Feedback is important, but how you handle it is even more important for small business owners. With Facebook, Yelp, Google Maps, Angie’s List, and countless other review sites and directories, feedback is abundant online. Responding to positive feedback is a way of engaging customers, but you have to respond to negative feedback too. Failing to do so, or responding in the wrong way, could ruin your business reputation.
So, how do you react to negative reviews? Here are some tips on the best way to respond to negative feedback online.
While it’s certainly not an enjoyable aspect of running a business, negative feedback isn’t altogether bad. In fact, it’s still an opportunity to market your business—by engaging with the customer, showing your audience who you are, and embracing your transparency. Follow these tips to turn negative feedback into positive opportunities for your business (and of course, your customer.)
Getting a bad or a critical review of your goods or services is hard to handle. Dissatisfied customers may write harsh feedback which can be upsetting. You might notice your heart rate increasing or your adrenaline pumping. This is a sign that you need to breathe and wait to respond. While prompt response time on social media and review sites is important, it’s ok to take a breather to process the information before responding to feedback.
What is the customer or reader saying? The feedback might be something as simple as the fact that the bread on their sandwich was soggy. It might be something more serious like abrasive customer service. Or it could be something to ruin your business such as supplying the wrong color flowers to a customer’s wedding. Determine the severity of the feedback before responding. (And don’t forget to breathe! No matter how severe, there’s always a solution.)
Related eBook: Reputation 101 (free download)
We’ve all been dissatisfied with a product or service at one point or another. Try to see the issue from the customer’s perspective to determine how to handle the situation. If you were in their situation, what would resolve the problem? By truly catering to what your customer needs most in the situation, you strengthen the integrity of your brand and values.
Who is giving the negative feedback? Is it someone from out of town passing through the area and unlikely to use your services again? Is the customer an influencer with a large following of people? Have they been a loyal customer since you’ve been in business? Every customer deserves a good experience, but customers with a stronger influence on potential customers are important to pinpoint.
This is the time to determine what would make the customer happy and how to get them to return. Always address negative feedback, but do so with an appropriate response based on the customer. An apology might be enough for someone passing through town with no chance of repeat business, but if your restaurant gets blasted on Yelp or a food blog, you’re going to have to work to make the customer happy.
Loyal customers who refer business will feel slighted by a bad experience. Take their feedback seriously and respond on a more personal level with these customers who feel more invested in your business.
Apologize, explain the situation, offer a discount or a free service to bring them back to your business, and follow up to make sure the customer is satisfied. Often a bad review can be bolstered by a good follow-up review on outstanding customer service.
If someone writes a bad review on Facebook, Yelp, or Twitter, respond diplomatically. But, if the reviewer isn’t satisfied, take the conversation offline. Be consistent—thank the customer for their feedback and apologize. If there is an easy fix to the problem, it’s ok to explain that online.
“We’re so sorry the bread was soggy, sometimes that happens when we wrap up a hot sandwich! We’d be glad to have you come back for a free sandwich.” or “We appreciate your feedback and are working on hiring more employees during the holidays so wait times are shorter.”
If a customer is very upset however, the best thing to do is to ask for the customer’s contact information to handle the situation in a private manner. “We’re sorry for the inconvenience. We’d love to find out more information about the situation, what’s the best way to contact you offline?”
The customer is always right. Emotions can run high and getting defensive will not help the situation. Defending yourself and your business instead of trying to help someone is the wrong way to handle negative feedback. The story surrounding Amy’s Baking Company in Arizona is an example of how being defensive is bad for business. Never tell the customer they’re wrong or that they don’t know to run a business! Customers are the lifeblood of your business and treating them poorly will impact your success.
The internet is forever and what you write online will be seen by countless people, depending on how good your SEO is. Don’t put anything out there that you wouldn’t want someone to read 1 week, 6 months, or 3 years from now. Always be polite, no matter how harsh the review.
Feedback of any kind is a good indicator of what is working for your business and who your business is reaching. If a customer provides a suggestion, take it into consideration. Thank the customer for their ideas and ask for feedback in the future if you implement it. Address feedback about customer service with employees directly to improve the quality of your business. Hearing from your customers is the best way to help your business succeed!
There is a right way and a wrong way to address negative feedback online. Follow these tips to react the right way with customers and help your small business succeed.
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This post was originally published on Oct 14, 2014 and updated on May 25, 2018.