An expert guide to handling customer complaints professionally and without detriment to your business.
Online reviews improve your organic visibility and offer an opportunity to directly engage with your customers. Since many people are turning to online reviews to decide whether or not to go with your brand or product, how you respond to both positive and negative feedback is important.
Why Online Reviews Matter
It is becoming more and more common to share our lives and everyday experiences on the internet. For all businesses, whether they’re operating online or not, online reputation has become an important factor in both short and long term success. Controlling your image isn’t just being picky about the things people can find on your website. In the days of social media, Yelp, TripAdvisor and co., customers are talking about your company in all corners of the web. In a world where 90 per cent of consumers use the internet to find out about a business and 82 per cent of those people read online reviews, keeping an eye out for what is being said about you, needs to be a vital part of your digital marketing strategy. Now, there is no need to be worried. How you manage your reputation is very much in your own hands. And both positive and negative customer feedback play their part.
Here is how online reviews can help your business:
- They Help to Build Trust
They give your customers a voice and that promise gives them the confidence that they will be heard should a problem come up. Online reviews give customers a voice and with it, the confidence that they will be heard should a problem arise.
They also show those in the process of making a purchase decision, that you have real-life customers and have provided products or services to others in the past, in fact, a whopping 63 per cent of online shoppers are more likely to make a purchase from a business which has customer reviews. And most consumers looking to purchase goods or services online, find reviews 12 times more trustworthy than product descriptions by the company.
- They Give Information About Your Performance
Reviews show that you’re transparent about your business, confident in your performance and can deliver as promised. Reviews fill gaps and give reliable information on all aspects of your business, even the ones you hadn’t considered yourself.
Be aware: The average consumer reads about ten reviews before they ‘trust’ a business enough to take action. The more informed your customers are, the more likely it is that they will purchase your products and services.
- They Extend Your Social Reach
Word of mouth travels at light speed. Especially online. Customer reviews are the basis of many communities surrounding brands on social platforms like Instagram and Twitter. Harvard Business Review refers to this as “social capital”: Giving feedback engages customers emotionally, and strengthens their brand loyalty. It creates emotional attachment and allows them to build their own reputation amongst the community.
Brands can leverage this “social capital”, as it creates enthusiasm for its products and services. A great example is Amazon’s book reviews: What started off with simple book reviews, transformed into a reviewer Hall of Fame, where reviewers can set up their own profile pages showcasing their book reviews.
The Negative Feedback Loop
To cultivate customer retention and increase customer satisfaction, every customer review, good or bad, needs to be examined carefully. Whilst responding to positive feedback and compliments isn’t all that hard, it is negative feedback that challenges us the most. But turning a blind eye isn’t going to make a negative comment go away. There is always an opportunity in crisis. Negative feedback can be great for you if you know how to respond to it professionally. It can help your company improve and grow. Listening to your customers’ complaints and using that feedback to improve your products or services, is what we call a negative feedback loop. Both customers and companies benefit from successful feedback loops. Whilst they allow your brand to increase customer satisfaction, customers feel seen and respected.
Why Does Answering to Negative Feedback Matter?
Your reply to a negative comment is just as important as the original review itself.
- 94 per cent of customers have read a bad review and decided to avoid a business.
- But 97 per cent of people also read a business’ response to negative feedback and complaints.
- 45 per cent of consumers say they’re more likely to visit a business that responds to a negative review.
Once the seed of doubt is planted, you have to act swiftly and take a negative comment as a chance to show just how much you care about customer satisfaction. Here are our top tips for responding to negative feedback and customer complaints!
Tips For Crafting a Professional Response to Negative Feedback
1. Remain calm (even if they are furious)
Dealing with criticism is always tough. But your first reaction to a negative comment is what matters most. Although it may hurt your ego, it is of greatest importance to stay calm and pragmatic. So put your emotions aside and calmly look at what is really being said. Remind yourself: Every complaint can also give you an insight. Something is obviously not going as it should. But it's up to you to get to the root of it and rectify the issue. And you can only do so if you listen and reflect.You're more likely to misinterpret the situation, get defensive and frustrated if you don't focus on the positive opportunity every piece of criticism contains. So stay calm, and then carry on.
