How to deal with negative customer reviews online

One of the lessons I have learned as a small business owner is that we all have to deal with negative feedback at some point. In fact, the Internet has made it easier than ever for the disgruntled to register their complaints. Here are my top tips for how to deal with negative customer reviews online.

Find out what's being said

Find out what's being said about your business, product, or services online. Be proactive in looking for online comments both positive and negative. After all, you can't address customer criticism or complaints of you don't know about them.

Take negative customer reviews seriously

I know that it may be tempting to ignore criticism or complaints, but that is not a productive approach. Instead, acknowledge the negative comments and decide on a strategy to respond to them.

Respond appropriately

Not all negative customer reviews are the same. Some relate to poor customer service or a problem with a product or service. Take action on these immediately. Others may involve constructive criticism that includes suggestions for improvement. Your response to these should be, at the very least, to express your appreciation for the feedback. You might also say that you will seriously consider the suggested change or, if you think you will implement it, you may want let the writer know that as well.

Don't respond to nasty comments with more of the same

If a customer review is downright nasty and/or laced with profanity, I would encourage you not to respond in kind. Lowering yourself to the same level as your critic won't be productive, could escalate the exchange, and probably won't make you feel better for long, if at all. In fact, when I had a job dealing with directly with consumers everyday, I often found that treating a truly unpleasant customer with respect (even when I felt they didn't deserve it) often brought out their better side and resulted in a surprising improvement in behavior.

If possible, correct the problem

If a negative customer review involves a specific and real problem and you are able to identify and contact the complainer, do what you can to resolve the situation directly with that individual as quickly as possible. Also, I suggest that you handle this chore yourself, rather than delegating responsibility to someone else. Yes, this can be time consuming, but having the business owner personally respond to his complaint actually might cause your critic to retract or at least moderate his comments (assuming you successfully solve his problem).

Reply to unfair criticism

If you believe that a complaint is unfair or incorrect, try to present your side of the situation in a professional and reasoned way. If the comment is truly egregious, you could even try to have it taken down.

Develop a thick skin

The Internet makes it easy for unhappy consumers to express their displeasure. Do what you can to address valid negative customer reviews, but also learn to accept that some criticism is inevitable and that you may simply have to develop a thick skin when it comes to negative feedback.

Sources:

Michael Dolen, www.business2community.com, "How to Deal with Negative Customer Reviews/Business 2 Community"

Matt Griffin, www.retailonlineintegration.com, "Word of Mouth: Five Steps to Deal with Negative Customer Feedback"

Matthew Bobbu, www.digitalvisitor.com, "How to Deal with a Negative Review"

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