An article on Our Social Times talks about how 71% of customers post their complaints online when the services or goods they received failed the usual level of service they are used to. What is surprising to note is that 23% post comments for pure vengeance, while 30% post their reviews to vent out negative feelings. Where they post is indicative of what they feel, too. For instance, people who want to vent out or for vengeance would post on social media (which gains traction quite easily and has the tendency to go viral), while those who want to get resolution would actually email a company or post on a consumer website.
Nevertheless, receiving negative reviews is not something that business owners should take lightly. If you ignore these negative comments, your brand can come off as someone that just doesn’t care about customer service. If you appear to be too accommodating, then a lot of people will just complain to get free stuff.
Are you curious how you should properly address negative reviews? Here are a few tips to help you.
1. Respond immediately.
If people are posting negative reviews on a consumer website such as Yelp or on social media, such as on your Facebook page, you can almost always assume that a lot of people would have read it. If the complaint on social media was particularly juicy, then the complaint would have the tendency to go viral. Therefore, it would be in your best interest to resolve the issue before the post receives a few thousand shares. If the complaint goes viral before you had the chance to rectify it, then the damage it may have done on your brand would be lasting.
However, what are you to do if the negative complaint was posted in the wee hours of the morning, or when you are unsure of how to address the comment? Having an auto-responder of “Thank you for your comment. We’ll be glad to respond to you during our business hours” usually does the trick for the off-business comments. On the other hand, saying “Thank you for your feedback. Rest assured that we are looking into this,” and actually getting back to the customer after a few hours would be appreciated.
2. Provide a solution.
Nothing is as frustrating as airing your comments and being told that they are looking into it and not receiving any feedback in time. When you tell your customers that you are going to “look into the problem,” make sure that you actually have someone follow-up the concern within the day.
The quality of the solution is indicative of your brand, too. Do not just offer discounts or rebates for bad service; rather, personalize the solution based on the problem. Is the customer complaining that your services caused them personal injury, such as an allergic reaction to your food that was not disclosed on the menu? Have them send their medical bills and offer to reimburse them, adding that you would be correcting the menu. Did a server provide subpar service? Assure them that you are retraining your server to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
3. Own up to your mistakes.
There have been countless instances wherein instead of responding objectively to a negative comment, businesses would instead engage in a word war with the customer. If you are in the wrong, admit your mistake and apologize sincerely. For example, was there a delay in the service? Explain what happened (a tour just reserved at the last minute and the staff are frazzled), apologize for the bad service, and promise to do it better the next time around. Whatever it is, reassure your customers that you are working on the mistakes so that they will not happen again.
4. Don’t be afraid to be honest.
On the other hand, there are commenters that are just plain abusive. These are customers who have resorted to name-calling, shaming the brand, and threatening your business. If what they are complaining about is not true, then do not be afraid to call them out and back this up with evidence.
For example, if a customer complains that you canceled her reservation at the last minute, but the truth was that she arrived late to the reservation and you actually held on to her table for another 10 minutes, then say so. Oftentimes the complaints would become a case of he said-she said, but if your brand is being dragged through the mud for lies, then do not hesitate to be honest — particularly if you have the evidence. In the case of our example above, a CCTV snapshot with a timestamp would suffice.
5. Don’t always take the resolutions offline.
If the complaint has gained traction and is getting a lot of interest from the public, then it would be in your best interest to resolve it in public space as well. If the complaint is about something you can easily rectify, then provide the solution then and there.
For example, if a customer says that he didn’t receive timely service despite having no fault on his end, ask for the reference number and look into the matter. Once you have established that it is your brand that has been lacking (such as you are understaffed), comment back a solution. You can say “We have identified the problem and we apologize for the inconvenience. Please send us a private message so we can give you instructions on how to get a replacement.” This way, the people who are following the exchange on social media would then understand that the issue has been resolved.
6. Don’t let your emotions get the better of you.
No matter how angry a comment may make you, remember to keep your words professional as they would reflect your brand. Thank the customer for bringing the issue to your attention and provide a speedy resolution. If you are too upset to respond objectively, then have someone else read your drafted reply, ensure that it is at least professional, and then respond. Never, ever, respond whenever your emotions are getting the best of you.