It’s inevitable that businesses make mistakes, and in this day and age of social media, many customers are taking their customer service complaints online, Kevin Dean says. As the president of Internet marketing agency WSI Net Advantage, Dean helps small businesses with search engine marketing, social media reputation and website development. And he says one of the most important processes with social media is how you deal with negative reviews. Dean outlines the steps to successfully resolve social media complaints before they tarnish your business’s reputation.
The reality is that if a business has no bad reviews, people won’t trust it as much. The reason is that that’s not real life. Everyone has a bad day. The service is going to be questionable. The customer could be having a bad day. Everything the service provider did could be perfectly fine but the expectations were different or they had a fight with their spouse. The circumstances around it are complex. People who use review systems use it as a way to vent or air out the problems they have. Companies that don't have that have the appearance of just stuffing the ballot box. Maybe they’re paying people to put five stars. Something bad has had to happen somewhere. The desire to clean it off might be overstated. It can solidify your reputation more than just trying to hide it.
The first part is to rationalize the review. As much as business owners sometimes don’t want to hear the bad stuff, are there any signals to the company that they can learn from? Maybe it’s the way they dealt with an individual or a problem, and there’s something they can do to improve. The first instinct is to fire back. You need to calm down and find out what happened. You really need to take a step back and understand the situation.
You need to respond to all complaints made on a social media channel. Leaving negative comments unanswered sends a bad message to potential customers who may research your business. It makes it look like you don’t have the time or the answers for addressing the complaint. You also need to respond in a timely manner, preferably within a day or two. Don’t respond in the heat of the moment when you’re angry, but don’t let it linger out there without a response.
When it comes to the response, it should be professional, to the point, sincere and provide a little bit of information without a negative flair. It should say, “We’re sorry that you felt that way. We’d appreciate it if we could be in contact. Here’s our phone number.” First try to be a conciliatory service partner and resolve the issue peacefully and genuinely. You want it to come across that you genuinely want to turn this negative experience into a positive one. If it’s a problem that can be easily resolved and that might benefit other potential customers, then resolve the problem right then and there.
But if the customer seems like he or she is going to flare up or is volatile, then direct them to a non-public channel. You shouldn’t try to have an online argument with the person. If you have a really long response, after a while, it sounds like whining. The first effort should always be, “We’re sorry you had a bad experience with us. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. Can we speak? Here’s my phone number. Please call me at your earliest convenience.” It doesn’t drag in any facts, it doesn’t bring in any opinions or contort history. If you can nip it in the bud, show a prompt and professional response, my guess is that the majority of the time, that will be the end of it.
That’s in situations where you have the ability to rebut, like in Yelp. Yelp won’t take things down but they give you the ability to respond. There are other sites out there like Ripoff Report that make their business on negative reviews. They’re a strong longtime Internet provider. As you take a look at some of the review sites, the best thing you can do is try to push it down in Google search listings. The only way to do that is to get better, quality listings above that, ones that Google thinks are better. That’s websites, press releases, directories, associations. You try to provide full information, name, address, phone number, a picture, little story. If you’re frequently adding content and staying relevant, then when Google looks at all these listings, the negative gets pushed down.
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