You might be here because you are new to the business world and want to be prepared to handle anything that comes your way. On the other hand exists the possibility that you are here because you have encountered that one customer, who practically read the handbook of how to get under your skin, and you weren’t sure how to handle the situation in the best possible and professional manner. Here’s the most important thing you need to always keep in mind: Customer service is the pillar that holds up your business. Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try, you can’t possibly please everybody 100% of the time. Subsequently, those you fail to please will not have a problem telling you (and anyone else who will listen) about it. Thus enters the importance of learning how to handle negative feedback with integrity, class, and professionalism.

The Power of Customer Service

Online reviews and your word of mouth reputation can literally make or break your company. With the multitude of online shoppers, it is more important than ever to not only respond to negative comments about your product or service in a timely manner, but to do it in a way that doesn’t further damage your brand. Nobody looks forward to addressing an unhappy customer, because if your customers aren’t happy then you’re not happy. However, it is a necessary evil that you cannot just sweep under the rug and expect it to go away. People may forget with time but that scathing review is eternally posted online for future customers to read.  Instead, think of responding to negative comments as an opportunity to rescue your customer from the dark side and bring them back. That is, if you can successfully convince them to give you another chance. After reading this guide, you will know how to make it easier for your customer to forgive you (even if it’s not your fault).

The Situation

You received a negative review where your customer, albeit who might be potentially exaggerating just a tiny bit, left a public comment regarding their complete and utter dissatisfaction with your product or service.

The Solution

 Begin by looking at the problem from the customer’s perspective. Rather than impulsively responding, try listening to them and genuinely trying to understand their feelings about what went wrong. It is too easy to get overly defensive about a product or service you care enough about to be representing. Once you have grasped their issue, acknowledge the problem and take responsibility for it. Immediately apologize and offer to take action in order to resolve the issue and restore trust in your relationship.

The customer doesn’t enjoy this, either.  

Usually, when a customer has to write a bad review of your company, they view it as an inconvenience. So, take into account the possibility that your company really did screw up and that they aren’t writing a bad review for no reason at all. Regardless, remember the saying “the customer is always right”? Well, that is because they are. You OWE it to them to correct anything that went wrong with their transaction (within your realm of control). Otherwise, you will not only be losing their business but the business of ten of their friends (sort-of-speak).

After you have written your response:

Read it from your customer’s perspective as well as your potential new customers’ perspective when they go to read reviews about your company prior to deciding to do business with you. Because the likelihood of them siding with your company over a fellow customer is slim, acknowledge and take responsibility for the bad just as you would the good. Even if you believe the customer is wrong, refrain from adding gasoline to the fire by publicly responding with your thoughts on the matter. The only REAL thing that matters is how you can make the situation better, so don’t backtrack for the sake of trying to prove them wrong.

Knock, Knock. Who’s there? KUDOS! 

Responding to a negative review is an excellent time to explain and/or clarify any misunderstandings. For example, there is a company online that sells a doorknocker. 3 out of 5 reviewers had deducted stars, on the site in which they purchased the product, because the doorknocker had four holes but only came with two screws. Now, the company had added on to one of their product photos by drawing two arrows to the designated and labeled “screw holes” and two arrows to the “design holes (no screws)”. Yet, the customers who overlooked this were disappointed when they only received two screws when they were under the impression that they needed four.

This would be a fantastic opportunity for this company to clarify what happened and even take responsibility for not clearly explaining the screw-to-hole controversy in the description, rather than on one of the many product photos, since there is the possibility that the consumer won’t cycle through all of your product photos prior to purchase. After explaining (and improving your future customer’s experience by making the necessary changes), the customer might be moved to change their negative review to one that puts your company in a much more positive light. Don’t wait for your customers to figure it out for themselves because they may never do so. Likewise, don’t rely on other customers to clarify for you because their knowledge on the subject does not hold credibility and may be overlooked as well. You are the only one that will be listened to as the prime explanation because only you hold authority  on your product and services.

Do whatever it takes to resolve the situation, when possible.

  • If a customer is upset about the condition in which they received their product, swiftly ask to replace it for them with zero hassle. Even if the customer rejects your offer, other customers reading your company’s response will realize that when your company does mess up, you are at least willing to make good on your promise for customer satisfaction.
  • If the customer dislikes their experience as a result of a company policy, there isn’t much you can change about that. You can, however, show your willingness to explain to them why that policy is in place and why your company must enforce it. In doing so, you are helping reduce their frustration by shedding light on why there isn’t anything else you could have done to prevent this situation from occurring.

Give thanks.

A negative review can actually be a good thing for your company. First, it gives you a chance to improve not only your customer service skills but also whatever it was that made the experience unpleasant for your customer. You are only a business because of your customer, so be sure to take in to account all of the feedback you receive from them and repair any issues that you possibly can to prevent it from reoccurring in the future. Be thankful that they took the time to review your product or service and provided you with a chance to improve your company and prevent future bad experiences from occurring. You’re welcome, future customers! Second, when a customer sees nothing but positive reviews, it can dehumanize your company and make it seem like you might have purchased those reviews (i.e., faked them). So don’t get too down in the dumps if you don’t receive consistent 5 star reviews. Similarly, letting others review negative customer feedback and your company’s response will provide for more transparency and trust.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

If you or someone in your company is aware of a problem that will likely contribute to future negative feedback, make sure that it is voiced before there is an opportunity for a bad reaction. You will reduce the possibility of a negative review if you go ahead and fix any bugs in the system before your customer has a chance to bring them up publicly.  You cannot prevent anything bad from happening ever, but you can reduce the occurrence and strengthen your business. When bad times do occur, and they will, it is what you learn from your mistakes that matters most.

At the end of the day, your customers can at least rest easy knowing that they will receive valuable customer service, if not completely satisfied.

Do you have a customer service experience that you would like to share? Leave your story in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you!