Handling Negative Customer Reviews

“You want to be extra rigorous about making the best possible thing you can. Find everything that’s wrong with it and fix it. Seek negative feedback.” – Elon Musk

Every business would be vulnerable to negative customer reviews – irrespective of the size, stature, and time in business, of companies. Managing these reviews can be quite an onerous and herculean task since no business can predict what would tick off customers and for what reason. Research shows that customers with unpleasant experiences are more likely to write reviews and let others know, in comparison to those who are generally satisfied with a company. While negative reviews can be extremely unpleasant, they also provide valuable insights into the thought process and feelings of customers, and companies that take these seriously are better equipped to turn these reviews to their advantage. By responding to and resolving an irate customer’s problem, a company could gain a loyal customer, while gaining some positive attention from prospective ones. Remaining aware that negative customer reviews are a very real possibility, a company can mitigate the likely damages of these reviews.

As mentioned, negative customer reviews are not easy to deal with. It hurts when, despite best efforts in customer service and products, a company fails to please its customers. However, in dealing with these reviews it is important for a company and its representatives to remember that such reviews are only the customer’s way of venting and must be treated as feedback – not personal attacks. The reviews that stem from poor service would be emotionally charged and a company must manage these first. We know that of the many reasons customers buy, emotional reasons seem to top the list, and hence it would be natural for customers to feel frustrated if they believe that they did not get their money’s worth or that the company treated them shabbily.

Handling negative customer reviews would be a lot easier when a company realizes and accepts that such feedback is inevitable, but should be used as an opportunity to improve and grow the business. Of course, no company wants negative reviews but giving reviews is a customer prerogative – after all no business can exist without customers, and they have every right to demand better. The fact is that negative customer reviews still mean that customers are willing to give a company a second chance, are open to continue the ‘engagement, and would stay with the company if their ‘grouse’ is handled well. Negative feedback is any day better than being ignored or side lined – that would just mean that customers do not care about a company and would rather move to another at the slightest hint of trouble. Negative feedback does not always mean that your company has messed up – there are times when it could be a case of miscommunication, and timely handling can resolve the issue for good.

Receiving negative customer reviews should not come as a shock. If your company is caught unawares, it just means that it is not doing enough to monitor customer behaviour and is failing at keeping a ‘finger on the customer’s pulse’. On receiving such feedback, swift action is essential – a company must begin by acknowledging the feedback with unfeigned gratitude and respect. An apology for the inconvenience to the customer is imperative, and the company must let the customer know how it plans to resolve the problem and how much time would be required. Keeping the customer in the loop is essential while handling negative customer reviews. A speedy resolution (where necessary) shows customers that your company cares about them, and it is keen on retaining them as customers. With an increasing number of customers posting reviews on high visibility platforms such as social media, the negative customer reviews and a company’s response would be visible to a much larger audience. Prudent responses and handling of these negative customer reviews can easily become a major advantage for any company. How does your company handle negative feedback, and what are the steps followed?

As mentioned, the most important thing to do post receiving negative feedback (positive too), is to respond. The response must be an acknowledgement and display thankfulness to the customer for taking time to provide feedback. A polite, speedy, and genuine response could just be the gesture required to calm the irate customer, leading to a long-term association. It would be imperative to apologize to the customer, even if the customer may be wrong, for the inconvenience. A company must express understanding and empathy, without placing blame. The customer must be able to perceive the company’s desire to make things right, and keep the customer’s business.

Allow the customer enough opportunity to express and vent their problem – active listening is extremely helpful in such high-tension situations. Only by listening, would it be possible for a company to provide the most suitable options – allowing the customer to choose what would be most desirable. It would be necessary for a company to express its desire to improve the relationship and future experiences for the customer, thereby sustaining the trust and belief the customer may have in the company. While offering freebies or incentives must not be the preliminary response to negative customer reviews, they can be offered if the company finds that the complaint is genuine. Simultaneously, a company must ask the customer to update the negative review if the complaint was handled to their satisfaction.

Despite best efforts, if the customer does not seem appeased, it would be better to interact with the customer offline. Negative situations with customers are best handled aside from the ‘glare’ of public forums – upon resolution a company could write an update informing that the situation is sorted to the customer’s satisfaction.

It would be hard to remain calm and polite in the face of negativity, but it is never acceptable for a company to be rude and impolite to customers. It is extremely important to take time to think of an appropriate response, post the initial acknowledgement, and apology to the complaint. If the complaint, even if worded harshly, were true and could prove beneficial, a company must take every measure to remedy the situation and appease the customer. In case, a customer comment is particularly damaging and defamatory, a company must request the site to remove the comment to prevent too much damage. To stay ahead of such possibly damaging reviews, it is essential for a company to consistently monitor its online presence and put in place strategies to manage its online reputation.

Negative customer reviews are not easy to manage, and could be highly demoralizing for a company. However, this must not stop a company from soliciting and requesting for open and honest feedback from customers. Feedback would enable a company to improve continuously its products and customer service – ensuring longer staying power and a solid market reputation. As a company gets better, customers would be more likely to post positive comments, remain loyal, and enthusiastically advocate the company’s brand and products.

Negative customer reviews does adversely affect a company in many ways. However, being prepared for them and handling them appropriately can help a company to increase its reputation and visibility, turn angry customers to loyal ones, and enhance its opportunities for profit and sustainable growth. No one wants negative reviews, especially since an increasing number of people first review existing customer reviews before making a buying decision. Too many negative customer reviews could block off a large part of the prospective business – the good news is that it is possible for companies to control the damage and turn the negatives to long-term advantages. Is your company truly prepared to handle negative customer reviews?

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