Top Mistakes Businesses Make Handling Negative Reviews

What not to do when you receive a complaint online

01/17/2017

Top Mistakes Businesses Make Handling Negative Reviews

The internet can be a great convenience for a small business, but one negative comment floating out there in cyberspace could mean disaster. If the unfortunate circumstance does occur where your business receives a public customer complaint, you will want to act efficiently and effectively to ensure the problem doesn’t grow to bring the entire company down.
 
Some of the most problematic actions (or lack thereof) in response to negative reviews are:
 

Ignoring it

 
The worst possible thing a business can do in response to a negative review is nothing. Pretending that the critique or complaint simply does not exist will not make it go away. Instead, it paints your business in an even poorer light, because it sends the message that you don’t care about your customers and their experiences or how your company is perceived.
 
Instead, respond to a negative review as soon as possible after it’s posted — it will show that particular customer, and others, that you’re listening and care about customer satisfaction.
 
“In an age of smartphones and constant communication, customers have come to expect instant gratification in many aspects of their lives, including their interactions with brands,” says Business News Daily Assistant Editor Nicole Fallon.
 
However, if you reply by providing a generic form response, you may as well be ignoring the problem — it makes your brand appear impersonal and may drive that customer – and others – further away. Always provide a timely, customized and specific response.
 

Responding without empathy or tact

 
When crafting your reply, remember to keep it non-hostile and professional. Express an understanding of the issue without placing blame on the customer or making excuses, and apologize about the negative experience.
 
“Most often, the best response to an upset customer is to say you’re sorry without qualifying the apology,” writes Megan Totka of Small Business Trends.
 
Attempting to lay fault at the feet of a particular employee or even the customer can create a stigma of being aloof, which can be a significant turnoff both for prospective employees and future customers.
 

Engaging in arguments online

 
Ivan Ristic, president and co-founder of the communications agency Diffusion, recommends in an Entrepreneur.com article to take your conversation offline. While it is a good idea to respond initially on the social platform, if you sense a protracted back-and-forth could occur, express your willingness to discuss the matter further via email. Once away from the public forum, you still want to avoid arguing with the customer by denying the problem or, again, placing blame. Taking an argumentative tack will not endear yourself to a customer, and if things turn ugly in a private conversation, an angry consumer will have no problem publicizing their grievances and your words on social media.
 

Not attempting to rectify the situation

 
You will want to assure upset customers that steps will be taken to resolve the problem from your end. Ask them how you could improve the experience in the future, and entice them to give you a second chance, perhaps by providing coupons, vouchers or replacement products on occasion. Showing them — and proving to them — that you are invested in solving the issue is essential to retaining their business; it also allows you the opportunity to encourage an updated review if the second time around went better for them.
 
If you do succeed in rectifying the situation and making it up to your customer, not only will you have avoided a near-disaster for your business, you will also have turned that negative into a positive for all parties involved.

Published by North Shore Bank. Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers. 

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