read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion, so you need to make sure that in the face of a bad review, you’re showing your potential customers that your company will do everything in its power to solve the problem or prevent it from happening again.
“When a customer has a positive experience, they’ll tell one person,” Kevin Spiter, one of Australia’s leading digital marketing experts and the author of I Just Want It To Work: A Guide to Understanding Digital Marketing and Social Media for Frustrated Business Owners, Managers and Marketers, notes.” If they have a bad experience, they’ll tell 10.” He suggests that you set up Google Alerts and any other digital tracking services like Mention to make sure you are aware of any comments online around your business or brand, and respond with the following steps:
Engage and Respond
“One of the worst things you could do is to ignore a bad review,” Spiter warns. “Not only is it out there for all to see without reply, you’re missing an opportunity to engage with a customer who hasn’t had the experience you hoped they would. Firstly, you need to make sure you’re picking up any reviews that are posted. Most major platforms that feature consumer reviews also have an alert setting – this will send you an email or notification on your mobile device that a review has been made.”
Once you receive a review, Spiter suggests you have some “standard” responses you can use, as well as addressing their concerns, and providing a contact address for the customer to take their enquiry. “They don’t have to be too generic, but serve as a guideline for response,” he adds.
“You should engage your team to spread the workload of responding to reviews, and set out specific times during the day to respond,” Spiter continues. “Lastly, follow up with the negative review: if the customer gets in contact on the address you provided, escalate, and make sure the most appropriate person in the business is on hand to respond.”
Respond in a Timely Manner
The whole process of receiving an alert, responding to the review, and escalating or following up with the customer should happen with 12-24 hours of receiving the bad review. “Take for example the Optus Facebook page – big telco companies might receive public complaints via social media every day - but you’ll notice they’re responding to specific queries or complaints usually within a few hours,” Spiter points out.
“If someone has gone to the trouble of writing you a negative review, it’s because they want their pain points to be acknowledged and responded to by someone who cares that they had a bad experience,” Spiter observes. “Be personal. Introduce yourself by name, and explain who you are when responding – you want the reviewer and other readers to know that when they have a problem, they’re engaging with a real person about it. Acknowledge what specifically the customer has said. The ‘standard’ response is important (“I’m sorry you had this experience”), but so is specifically addressing the customer’s problem.” It’s simple, but his method shows that you are listening and not just hitting copy and paste every time someone complains.
Wherever Possible, Solve the Problem
You can’t undo a bad experience, but wherever you can you should be fixing the problem the customer has. “A really easy way to do this is replacing a faulty product or service. A great example of this is a Woolworths response to a customer who cut into an avocado to find it had gone – they not only replaced the product, but turned the bad experience into a good one by helping the customer pick a great avo every time,” Spiter says.
Where Appropriate, Use Some Humor
“Laughing at an angry customer is a terrible idea,” warns Spiter. However, he adds you should not forget that most reviews are on a social platform. “From time to time you might find that your reviewer, while still negative, has framed a complaint in humor – it’s pretty common, because most people’s reviews are read by their friends, family or colleagues, who they are not only trying to inform but also entertain. If you can get this right, responding to humor with a little humor (while still acknowledging the problem and fixing it if you can) can be an effective way to garner a little positivity despite the review actually being negative. Coles customer service struck the balance just right where a customer found a live caterpillar in his capsicum.” Spiter concluded that you need to tread carefully here though – if the reviewer isn’t being funny, don’t try to be funny in response.
Don’t Get Defensive
According to Spiter, if not responding at all to negative reviews is one of the worst approaches, getting defensive in your response must be the #1 “Do Not” of bad reviews. “Between getting an alert about a bad review and responding it, you need to breathe. This is critical for business owners who pour their heart and soul into what they do. We all get it wrong sometimes, and we know that often people would rather take to social media than confronting issues in person. Remove the emotion before you respond. Do not engage in debates, do not ‘take the bait’ when keyboard warriors make comments, and never name or shame an individual person or patron.” Ha adds that, not surprisingly, fairly extreme examples of businesses getting personal in their responses tend to go viral. “Take the hotel manager in the UK who suggested an unhappy customer should go on a diet as an example. Not good. Remember that all feedback, even if it feels a little harsh, is a gift from your customer – it allows you to focus in on any issues as soon as they crop up, and engage with someone who otherwise might never come back.”
Kate Harrison, Contributor