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Business Problem Turnaround: Dealing with bad reviews (Part 2)

March 8, 2017

This post is part of our Business Problem Turnaround series. Read the entire series here on the Clover blog, and explore for more better business tips and tactics.

Negative online reviews can feel like a nightmare come true. Unfortunately, some merchants give in to the impulse to respond in kind. A negative review won’t, in and of itself, sink a business, but how you respond to it can haunt you. Customers know you can’t please everyone and that not all reviews are real or reasonable. The way you respond to reviews is important, and customers expect you to be professional. Here are 7 things never to do, and what to do instead.

1. Don’t delete the post.

Unfortunately, some merchants believe they can simply delete the bad review and the problem will go away. Deleting bad reviews seems like an easy way out, but it can easily backfire. Dealing with a bad review openly gives a business credibility. It gives the business a chance to shine and demonstrate they have superior customer service. Remember: customers post public reviews because they want to be heard. Deleting their post takes away their voice and is likely to make them even more frustrated and determined. Trying to hide a negative review might even inspire a troll who turns a one-off negative review into an entrenched public battle that can further hurt your reputation. Unless the post is defamatory it’s much better to be transparent that there was a complaint and that you did your best to address it. Customers know that occasionally there are mishaps or just plain ornery clients. Leaving the original complaint and trying to address it openly adds credibility to the other, more positive reviews of your business.

Do encourage everyone to leave reviews.
Ask for reviews as a regular part of doing business. Put up signs or put notes on your receipts. While it’s considered bad practices to specifically ask for positive reviews, having many honest and fair reviews will minimize the damage from a negative review. Consider appealing to loyal customers with a sign that says: “We rely on word of mouth—please let us know how we’re doing with a review.”

2. Don’t ignore it.

That will only send the message that you don’t care.

Do respond as soon as possible.
Bad feelings fester when not dealt with in a reasonable amount of time. Demonstrate your dedication to good customer service by responding promptly. A customer complaint about an incorrect order or a mistake can be easily resolved with a quick message back: “We’re so sorry—please come back and we’ll make sure we get your order right.” Even better is to encourage customers to communicate with you privately, for example engaging in a private discussion with a store manager using a free app such as Feedback.

3. Don’t argue.

Focus the conversation instead on uncovering what triggered the customer’s response and rooting out what really needs to be addressed to make them happy.

Do validate their response.
Focus on the customer’s feelings first. Show some empathy and connect with the customer emotionally. Acknowledge and validate their response to the situation, even if it seems overblown. A quick— “Oh no, that must have been really frustrating,” or “I can see why that might’ve been confusing” can help disarm anger.

4. Don’t try to resolve complex issues online.

If a customer complains about an employee or something more complicated than “you forgot my fries,” you should try to investigate and resolve it in private, not on a public site where every word is recorded.

Do get into the details…privately.
Apologize, sincerely and succinctly, online. Keep the public response short, courteous, and concerned: “I’m so sorry to hear you left unhappy. Please contact me—I’d like to talk to you more about this.” Make sure to invite the customer in to resolve the issue in person. It’s easier to read a person’s mood and responses when you can see their body language, and people are often less aggressive face-to-face than on an anonymous site. If the conflict is happening on the shop floor, say “I’m really sorry that happened. It’s loud here—why don’t we step into my office where it’s quiet and I can hear you better,” or “If you don’t mind I’d like to take some notes for my manager—can we go to my office for a moment?”

5. Don’t respond to jibes.

Ignore remarks that are meant to get a rise out of you. Instead, make it a point to use neutral language that is not likely to provoke an emotional response.

Do take the high road.
Accusations bring out the worst in everyone. No matter how heated the situation is, respond calmly and politely. Reassure the customer that you’ll address the problem and try to keep the conversation focused on positive outcomes. If the customer is making defamatory or subjective statements about the staff or products, sometimes a neutral statement like “can you clarify what you mean by that,” or “I’m not sure I understand—tell me more” can give you the details you need to deal with the situation effectively.

6. Don’t debate small details.

Let the customer talk and actively listen to what they say, even if it seems inaccurate.

Do get to the root of the issue.
Ask the customer to start from the beginning and walk you through what happened. Hearing the full story in the words of the customer will help you uncover expectations and new opportunities to make things right. It can also reveal ways to turn the situation into a superior customer service experience. Is the customer upset because the dish had something in it that wasn’t on their diet? Perhaps it’s an opportunity to create new specials or you replace the dish with something custom for the customer. Was the customer trying to find the perfect birthday gift? Maybe a return or money-back guarantee isn’t as satisfying as a one-on-one consultation resulting in the perfect gift.

7. Don’t assume the complaint is a one-off.

Fully investigate the issue to see whether your business is meeting your customers’ expectations.

Do thank the customer.
for being open and honest with you. It’s far better to have a customer tell you directly then hearing about it online or through the grapevine. Thanking them also ends the interaction on a positive note.

Every business has moments where they didn’t perform up to customer expectations. Take negative reviews for what they are—moments to reflect on your business and make it better. For more advice on how to avoid negative reviews check out our other post in this series.

When you’re ready, we’re here to help. Check out the Clover App Market for tools to make managing your business easier.

[image: Coffee shop in Saigon by Huong Chi on flickr]