Gracious Customer Service: Turning Negative Feedback into Positive Service
You do your best in business, and you have high standards, but standards alone won’t protect you from negative reviews. Sometimes, your company’s offering just isn’t what the customer expected or wanted, and sometimes customers can be childish or malevolent. Regardless, you need to know how to effectively deal with negativity or it could become a PR nightmare.
Monitor Your Online Reputation
Your online reputation is critical. Just like offline reputation, online reputation is the public’s overall sentiment concerning your business. Some business owners take the stance that they won’t care what others think of them. That’s a bold stand, but it’s not one that always makes sense.
Since customers feed your business, you need them and you need their good graces. Hire an online reputation management company. These companies will scour the Internet for negative reviews and then tell you about them. You get to look at everything on an integrated dashboard and then respond, regardless of where the criticism is coming from. Marketing companies, like Yodle, can also help you with online reputation management if you need it.
Understand Your Options
Get acquainted with major review websites, like Yelp!, TripAdvisor, Google Places, DexKnows, and Yahoo! Local. Often times, these sites have options for removing offensive comments. It’s not guaranteed that you can have anything removed, but there’s usually a way for you to request removal. Scour these boards, as this is where some of your best and worst customers hang out.
Avoid Knee-Jerk Reactions
Do not, under any circumstances, react violently against any criticisms. It only makes you look bad and defensive. Instead, be calm, civil, and focus on solving problems.
Most businesses stink at customer relations. That should make your job really easy. Just be sincere. Seriously. The first step in customer service for most companies is to blame the customer and then deny that anything is wrong with the company. It’s a defensive strategy that shows the company is being run by its paranoid legal department.
Flip things around and take responsibility for any legit mistakes on your part, and be sincere. Say you’re sorry and offer a real solution. Offer something tangible to your customers when you make a mistake. Announcing it publicly, in the right context, can make you look like a hero instead of a cold, careless, corporation.
Customer service mistakes are an opportunity to improve. It seems depressing, but it’s not. A bad review can be really demoralizing, especially if you work really hard to please customers on the sales side of things.
But, the bright side is that you fix your internal processes so that customers who are on the fence can get off it - hopefully buying from you instead of your competitor.
It’s also a learning experience, a time to improve processes that you didn’t even know existed in your company. Like any learning experience, even the negative becomes a positive. Plus, a little negativity can lend credibility to your business. Everyone knows that no one is perfect. If all you have are positive reviews, it might be indicative of purposeful image sculpting, which is more suspicious than having a couple of unhappy customers.