For centuries, “word-of-mouth” promotion was considered the best kind to get: When loyal customers told others about your business, this free publicity could make it a stellar success. And, when customers had less-than-great things to say, sharing of negative feedback was typically limited to those people closest to them.
Customers still love to share positive and negative experiences today, but with the explosion of social media, there are some very important differences, including that:
- Online postings, whether positive or negative, can reach an unlimited number of current and potential customers.
- Online reviews of your business live on the internet forever.
In this “sharing” climate, nearly all businesses will eventually receive negative feedback via social media, which denies business owners the opportunity to resolve problems as they occur. When this happens to your business, here are ways to effectively turn negative customer experiences and reviews into positive ways to improve your business and strengthen your brand.
5 ways to strengthen your business after negative experiences
1. Don’t let anger be your default response
Negative online reviews can feel like gut punches that knock the breath out of you.
Still, while it can be both surprising and disheartening to first learn about a customer’s bad experience through a social-media post, whatever you do, don’t send negative comments to the customer or make excuses for the experiences. Not only are these not good customer-service business practices to begin with, but they’ll also live online forever and won’t build any goodwill.
Instead, the most important thing to remember is to stay calm, process the information and decide to find a way to turn the situation into a positive. By doing so, you move control of the situation from the customer back to you and your business, so that you can initiate a positive response that reflects well on your business.
2. Connect with the customer
Plan a brief strategy to reach out to the person and address the problem proactively, remembering that how you say things is as important as what you say. Keep in mind that language and tone matter and are often misinterpreted online. (Did you ever get an email or text that sounded sarcastic, when the writer actually thought that they were just being funny?)
Start by replying to the post directly, acknowledging any issues and thanking your customer for their feedback. Let them know that you’d like to learn more about what happened and ways that you can resolve the issues, then invite the person to take the conversation offline by asking for them to call you or email you so that you can help them directly.
By doing this, you’re helping this customer with the problem, while also demonstrating to other people who read the posts that you’re responsible, caring, proactive and satisfaction-oriented. This simple action alone will go a long way toward alleviating any potential damage that could have been done through a negative review or post.
3. Be objective and collect the facts
The immediacy and ease of social media means that customers often write before they think, especially when it comes to negative experiences. Keep in mind that experiences are subjective and can be influenced by more than the quality of your business’s products or services.
When communicating with the customer, get the facts surrounding the experience – when it happened, what the customer needed or expected and what they got instead.
By doing so, you may get valuable information that can help you identify any potential weaknesses in your business that need to be fixed, as well as understand if there were circumstances in the customer’s life (or expectations) that may have been at the base of the negative experience. And in either case, your thoughtful approach and empathetic manner will be appreciated and do a world of good.
4. Take action
Offer the customer an option that can positively turn the experience around, even if it’s a complimentary service or product (consider it an investment in goodwill and (customer retention). In most cases, a satisfactory solution is easy to find and the actions that you’ve taken – reaching out and showing that you care – will already have gone a long way toward soothing any anger, disappointment or other negativity.
After you’ve taken action to resolve the situation, reach out again to ensure that your customer is satisfied with the outcome of your interaction. Express your appreciation for bringing the experience to your attention to highlight their role in making your company better.
Often, these once-dissatisfied customers will become your most loyal brand ambassadors.
Use feedback to grow your business
Every business benefits from feedback, whether from customers who’ve had negative (or great!) experiences or from experts who can help identify challenges and opportunities that can strengthen your business. And every day, we help small business owners learn skills that help their businesses succeed and gain access to funding to help them grow.
Contact us today to learn more about ways we can help you, too.