Bad or less-than-ideal customer experiences happen to all of us at some point. No matter how professional and diligent we are and no matter how hard we try to be perfect (and, BTW, nobody is perfect), sometimes things just happen, many of which are completely out of our control. Sometimes those things are accidents (your caterer’s van got hit and ruined the luncheon meal … thank goodness nobody was hurt), sometimes they are acts of nature (your keynote speaker came down with the flu), and sometimes they are plain-and-simple oversights or mistakes made by you, your staff or your vendors or subcontractors.
I can attest that we here at Planning Pod aren’t perfect either, and although 99.99% of the time things go smoothly, it’s that 0.01% that always haunts you because you know you and your staff try your damnedest to get things right the first time.
In fact, for centuries businesspeople have made mistakes, and we will make them for countless centuries to come. But what has changed over the last several years is that our customers now have a huge megaphone called social media at their disposal to announce our occasional slipups to the world.
Despite what you think I might say, overall I think negative social media reviews have been a fairly positive development, because they force event business that behave badly to either improve their practices or find a new line of work, and it gives prospective clients another way to screen out mediocre or poor event vendors.
However, there are a couple of negative developments regarding negative customer reviews on social media, namely…
- Lots of unnecessary or unwarranted flaming and namecalling is directed at businesses that are trying to do the right thing, fix their problems and make things right for their customers.
- Internet trolls and haters who never have anything good to say about anyone or anything now have a forum where someone may actually pay attention to them (because if they acted this way in public everyone would treat them like the pariahs they are).
- Unscrupulous competitors can post patently false negative customer reviews about your company.
- The people mentioned in items #1, #2 and #3 can hide behind a cloak of anonymity and demean you with impunity.
- A permanent online record now exists of items #1, #2 and #3.
So what are you to do if you find customers or unnamed, anonymous people blasting you on Facebook, Yelp, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.? Here are 5 steps you can take to control the damage of negative social media reviews and show the world that you care about your current and future customers.
1. Get in touch with the customer fast and fix the problem immediately.
If you have not yet had the chance to redeem yourself, now is the time. Do whatever you can to address your customer’s issue and make things right with them. 98% of the people on this planet are rational, sentient human beings who, once removed from the initial emotion of whatever happened, will be willing to work with you, mainly because they would rather have their problem addressed than continue to complain about it and not have it fixed.
The key here is to address the issue as soon as you are aware of it because customers appreciate immediate and tangible action, even if it isn’t a perfect fix. All this should be done offline and privately.
And what if you can’t make things right and fix the relationship? Well, unfortunately that’s out of your hands … all you can do is try to fix things to the best of your ability, and then it’s up to your customer to forgive you or hold a grudge.
2. Ask the customer to either delete their initial negative customer review or, better yet, add a comment that you addressed the issue.
This one will depend on the current status of your relationship with your customer, but if you have mended the relationship, it’s not unreasonable to ask them to delete the comment or post a reply that you fixed their problem. To be honest, having the customer leave up the negative customer review and add a positive comment is much better than deleting the negative social media comment because it shows that you respond to your customers in a timely manner.
If they resist, tell them that negative social media reviews do have an impact on your business and you want future customers to know that you will do the same for them by quickly fixing any issues that arise.
The best way to overcome negative customer reviews is avoiding them in the first place. Planning Pod gives you 24+ easy-to-use tools to streamline your event business practices and keep you and your staff on time and on task so you can provide great service to your customers.
3. Post your solution as a reply to the negative customer review.
Your customer was the one who made this issue public by posting it on the Internet, so you have every right to post a reply regarding how you addressed their issue. If they want to leave the negative comment up, refuse to add their own positive comment and you have a decent relationship with them at this point, tell them you will be posting a response to how you fixed the situation. And if you your relationship is broken and unfixable, go ahead an post your reply.
However, there are a couple of best practices when doing this:
- Take the high road – Avoid the blame game and don’t make any comments about the customer’s mental state or erratic behavior (even though you may be tempted). Be courteous and sound like the reasonable, attentive person that you are.
- State the facts but don’t go into great detail – Just talk about the basics of how you tried to fix the situation and make things right with the customer. Avoid any editorializing or personal comments … stick to the general facts.
- Don’t post anonymously – Let the world know who you are and what your company did to address the issue.
Again, the key here is to reply as soon as you have fixed (or tried to fix) the issue so that people who find this exchange online will see a quick reply posted, giving them the correct impression that you address problems quickly.
If the post is a completely fake online review one or one that you suspect is a fake online review , you should first reach out to the social media company that you believe someone is posting false negative customer reviews about you and that you want them investigated and/or taken down. They may take no action (and they may not even respond to you), and if this is the case then #2 above is your only course of action at this point.
4. Encourage your satisfied customers to post positive reviews.
Most customer review sites have ratings that weigh your positive reviews against your negative reviews, so if you do have a few negative social media reviews or negative customer reviews on sites like Angie’s List or the Better Business Bureau, one of the best things you can do is to encourage your happy customers to post positive reviews to outweigh or dilute those few negative reviews.
Put it this way … if you have dozens and dozens of glowing reviews and a few negative ones (with replies about how you tried to resolve the issue), your prospects will realize that nobody is perfect and also that haters will hate and give you the benefit of the doubt.
5. Monitor all social media channels
Even if you don’t regularly (or ever) post to social media, you will still need to monitor social media in case someone posts unfavorable customer reviews about you. One great free tool to use is Google Alerts, where you can set up daily alerts regarding mentions of your company online. Social Mention is also another great tool that works like a search engine … just enter in your company name and it gives you a rundown of your social media mentions and an overview of public opinion regarding your brand. Tools like Mention and Hootsuite also let you monitor social media postings with your name in them. We employ Google Alerts, Hootsuite and Mention to track our online mentions and respond back quickly to both customers and interested prospects.
Have any additional tips regarding responding to online customer complaints or reviews? Add them to the comments below.