By Mike James

No one likes a complainer, especially when you’ve worked so hard to offer what you think is an exceptional product or service. Many businesses used to ignore the odd complaint, some even ignored them all together. With the rise of social media and online reviews, news travels fast, and that includes complaints. A new age is upon us, and businesses more than ever before have developed strategies for dealing with complaints. Some global businesses even have whole departments dedicated to them. Don’t be disheartened, it’s not all doom and gloom when it comes to negative reviews. Using negative reviews in a positive way could be the key to turning your business into a success.

Handling negative reviews isn’t always easy, so here’s a handy guide on how to respond effectively so you can make a success out of them.

1. Respond Quickly

If you’ve had a bad experience and then bothered to write a review, you’ll know that not getting a response or getting one a few weeks later just adds to your sense of disappointment. Responding quickly should be a priority, even if it’s just a note to say you are sorry to hear about their experience and that you are looking into it.

Many people checking out your business online will take a quick look at the reviews. One negative complaint won’t necessarily put them off, but your inadequate or defensive response (or lack of) might. A timely and positive response on the other hand will show that you genuinely care about your customers.

2. Stay Positive

Don’t automatically feel a blow when you’re getting some negative reviews. See them as an opportunity. They can help guide you to problems in your business. Staying positive in your response to negative reviews will help you deal with the response effectively.

3. Be Polite

A negative review that expresses strong opinions and defamatory material can provoke a strong emotional response in you. Keep your response short and polite. You don’t want to trigger more negative feelings. Most critics don’t want to be convinced that your product or service is wonderful, but they do want to know that you care.

 4. Apologize

For the customer, hearing ‘I’m sorry’ can make a huge difference. You don’t have to apologize over issues of personal preference, but you can tell the customer you are sorry for their experience.

5. Never Be Defensive

Accusing the customer of wrong doing is the fastest way to lose business and you lose an opportunity to fix a problem.

6. Understand That the Customer Is Always Right

It might seem like a strapline from an old John Cleese training video, but your customers are your thermometer to what’s working and what isn’t. While you don’t have to agree with everything written in negative reviews, you’d be foolish not to see them for their worth.

7. Offer Compensation

In most cases some form of compensation will go a long way to alleviate any ill-feeling. Even if it’s as little as a voucher or waiving delivery charges.

8. Take Action

If it’s an isolated negative review then the chances are you’ve caught someone on a bad day or they’ve caught you on a bad day. Even if the complaint is unfounded or you feel it’s unjustified, it’s still worth appeasing the customer. Complainers will always share bad experiences, while many happy punters won’t mention you. It’s a fact.

If you are getting a string of complaints about the same thing, it’s time you did something about it. It’s the greatest offering a review can give you. Taking complaints on the chin isn’t easy, and changing an aspect of your business, which you live and breathe is even harder. But, you have to face the facts when something just isn’t working. You might be pleasantly surprised as to where a small change takes you.

9. Follow Up

Going the extra mile will help you win your unhappy customers back. It’s always worth following up a complaint. Ask the customer if they felt their complaint was handled satisfactorily. And DO tell them if you’ve changed something as a result of their review. It’s important they know you’ve listened. Facebook it, Tweet it, blog about it. Tell the world you’ve made changes to make your product or service even better.

10. Encourage Customer Reviews

Don’t let one bad review put you off. Ask your customers for reviews. There’ll hopefully be many positive ones too.

How you respond to negative reviews is as important as how you use them to fix any problems. Poor customer service is one of the primary reasons a customer stops doing business with you. Believe it or not negative reviews are your friends. They are your feedback loop to success. Ignore the hater at your peril.