Every business will face a disgruntled customer or two during their time in operation. It can be a confronting experience, especially when you work hard to deliver a service or product that you are proud of. But it’s unreasonable to expect that you will please every single customer, every single time. Life doesn’t work that way. Sometimes you or your staff will drop the ball, other times your customer might simply be having a bad day. A negative review might not always be fair but it doesn’t have to be a terrible experience. Here’s how to turn negative reviews of your business into positive results:
First of all, don’t panic
Negative reviews can happen to anyone. Recognise this is a normal part of operating a business. How you move through this experience will strengthen you and your business into the future. Your perspective is entirely your choice and as the owner of your business, you’re setting an example for your staff.
Don’t make assumptions – empower yourself with information
On the face of it, a negative review could appear unfounded or unreasonable. It’s tempting to respond immediately with a rationalisation for your business’ actions or performance. But avoid this temptation. Now’s the time to get curious. Put yourself in others’ shoes to get a real sense of how and why things occurred in the way they did. The deeper you understand the issue, the more meaningful and impactful your response will be.
Do acknowledge the review
A timely response is important when it comes to managing negative reviews. Yes, you need to investigate so that you’re equipped with the right information, but don’t let this drag on for days or weeks. Especially when it comes to publicly visible reviews, potential customers will make decisions about your business based on how you reply. Think about a high-level response for the public with a promise to contact the person directly to discuss or address the details.
Give the customer an opportunity to tell you more
This really is a chance for you to learn more about how people experience your business, and could result in some profitable ideas on how to improve your service offering. If it feels appropriate, offer the customer an opportunity to tell you more. You could invite them outright to help you better understand the issue, and ask them a few questions to learn more about their concerns. This is a great way to show you’re taking responsibility and a genuine approach by you can actually turn a disgruntled customer into a loyal one.
Provide a clear resolution
This will be subject to the unique circumstances of the situation, but it’s important to resolve the matter clearly, and this is your responsibility. It’s good practice to offer a sincere apology to anyone whose experience of your business is sub-optimal. What you do in conjunction with this can vary and may include: inviting the customer back and letting them know their feedback has improved processes and you’d love to know how their experience changes as a result; and/or giving them a discount or something free that is reflective of their time spent and any inconvenience they have experienced; and/or offering them a refund. Put yourself in their shoes and consider what it would take to resolve the situation for you (we’ve all been a frustrated or disgruntled customer at some point!).
Embed your learnings into your operations
It’s not good enough to trust that your staff will simply remember to do X, or a customer will intuitively know your business operates like Y. Think about what procedures or systems need to change in order to avoid this issue occurring in future. If you can get one step ahead of an issue and prevent it from cropping up again, then the time you’ve spent learning about it is time saved going forward. This approach is also a sign of a good business acumen and can support growth and scalability into the future.
Follow these steps to see a negative review turn into something positive for your small business.
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