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Customer criticism: how to respond to your customers when negative feedback strikes

With extended outlets for consumers to make contact it’s likely that if phones aren’t answered and emails are ignored social media is a quick and easy way to bad mouth a brand and tarnish its reputation.

Of course customers can do this via online review platforms too so knowing how to respond to, and make the most of negative feedback is crucial. In this situation many retailers panic, but when responded to actively and correctly negative reviews can actually be extremely valuable to the business. 

Let’s take the following scenario: following the purchase process, goods have been sent to the customer well packaged, intact and complete within the specified delivery time, but the customer has still submitted a negative review of their order? It happens.

Advice: remember to respond promptly and professionally. Don’t take it personally. Let’s look at the key steps in responding to negative feedback.

Respond promptly

In order to reinforce to customers how crucial their feedback is, retailers must respond quickly to negative comments. Complaints that are handled actively give customers the incentive to return and shows them that their criticism has been taken seriously. This will encourage a positive attitude towards the brand and customers will be inclined to come up with their own suggestions for improvement.

By responding in this way, problems can be solved within two – three days and issues with usability or delivery in the shop, can be easily resolved if the customer receives a great product.

When using online review platforms it’s possible to get an automatic alert by email every time a new review arrives. If retailers implement this kind of system it's then easy to submit a public comment and acknowledge feedback as and when it’s given.

Admit mistakes

 It’s human to make the odd mistake. No customer expects perfection. It’s more important to offer a concrete solution if something has gone wrong.  Publicly commenting on negative reviews shows customers that businesses are not afraid to address their shortcomings. This usually involves apologising and making a public attempt to rectify the problem. This is highlighted in the study: ‘An apology says more than any voucher ever could,’ which shows that 44 per cent of eBay customers who submitted a poor review were moved to change their review after receiving a personal apology.

Many would be surprised at how quickly criticism can be diffused if complaints are acknowledged and respected.

Accept constructive criticism

Constructive criticism from customers is the most important tool there is for retailers to identify their weaknesses and meet customer demands better. The first step is to seize the opportunity to show the customer that this kind of feedback is important.

Of course this doesn’t mean letting insults slide… retailers shouldn’t have to sit back and take it if it’s clear lies are being told. Differentiation must be made between justified constructive criticism and unjustified criticism, spam or cases where inappropriate remarks are made.

Keep collecting!

“One swallow doesn't make a summer” - the more customer reviews retailers collect, the more likely it is that customers will trust in the brand and its products. Obviously no retailer wants to showcase negative reviews, but if there are a wide range and number of reviews the store will look more authentic, it’s likely that customers will believe in the better reviews, rather than the negative and will recommend and return to the online store.