How to handle a negative online review

Until just recently, unhappy customers had two options to complain formally: send a written letter/email, or ask to speak to a manager. Of course, this was in addition to personally telling all their friends about their experience.

Along comes social media and now unhappy customers can now announce their complaints to a much larger audience: not only to their friends, but to anyone who’s listening. One statistic says that more than 93% of people shop via the internet, and online reviews are big factors in decision making.

The bottom line: online reviews matter.

So, someone posted a bad review, now what?

Unfortunately, people can be difficult to deal with, but at the end of the day most customers just want to feel they’ve been heard. Ignore an angry customer and they’re much more likely to continue to complain publicly.

Take the “ugly” in stride and address issues with the goal of arriving at a solution. By addressing customer concerns in a timely fashion and with a polite tone, those negative reviews will end up showing how well your company deals with issues and provides great customer service.

Don’t ignore, but address.

Be sure to set up profiles on major social networking sites, and take ownership of your public persona. The more open you are, the better, and taking good and bad feedback in stride will earn you respect among consumers, building a loyal base of customers over time.

Being a professional is the key, be sure to separate your personal feelings from the criticism and maintain professionalism. Once you post online, it’s public. One poorly timed nasty comment towards a customer only takes a fraction of a second to post to Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

Move the conversation out of the public space.

Suggest to the customer moving the conversation to a phone or email conversation or private Twitter conversation. It is virtually impossible to solve problems in 140 characters (if Twitter), and there is no need for the problem solving to be done publicly.

You’ll see this quite often in major companies like GoDaddy and Comcast, where the Twitter representative will ask that you DM (or direct message them) so they can handle your issues in “private”.

Encourage positive reviews.

So, you’ve followed all of this advice and still have negative reviews to deal with, or perhaps there aren’t very many reviews for your company at all. The simple solution for this is to encourage happy, satisfied customers to post reviews and responses online.

A great way to encourage positive feedback posts is to e-mail reminder messages, simply and politely worded, asking customers to post positive feedback regarding their experiences. Most people will be flattered that you wanted their feedback and will be happy to post something.

In the end, handling social media complaints should be no more difficult or time consuming than handling complaints that come in from traditional channels.

Originally Published: 04/07/2011

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