2. Record meaningful complaints
Multiple messages from different customers on the same issue indicate that there may be a systematic problem. It should raise red flags if you receive a multitude of messages containing similar complaints. But you need to have a system in place to be able to identify red flags and improve on those areas.Keeping a record of all complaints in a central place is essential. Frequencies, patterns and conflict resolutions can be tracked in a simple Google sheet or complaint log.
3. Identify who you are talking to
Google and Facebook are the preferred online spaces for both positive and negative feedback. This means that you’ll be able to identify the customer’s name, and can use this information to address them personally in your response. Addressing someone with their first name is the first step in establishing a friendly relationship.Identify the emotional state and motivation of customer: Do they seem angry or genuinely upset? Are they shy and do not wish to be a burden? Are they a chronic complainer, you’ve already been in contact with before? Or are they looking for a handout where they don’t deserve one?There are many ends to the spectrum. And whilst most complaints are reasonable, others may challenge your patience. You need to be able to identify who you’re talking to and adjust your tone of voice accordingly.
4. Don’t delete them or ignore a negative comment
Never delete a negative complaint. Even if the temptation of making a problem go away in a few clicks may be great. But what that really says about you is that you do not care about your customers. Instead, opt for de-escalation and own your mistakes.Treat your customers with respect, just as you wish to be treated yourself. Don't forget: You're the professional. Live up to the expectation and be a role model for your team.
5. Respond quickly
Don't put off responding to a complaint. Once a comment is online and visible to the world, every minute counts. If someone is upset enough to leave a review, then they expect you to take it seriously and respond in a timely manner.
6. Stay professional (but make it personal)
Treat your customer with genuine respect, no matter how angry they are. Never aim to attack or retaliate. Instead, embrace the fact that a customer has reached out to you with a concern. Apologise and try to fix the issue to your best abilities.
7. Say thank you
Thank your customer for taking the time to leave feedback - positive or negative. You need to express your appreciation for candid feedback. Remember that you as a business have a lot more to lose than anyone who leaves a comment on the internet. So even if comments are nasty, don’t stoop down to their level.
Right after thanking your customer for letting you know about an issue, apologise for their inconvenience. It may not be your fault, but say sorry anyways and own up to any mistakes that have been made. It is the most effective way to turn around a bad customer experience. Keep your apology short and sweet. Here is a quick lesson on communicating with empathy!
9. Don’t be passive-aggressive
Never defer the blame for a problem to the customer. This often happens by accident, caused by a simple misuse of tone. Even if a customer is being unreasonable and unfriendly, don’t respond with the silent treatment, subtle insults or blaming them for not being able to finish a task or request. Simply say you’re sorry and move on to finding out how you can make their day better.
10. Take Responsibility
Again, you may not be personally responsible for causing the issue, but you have a direct line to the upset customer. Take advantage of this situation and step up. Never make excuses, even if the incident was highly unusual for your business. Instead, acknowledge your customer's bad experience and resolve the problem to their satisfaction. It's always great to hold yourself to the highest standard. Give the customer details on how they can contact you should problems persist and take precautions to make sure your team doesn’t miss the mark again.
11. Ask for a second chance
It'll always be appreciated if you show that you're willing to go above and beyond to make your customer happy. And depending on the severity of the issue, a simple apology might not be enough. You may choose to offer a gift or compensation to make it right and change the conversation.
Here are two great examples of negative feedback handled well. Feel free to use them as templates!
You may choose to say something along the lines:“Dear [First Name],Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I apologise on behalf of everyone at [Company Name]. I’m very sorry you had a bad experience. Your feedback helps us to improve and do better in the future. I’m looking into this issue and hope to resolve it promptly. Until then, please accept my sincerest apologies on behalf of everyone on the team.”Or keep it short and sweet:“Dear [First Name], Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I’m sorry to hear you didn’t have the best experience. Please contact me at [Email Address] and I will investigate your feedback further. Again, thank you very much.”
Online reviews, good or bad, and your response to them, can have great influence on how people perceive your brand. Make it count by owning the narrative and shaping your reputation as a company that greatly cares about their customers’ experience. You’re striving for excellence, and responding to feedback in a professional and genuine manner is the best proof for it.If you need help tracking your customer sentiment and brand mentions online to make better decisions for your team and business, get in touch with the digital marketing experts from Anchor Digital. Your partners in climb, our data-driven team can help to guide you through every step of the process.