Reviews are important. As a business owner, you have had this fact drummed into your head because it’s true. They are a great way for people (and search engines) to get a better understanding of your products and services. When those reviews are on a third-party property they have the added benefit of providing an additional level of trust because they are perceived as being authentic because most platforms make it difficult to remove negative reviews. Consumers get the good, the bad, and the ugly.
So since they are so important you need to have a proactive way to generate a good stream of new (hopefully positive) reviews. These are typically tools like Grade.Us, BirdEye, or other systems that create email or SMS drip campaigns that reach out to your customers gently requesting that they review your business based on their recent experience with you.
These systems also include the ability to address negative sentiments by offering to redirect input directly via email rather than a negative review. Google is a little sensitive about this. They don’t want you to prevent your clients from providing a negative review so you must include a pathway for them to do so if they wish to, but the reality is that unhappy customers just want to be heard so direct feedback is often better for them and it can be invaluable for your business.
Negative Feedback Reveals Opportunities
This is the aspect of reviews that often falls by the wayside and it can be worth more than the reviews themselves. What you get when you ask people about their experience with your business is sometimes the unvarnished truth. That is something that is hard to come by in personal interactions. This kind of customer-centric viewpoint can help you improve your business services and become more appealing to the customers that you want to attract and serve.
Is The Customer Always Right?
I am not naive enough to tell you that all of the negative feedback you get can or should be addressed. Sometimes circumstances conspire and an interaction just goes off the rails and all you can do is apologize or agree to disagree with the customer. Some customers will never be satisfied and the interaction just has to be chalked up as a fail. The reality in this day and age is that the customer is NOT always right. You can’t please everyone but in some of those criticisms, there is a goldmine of fails waiting to reveal the path to making your service better.
Look At Them As A Gift, And Don’t Take Them Personally
Nobody likes criticism, but business owners need to know what their customers are experiencing. I work with many types of businesses from medical professionals to tradesmen and retailers and all of them have room for improvement. Addressing negative experiences will help you grow your good business into a great business. The most important thing to remember as you review negative feedback is that it is not personal. You run a business to serve your customers. Try to remove your feelings from the equation and listen to what your customers are telling you. This is important. If you take it personally then when you try to mitigate the issue in your organization, those bad feelings will move right down the chain of command and ruin the opportunity to grow your business.
How Can I Effectively Deal With Negative Feedback?
If you already have a pipeline in place for cultivating and managing reviews then you have probably already seen some success as well as some form submissions from dissatisfied customers. It is imperative that you have a system in place to deal with these form submissions. If you simply read them when they come in and then set them aside they will never be addressed.
Create a system. Here’s what that might look like.
- Create a schedule where once a month you export all the form submissions created by the system. Typically you can export them as comma-separated values (CSV) and then open them in Google Sheets or Excel.
- Create categories for the issues. Are they problems with specific personnel? Are they related to systems you have in place (billing or scheduling for example)? Are there issues with a product you sell or use? Add a column to your spreadsheet for the categories you choose.
- Try to identify the touchpoint. Once you have identified the type of issue try to identify the person or system step where the trouble occurred. Create another column for this information.
- Talk to team members to brainstorm solutions. It’s important not to turn this into a blame game. Remember this is an opportunity to improve not a trip to the woodshed.
- Respond to the person that submitted the criticism. For direct correspondence, take the time to thoughtfully respond to the complaint. Don’t try to defend your business, simply explain the issue and offer any amends you can. On the other hand, if you are replying to a negative review that already made it online make sure you use the reviewer’s name and recap their specific complaint. Don’t go into specifics of how you can make amends, rather request that they contact you directly and then work with them. Google provides good guidance for this as well here
- Repeat monthly
Embrace the Anxiety of Negative Feedback
It is a distinctly unnatural perspective to look at negative feedback as an opportunity, believe me, I get that. I have to go through a mental perspective check before I look at someone’s complaints. But what I have found and in doing so been able to relate to my marketing clients is that there is opportunity in it. If you begin to hear themes in complaints, you know there is a need for a change. So before it gets to that point start running your negative feedback through a system like I have described and see how you can improve your business.