The Right (and Wrong) Way to Handle Negative Customer Reviews

The Right (and Wrong) Way to Handle Negative Customer ReviewsReading bad customer reviews online can turn the most saintly business owner into a rage monster. Getting negative feedback in a public forum is tough, especially when you had no idea a client was unhappy. But instead of firing back with a petty response, think about how you can use these conflicts to improve your business. Just remember, the whole world can see your reaction. Respond to bad reviews in a timely, respectful manner, and you can turn poor experiences into opportunities to build customer loyalty.

Stay Calm an Objective

No one can please every customer, so bad online reviews are bound to show up from time to time. Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They just want proof you value their business and care about keeping it. Try not to take negative feedback personally. If you react in the moment, you will likely make the problem worse and drive away customers for good.

Do yourself a favor, and step away from the computer to cool down before you respond. Waiting until you have a calm mindset can help you be objective and see the problem from the customer’s perspective. Did a staff member fall short? Was a product defective? Do you offer guidance to new customers who are less familiar with your products? Use feedback to figure out where you can fill gaps in your service and make the customer experience better for everyone.

Avoid Accusatory Language

Never go into blame mode and start pointing fingers at the customer. Sometimes, customers will write bad reviews when you didn’t really do anything wrong. Maybe the customer didn’t understand the product, or your services just weren’t a good fit for the person’s needs. Guess what? You have to accept responsibility anyway if you want to keep a client’s business. Steer clear of an accusatory or defensive tone at all costs. For example, do not:

  • Scold clients for not understanding your policies
  • Accuse clients of lying about your business
  • Reject any possibility that your business made a mistake
  • Use passive aggressive language to subtly undermine the client
  • Make an empty apology while simultaneously criticizing the client

Accusatory behaviors quickly escalate the problem and leave customers feeling attacked. At the end of the day, something went wrong. It’s your job to figure out why and how the problem happened.

Acknowledge Your Flaws

Offer up a sincere apology, but avoid using the same stock response over and over again. Customers are less likely to think your apology is genuine if you say the exact same thing to every person who complains. While it’s fine to work from a template, personalize your response and address the customer’s complaint point by point. Ask unhappy customers what you can do to make your business even better. For example:

We’re so sorry your service didn’t go as expected. Our team works hard to try and deliver a good experience to every customer, but we aren’t perfect, and sometimes we drop the ball. We’d love to compensate you for the product and hear more details about your experience, so we can provide better service next time.

Be kind and compassionate in your response. You can usually diffuse a bad situation by showing how much you appreciate customers. At the same time, apologize for falling short of the customer’s expectations. So what if you don’t believe you’re to blame? The long-term value of a loyal customer is much more important than your ego.

Ask for a Second Chance

Make it clear you want customers to keep coming back. One of the worst things you can do is not respond at all. If you say nothing, customers will assume you don’t care what happens next. And people talk. Customers share negative experiences more often than positive ones, so don’t be surprised if a few poor reviews turn into a bad reputation.

Stay ahead of the game. Future customers will see these exchanges and make snap judgments about your business. Do you want them to see you yelling at customers or ignoring them altogether? Or do you want other readers to see you apologizing to customers and asking for an opportunity to make things right? Offer customers an incentive to give you a second chance, such as a discount or refund. A small gesture goes a long way, and it may help you generate lasting business from customers who would otherwise ditch your business for a competitor.

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2 Responses to The Right (and Wrong) Way to Handle Negative Customer Reviews

  1. Keith Cooper says:

    In todays world things are different. There are people who complaint just to try and get a discount or free product. This is very true with some seniors. I see this all the time, specially in restaurants, eating most of the food, then complaint about the food or service to get a discount or a free meal. It is important that you explain the product and pricing completely to try to avoid the pit fall of people abusing businesses just to get a discount or free stuff.

    • Matt Hodgson says:

      Hi Keith,

      Thank you for your feedback regarding negative customer reviews. You raise a very valid point about setting the customers expectations relating to your product, it’s deliverables and how much it costs etc – this is an excellent way to avoid any ambiguity, which may result in an upset customer. Clearly setting customers expectations should also result in positive feedback!

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