Businesses aren’t perfect.
A slipup from a vendor, a shipment gone awry and an inevitable technical error all damage a brand’s reputation. In these situations, customers have the right to be brutal and unforgiving. Consequently, a negative review can pop up anywhere and haunt a company forever.
Though it's impossible to control what upset customers may say, companies' reaction to the criticism can be tempered.
In its support center for businesses, Yelp offers a helpful document that warns, “contacting reviewers should be approached with care; internet messaging is a blunt tool and sometimes good intentions come across badly.”
Yelp also adds three important points worth remembering:
"1.Your reviewers are your paying customers.
2. Your reviewers are human beings with (sometimes unpredictable) feelings and sensitivities.
3. Your reviewers are vocal and opinionated (otherwise they would not be writing reviews!)."
Of course, this advice can be applied to dealing with negative reviews anywhere on the web, not only on Yelp.
Avoid getting into a war of words and give disappointed customers an authentic, empathetic and nonconfrontational response. If you are lucky, you might even earn their respect and loyalty.
Below are four tips to remember in order to bounce back from a negative review:
1. Do not hide from your mistakes. Most companies, when hit with harsh feedback, will copy and paste a canned response, then proceed to bury the review deep in Google’s search results. Others will sulk in the shadows, hoping the PR nightmare may eventually blow over.
Unfortunately, neither approach works for the long term. The critic will feel highly undervalued and smart shoppers will always be thorough in their research. Make it a point to acknowledge your failure and to do whatever it takes to make it right instead of making it go away.
2. Focus on solutions, not excuses. Set your ego aside and make amends by taking responsibility for a user’s poor experience, even if you aren’t truly at fault. Offer a generous apology, which may include a full or partial refund, free gifts and expedited shipping. Then, go the extra mile and provide an outline for an action plan that will permanently fix the root cause of the problem.
For example, you may describe how you will work closer with the quality assurance team, retrain customer service representatives or replace unreliable vendors. This demonstrates that you learned something from the experience and took action so it may never happen again.
3. Recruit consumers' help. Angry customers are not intentionally malicious. In almost all cases, they simply want to be heard and to be treated with dignity and respect. Therefore, invite them to help you build a better business.
Have your clients contribute their ideas for how exactly you can improve your offerings so they may get the most value out of your product and so no one else will feel cheated the way they did. Just remember to do more than listen; deliver on any agreeable suggestions and keep all promises.
4. Work with a clear conscience. After operating in the best interests of your customer and your brand, keep your head held high. There is no reason to feel burdened with a sense of overwhelming guilt or shame that affects morale and performance. At some point, you have to move on and continue delighting more customers.
As your business grows, there will always be at least one annoyed and vocal customer. To ensure that you keep your brand’s reputation intact and that you sleep well at night, be sure to honor every complaint that comes in with a generous response that provides a short-term fix (to win back the customer) and a long-term solution (to earn trust and prevent the issue from happening again).
Copyright © 2013 Entrepreneur.com, Inc.