Using negative feedback to your advantage

Negative reviews repel potential customers, and if the review goes viral, it can severely or permanently damage your company’s image. But it doesn’t have to be that way. An articulate, thoughtful response lets you utilize public criticism to promote your brand’s integrity, bolster the trust your happy customers have in your company, and draw in new customers. The trick is handling each review promptly and courteously, and adjusting your business practices as applicable to fix underlying issues.

A few quick tips:

  • Check Yelp, Google, Facebook, and other review sites where your business is listed on a daily basis
  • Respond to authentic negative reviews, but ignore “troll” comments
  • Post publicly as often as possible, or post on the site stating that you’ve contacted the reviewer privately

Be prompt, but strategic

No matter what the customer is dissatisfied with, you’ve poured your time and effort into your business, so it’s sometimes difficult to not take the criticism personally. Recognize that and, if necessary, give yourself some space before responding. Even if you think you’re being professional, responding while angry, frustrated, or annoyed easily comes through in your tone. This results in an angrier customer, and paves the way for a back-and-forth that does not cast your company in a flattering light.

Be receptive, not defensive

Your goal in responding to lackluster reviews shouldn’t be defending your company. It should, at minimum, let the customer know that you hear them and understand their issue; at best, it should provide a solution that turns an angry customer into a satisfied one. Instead of trying to defend your company’s honor by offering excuses, tell the customer that you’re taking their criticism to heart and working to ensure that the situation doesn’t occur again.

Be apologetic and empathetic

Offering your customers empathy prompts loyalty and builds trust. Sometimes a customer is just having a bad day, sometimes the experience was completely outside of your control, and sometimes your business truly messed up. But the end result is the same – your customer needs you to apologize for their experience and empathize with how it affected them. This not only works to tone down the individual’s anger, but also shows anyone who’s reading the interaction that your company cares about its customers’ experiences.

Stay solution oriented

While there are cases where all you can do is apologize, strive to be creative and thoughtful with offers to rectify the issue. Apologize for a delay in shipment that made a birthday present late, and then offer free, fast shipping on the customer’s next order. Meet a complaint regarding the quality of a service provided with an offer to redo or fix the project or job free of charge. Offers of refunds or coupons are also worth their weight in gold, provided you use them in situations where they’re warranted. Handing out a coupon for every single bad review, no matter the merit, hurts your bottom line and gives the impression that you’re trying to buy off angry customers.

By responding publicly to negative reviews in a receptive, empathetic, and helpful manner, you cement your company as truly customer oriented, and give your satisfied customers proof that, should they ever have an issue, you’re willing to help. And sometimes, you’ll manage the seemingly impossible: turning an angry customer into a loyal one.


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