Since the birth of the internet, businesses have been under the control of the customers. Online forums, social media platforms and review sites have opened up a whole range of ways for customers to comment, compliment and complain about businesses and services. Whereas we once would rely on the reviews of a restaurant critic or family and friends before choosing a place to dine out, now we can look on the social media profiles and see the customer comments or check Trip Advisor and see the amount of ‘stars’ given to the eatery.

As a business owner, you will know that customers are more likely to complain than they are to compliment. Customers who see negative reviews on a site will in turn form their own negative view of the business, so you need to deal with the negative views in an effective way. Follow these simple rules to not only quell bad reviews, but hopefully turn them around into positive ones.

Be Quick!

When someone is pent up with rage, sitting on that rage only makes their anger grow. This feeling is amplified when a customer is sitting there, staring at the computer, waiting for a response. It can make a customer feel unappreciated and unvalued. To show the customer that you really care, response as soon as you can. Customers should be replied to within 20 minutes, so if you have a social media site then you need to have a dedicated team managing it. When you respond quickly, customers feel that you are regarding their issue as important.

If you can, then when you respond to an online comment ask if there is another way the customer can be contacted. Either ask them to send you a direct message with their phone number so you can speak with them personally, or provide an email address to continue the conversation. Customers feel that they are getting a more personal experience, and you can keep the gritty details of the complaint out of the public eye. Once the complaint is resolved, reply to the original comment online saying that you are happy that you could resolve the issue for them today.

Be Nice!

Negative criticism can at times be nasty. There can be crude language and opinions that you do not believe are true or do not appreciate. Yet, even though a customer can have some harsh words you must remember that you represent the business and so must reply in a professional and calm manner. So, take a deep breath, take a moment to think about what you are going to say and respond as you see fit. If it seems there is a genuine reason for the customer to be so angry, then apologies and ask if you can contact them privately to further discuss this, or if the customer seems out of order simply tell them that you value their feedback and would like to speak with them further.

If the customer has had an experience that you do not think is bad, simply offer up the reasoning behind the way you conduct your business. If the customer has genuinely had a poor experience, then offer them some form of compensation. These conversations should always be conducted in private, as if one customer sees another receiving compensation they might try their luck in getting something for free.

Be Knowledgeable!

You are working with these sites, so you should understand how they work. For example, Facebook uses the ‘most liked’ or ‘most commented’ comments at the top of the page, Yelp recommends reviews that it believes are the most helpful based on their reviewer, the quality and the reliability and Trip Advisor uses a star rating. You need to know how customers make their review and how the site presents the reviews to fully appreciate how your business looks.

In turn with getting to know how the sites work, also learn how to gain customer reviews. Have little signs on your door, a line at the end of the business card or a note to the bottom of the receipt to ask customers for a review. Prompting a customer will result in positive reviews from those who would not have given it a second thought.

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