Updated: Dec 15, 2020
Has a company recently asked you to leave them a rating somewhere online? It seems impossible to escape. Youtube, Uber, Podcasts. They are all at it. It's a modern annoyance.
If you are a small business owner then receiving a positive review on Google or your business Facebook page can aid with getting more business, and we all feel pleased when that happens.
But what should we do on the occasions when the reviews are negative, or the customer has a grievance about something we have done?
Starting with the worst thing you can possibly do, here are a few suggestions on how to manage a bad situation for a better outcome.
What is the no 1 thing you should never do with a customer complaint?
When you first come across a negative review depending on how it is communicated, it can feel awful. Depending on the size of your business it may be you that caused the customer to experience the problem they are reporting. And it is perfectly normal to feel a bit deflated, upset, or even attacked. But you are in business, and this is part of it, so what can you do to fix it? Depending again on the format the customer has used to raise the problem, the clock will already be ticking. So first of all you need to acknowledge the message. Let them know it's been seen and read.
And now, what is the worst thing you can try to do with a complaint? Delete it. Hide it away. Try to make sure no one else ever sees it. Maybe it came in on Twitter. Maybe its been posted on your Facebook page. Or Google My Business. But it's there in the world for all to see.
I have seen people advise that all negative feedback is bad for a companies image, and should be deleted. But it's far worse to pretend that the customer didn't have that bad experience.
For one, the customer may realise what you have done, and decide to complain again in an even more public way, Twitter storms have blown up over less. And you have lost the chance to ever repair the relationship.
I am sure you have heard the saying about happy customers telling 1 person but unhappy customers telling 10.
This kind of word of mouth you don't need. So in summary, never delete a customer complaint, ever.
What should you do?
First of all read the complaint through a few times before you take any other action.
Make sure you understand what the problem is.
Was your service slow? Did the product ordered not arrive? Was it damaged or had something missing. Was it out of date?
Then send a quick message acknowledging receipt of the complaint. You do not need to say too much in your first message, just that you have received the issue, and are now looking into the cause.
Thank them sincerely for bringing the issue to light.
Think about what you can personally do to fix the situation. If you are the company owner you have the power to resolve all problems.
If there is another party involved, such as a courier, or third party website, then think about who you need to contact and then do it before you go back to the customer.
It is far better to go to them with all the answers than having to keep them waiting for the full answer.
Once you have all the facts write to the customer again and express regret for whatever has gone wrong, and then offer whatever it is that you are personally prepared to do to resolve the problem.
Maybe it's as simple as sending out a replacement item, or repeating the service that they initially paid for. Depending on the situation you may want to consider a free gift, or voucher for use in the future.
If things start in the public domain make sure that you deal with them as much as possible in the same way.
For one it helps other potential customers to see what they can expect from your company in terms of courteous behaviour & you really never know who is reading these days.
We will all experience a bad review at some point. But how you deal with it makes all the difference.
Thanks for reading!
Would you like more help with your marketing? My new book is out now
If you would like a book of 100 Marketing Tips written just for small business owners then do have a look here. I wrote this book to be easy to read cover to cover or to be kept as a reference to dip in and out of!
What to read next
Shona Chambers Marketing is a Marketing Agency based in SE London. Specialising in helping Small Business Owners and Freelancers with their Marketing.