“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”- Bill Gates
It happens. Even if you take pride in your business offering stellar customer service and products, at some point you might encounter a disgruntled customer. Unfortunately, many of these customers will not always complain directly to management. Sometimes they’ll go directly to Yelp and other review sites, where you’ll eventually read their less than ideal feedback, causing you to squirm, bury your head, and pound the desk, wondering what the heck you can do next. Don’t fret.
How to Handle Criticism
Criticism can be your best teacher. Study the words of your unsatisfied customer carefully. Put aside any feelings of a personal attack, and focus on the underlying cause of dissatisfaction. Was it a lack of timeliness, thoroughness, or communication that led your customer to have such a negative opinion of your business? If you own a restaurant, was the food served cold, menu items sold out, or a dirty kitchen the concerns of your customer? Get to the heart of the matter and be prepared to formulate your response.
Know What to Say and Where to Say It
Just as you are reading all the bad news, so are any other potential visitors. What do you do? Ignore it? Try to plead with the review site to get it removed? Respond? How you handle a poor business review can be your salvation.
First, understand that failing to respond to an unhappy customer is bad business. Since October of 2014, Yelp has offered a new mobile app that allows business owners to read and respond to complaints in real time. There’s simply no excuse for passing it by.
Publically acknowledging a bad review shows that you care, and that you accept responsibility for their dissatisfaction. This does not mean that you need to get defensive, explain the circumstance in detail, or apologize profusely on a social site. Any detailed explanation should be made privately through a phone call or a personal message. On a review site, it’s best to simply acknowledge the complaint, extend your apology, and let the customer know that you will be in touch promptly to remedy the situation.
The second part is that you need to reach out. At this point, it is best to take the high road and ask your customer what you can do to earn their repeat business. Although some customers will not take you up on the offer, most of them will allow you the opportunity to make it right. It might be a full refund, a freebie of some sort, or a discount during their next visit. Making the offer, owning the mistake, and offering a remedy is the best thing you can do to rectify the complaint.
Always Ask Customers for Reviews
Because a bad review will always stick out like a sore thumb, it’s crucial that you frequently ask your customers to leave positive feedback on review sites. You can send surveys through Mobile SMS Messaging to get some insight on your business, and use the responses as a source of direction moving forward. Some establishments offer free services for anyone willing to leave a positive review. Be creative as you solicit these, and don’t “buy” customer satisfaction. Instead, launch a few perks that encourage happy customers to share their experience. The more positive reviews that you have, the less likely it is a potential customer will hold a few bad ones against you. In more cases than not, they’ll be willing to give your establishment a chance and form their own opinion.
Grin and Bear It
How you handle negative feedback says a lot about both you and your business. As long as you respond and treat all complaints as legitimate, you can use customer feedback to your advantage to solicit more positive reviews and even more customers. “The world’s worst burgers” printed on employee t-shirts makes a curious claim, after all.