It can be tough in today’s day and age to maintain a positive brand image and reputation. It’s even harder today than in years past due to the overwhelming popularity of social media. Twenty years ago, a customer complaint rarely made it to the public eye unless it was huge; today, every blip on the radar gets big attention because anyone can post anything anywhere at any time. How can you handle that level of exposure? Especially when someone posts a bad review about you – whether real or perceived?
Nothing is really stopping a customer from tweeting about their experience, posting a status update, or posting a review on Yelp. Just one less-than-stellar review can have a snowball effect that can do a lot of damage if left unchecked. Here’s how you can best deal with negative online reviews.
Prevent Them in the First Place
Your #1 goal is to make the customer happy. You can’t afford the negative hit of bad reviews to your reputation like those huge chains (think Target and Wal-Mart) can. That said, it’s unrealistic to think you’ll never get a bad review. It happens. You can’t please all the people all the time, right? Key here is to get to the customer and make amends BEFORE they write that scathing review.
Most people are reasonable and will come to you first so you have a chance to right the wrong. Take it. Do all you can to reach a compromise, whether by offering a free product or money off a service. You don’t want the customer to get to a point where they feel like they have no other option than to take to social media to vent, points out Search Engine Land. Just one comment can live for eternity online, costing you a lot more in bad publicity and lost business than if you just forked over a small gift card to appease the frustrated customer.
Don’t Engage in Debate
If the customer already voiced their opinion about your company online, such as through a Facebook post, address the issue quickly publicly ONCE, then take it offline. Post a short apology and promise to follow up personally with the customer. Engaging in a lengthy debate will only devolve into a petty he-said-she-said back-and-forth that will never resolve itself. After all, most people side on the part of the customer any way.
Use the private message system or a direct email to write a short, positive, private response to recognize and validate the customer’s concern. Then, provide a solution. If the customer is happy with the end result, great! Now’s the time to politely suggest that they update or change their original complaint, or remove it entirely. Showing the rest of the public that a positive conclusion has been met is key here.
When it Doesn’t Work Out
Of course, the above scenario would be the best outcome; but, as you know as a small business owner, it doesn’t always work out this way. Do you still have an upset and unsatisfied customer even though you have done everything you can to address the matter in a reasonable way? Post a short response publicly online within the same forum as a way to correct the facts for the record, then walk away.
Appearing professional and dignified is the impression you want to give. You don’t always have to be right, you just have to be upfront. If you allow a negative debate to go on and on, you’re just drawing attention to yourself, and not in a good way.
The very last resort is legal action, and this is only if a customer repeatedly posts unjustified bad reviews, or if a customer harasses you daily on social media. However, even in these cases, just remember that lawsuits are time-consuming, expensive, and very public. Even if you win, you’ll be left with much less money, a still-damaged reputation, and very little to brag about.
Reputation management is a big part of online marketing, and so is social media management. Get in touch with Planet Marketing for help in building your social media presence today.