Any company that has been in business more than a day has had an unhappy customer. How you deal with it is a reflection of your character. The lack of control over what people say online makes many businesses uncomfortable. I’ll let you in on a secret: The Internet didn’t take away your control. That you believed you had control was an illusion. The only thing you do control in any situation is how you react.
A television show called “Kitchen Nightmares” recently featured a struggling business in Arizona called Amy’s Baking Company. The owners’ atrocious behavior on the show caused the public to unleash a deluge of negative comments on all their social media channels. But it wasn’t the exposure from the show that caused complete destruction to their reputation. It was their childish, vulgar, insulting, and rude responses towards the public that damaged them more than anything else. It’s a classic case of what not to do.
According to the Opinion Research Corporation, 84 percent of Americans say online reviews influence their purchasing decisions so this is critical area for you to monitor. You must know how to deal with critical mentions because it can turn into your own personal nightmare.
The way we address online feedback should be similar to the way we handle it face-to-face. You use the same customer service skills but in a new “location.” The additional benefit of successfully handling unhappy comments is it lends transparency to your process. Others can see what happened, how you handle business, and can make their own conclusions about the service you provide.
Many businesses ask their employees and friends to write positive reviews as a way to build up an online reputation. This practice is called astroturfing, when individuals disingenuously create reviews for a service that come from someone other than an actual customer. Lifestyle Life, a cosmetic surgery clinic in New York, was required to pay $30,000 in civil penalties after an investigation by the state attorney general’s office. Employees had been found guilty of posing as plastic surgery patients and had written wonderful reviews. Even if you think it can’t hurt, don’t do it. This includes promising services or products for reviews.
Steps to prevent negativity*
Provide good online support. 45 percent of retail customers prefer social media support, according to ZenDesk. Do you know what kind your customers prefer? Ask them. The important part is to know their preference before it gets to the bad review stage.
Listen constantly. Make sure you are aware of what your customers are saying every day of the week. If you’re afraid of what you’ll find, you’re sticking your head in the sand and that could be the end of you.
Acknowledge the complaint. We all want to be validated and being polite goes a long way. In addition to loyal customers and potential clients, you will hear from people that have very few other things going on in their lives. Your kind response can diffuse a situation that, if ignored, could spiral out of control. Sometimes you will need to make a correction – not to start an argument - but to provide accurate information.
Fix it fast. Your audience knows it has the power to destroy your reputation. Everyone at your company should be trained on how to treat each client, caller, and individual contact as if they are a VIP. Manage expectations about the timeframe for resolution.