Customers Bad Reviews

Walking the tightrope requires serious concentration to prevent falling off when performing tricks. One slip and you fall, thankfully though a safety net is there to help. Online, however, there isn’t a net to catch you after mistakes. That’s why customer service departments walk on a fine line when responding to bad reviews.

Conversations can easily escalate or turn viral for the worst. With the following tips, discussions with consumers will be easier to understand and respond to while avoiding escalation.

How Businesses Can Respond to Bad Reviews from Customers Online. 

It’s no fun receiving negative feedback about a service or product. However, businesses should view this situation as an opportunity to improve their services. In the end, the customer is the one that businesses want to satisfy.  In recent years, dissatisfied customers have caused problems to go viral. One unhappy British Airways customer even promoted a tweet to complain about his bad service experience. This tweet led to even more problems for the airline after their customer service team did not respond for as long as six hours.

This interaction led to other customers weighing in about their problems, snowballing one social media post into weeks of problems.

To prevent these situations to happen, businesses need to create a plan and build upon ways of responding to negative consumers feedback.

The first step in this process should be to never ignore feedback. Positive, negative or neutral, all feedback needs a response. Acknowledging what a customer has to say is one way to create user trust. On top of it, ignoring the problem doesn’t mean it will go away, in fact, it might very well get bigger.

There are some basic things to remember when dealing with customers’ feedback. First of all, never get emotional. Sometimes negative feedback can feel like a personal attack or even worse like the customer doesn’t understand how much time and effort went into creating a product. These situations can hurt employees’ feelings and can trigger emotional responses. For this reason, it’s better to establish with your own employees that negative reviews on products do not equal attacks on them. Remind people to take a break when responding to consumers if they need to.

Second thing, have a methodology behind your responses. Meet with the customer service feedback team to ensure how social media or online review responses follow the company’s brand voice and values. Formulate a plan on how to respond to different types of feedback. Remember to collect all the relevant information such as the customer’s name, contact information and where the original complaint came from.

Personalizing a customer response will make sure that companies aren’t flagged for a standard reply. Include the consumer’s name and how the company will resolve the issue. Some companies use the format of thanking the consumer for reaching out, addressing the problem and then thanking them again for giving the company a chance to solve the problem. 

JetBlue Airlines responded to one Twitter user in this way. They first expressed concern over the issue then asked the customer if the problem was affecting other passengers. Once the consumer responded, JetBlue invited him to send a direct message to the company for a credit.

Share the methodology with everyone in the company. Just in case someone is out of the office or another problem arises, it’s helpful to have everyone on the same page. Additionally, companies never know when feedback may require a person higher up the ladder to respond.

For example, the CEO of Talon Air crafted a personal response to one customer after her frustration of a bill from using a private jet went viral. This situation was very unique as the mother was flying to Florida after her child had been involved in a school shooting. The team at Talon Air gathered as much information as they could in order to help the CEO write his response.

Always encourage feedback from people about their experiences or purchases. Consumers don’t always go directly to a business page to submit their complaint. They could run their own review blog or tweet about a company without tagging them. Utilizing monitoring applications is a way to combat this problem. Google offers its Alert notifications, but other alternatives include TalkWalker Alerts and Mention

Examples of Bad Responses to Negative Feedback 

Customer service departments do not have to look far for examples of companies going viral for bad feedback responses. Sometimes this happens because the company continuously replies in the same way or a company individual “went off” on a customer. There are, however, key takeaways from these experiences and exchanges.

Restaurants not only deal with reviews on their social media pages but on Yelp as well. Sometimes owners and chefs go a little bit overboard when responding to negative or one-star reviews. An Italian restaurant manager in Virginia tried to make up for a customer’s not so great takeout meal by delivering a new one. However, by the time the delivery occurred, it was late at night and the manager repeatedly rang the customer’s doorbell. The customer was distraught over the encounter and thus updated her neutral Yelp review to a negative one.

It’s understandable that the manager wants to fix a problem immediately, but going above and beyond late at night isn’t advisable. Responses to negative feedback should occur quickly online. Yet in-person fixes should wait until the morning or when the customer is comfortable with a meeting.

Establishments that treat customers differently online than in-person aren’t going to score any points either. Businesses need to think of their online presence as an extension of their physical location. Amy’s Baking Company was already having a bad time after their episode of Kitchen Nightmares aired. The owners made it even worse by posting on their Facebook threats against customers who gave them bad reviews.

Obviously, companies should never threaten customers under any circumstances. It’s terrible branding and could possibly lead to legal action. The owners at Amy’s Baking Company had some problems, as a matter of fact.

Another practice businesses should always avoid is fining people for bad reviews. Union Guest Street House, a New York hotel, posted a policy on their Yelp page that for every bad review, they would fine their guest $500. This was in clear violation of Yelp’s business policy. If that was not enough, the hotel then went viral for all the wrong reasons and eventually tried to make the policy out as a joke.

Negative reviews are hard for businesses to hear. But threatening customers in any way will not make them go away. 

Responding to a customer’s complaint, for better or worse, is a task that can now be handled by chatbots. However, as Bank of America learned, robots need more development when handling human interactions. Protestors in 2013 tagged the Bank of America’s service Twitter page and the programmed responses did not take note of the person’s actual tweet. These responses quickly went viral. 

Although it’s hard to respond to every user in a unique fashion, this does not mean companies should turn to a template reply. Addressing the customer as an individual with their name or their particular situation is one way to gain back user trust and customer satisfaction.

All of the companies used above highlight areas where customer service departments need to have a policy in place for any situation. They need to think about what they would do in a situation like the ones above, or those that are unique to their industry.

Managing Customer Conversations 

Customer service departments need to have a plan in place for responding to negative feedback. Going beyond the plan, once a conversation starts, is also needed. Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind.

What sort of compensation will be offered to the customer? Not every instance of negative feedback will require compensation from a company. However, it’s important for everyone to understand the specific situations in which your company will need to refund a consumer.

Will a restaurant refund a meal? What situation on a flight needs a refund of tickets? Knowing all this information ahead of time is crucial.

Knowing what responses to use in advance will aid companies with how much an incident could cost them. Having these compensation responses in place means a business can turn a bad experience into a better one or even a second chance to win over a particular customer.

How can you ensure a customer’s feedback will not get lost? Businesses are busy with day-to-day jobs and tasks Sometimes things slip through the cracks. Keeping on top of feedback though, should not fall to the wayside. Small to large businesses need to carve out time for responding to customers every day if necessary. 

Also, set up a spreadsheet to ensure no consumer’s response gets lost. Platforms like Mention, Hootsuite, and Social Sprout automatically collect posts that mention, name or tag businesses on social media. Information to track in the spreadsheet would be things like:

  • Where the customer reached out initially,
  • The consumer’s complaint,
  • Contact information for the individual, and
  • When the last interaction occurred with that customer

Consider how to help customer service employees from becoming emotional when dealing with consumer feedback. This is an ongoing problem for individuals in customer service departments of any size. Dealing day in and day out with unhappy customers will take its toll on everyone. It’s not surprising that sometimes these individuals slip-up and respond with their own snarky remarks.

Although some companies, like Wendy’s, use a sarcastic tone to respond, not everyone should use it. Customers are not always so flexible, especially if they have a real issue. If a company doesn’t take a problem seriously, consumers can quickly become frustrated.

Encourage breaks when employees are dealing with long periods of negative feedback. After the initial contact happens, it can take some time for a company to find a resolution for an issue. It’s understandable for companies to reply that they need to discuss and meet with other members with their team to solve a problem. 

Don’t send customers on a wild goose chase either. When responding to feedback keep the conversation on that platform initially and switch to either phone or email when it makes sense.

If a customer refuses to directly message a company or keep the conversation private, businesses are still responsible for ensuring that customer’s information stays private. Therefore when a customer shares their personal information in a public space, companies need to hide that information to prevent problems.

By knowing what compensation to offer, keeping track of a conversation and keeping calm, responding to negative consumer feedback will be easier for customer service departments.

In the end, customer service is like walking a tightrope. No matter how well-focused companies are on the end goal, they never know what surprises may pop up. Keeping in mind some of the tools and examples from this piece, customer service departments alleviate some of the problems associated with bad feedback. Managing negative feedback is an opportunity for businesses to learn or fix a problem. 

Marie Johnson is a contributor to Enlightened Digital, UX Designer and technology writer from New York City. If she's not writing her latest blog post in her kitchen, you'll likely find her strolling through Central Park, cappuccino in hand.

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