In the olden days, you might have had to pick up a phone book or ask a neighbor if you wanted a recommendation for a business – whether it was a restaurant in an unfamiliar city or a contractor to fix something around your house. Now, though, it’s possible to find reviews of nearly any business online. That means consumers have access to more information than ever before about your company and the quality of service it provides. That’s a great thing!
But bad reviews are inevitable. What do you do when you see a lousy review about your company? How you handle customer complaints is critical in terms of managing the public perception of your business, and what you do depends on what sort of review you’ve been given.
There are basically two types of bad reviews: ones that are unjustified, either from jealous competitors or from customers without legitimate gripes who would have been impossible to please, and then there are the legitimate complaints. How you react is different for each instance.
Say you’re a roofing contractor, and you periodically check out your reviews online (which EVERY business should be doing.) You discover that one of the recent reviews complains of costs going over budget and construction deadlines missed – things you absolutely know aren’t true. It could be that your competition is making up stories to win business away from you. It could be that a customer mixed up the name of your business and posted a review for the wrong company.
Whatever the case, though, you must address the complaint. Since the review is posted publicly, I suggest replying to the review and asking the customer to get in contact with you so you can resolve the problem. If time passes and there’s no response, then publicly state that you don’t see a record of the transaction, and you can only conclude that an honest mistake was made in posting the review.
Your goal in addressing unjustified reviews should be to convey to prospective customers that you’re a reasonable, honest, and conscientious business owner, and you take criticism seriously.
Likewise, if you see a legitimate complaint – that your restaurant gave slow service on a particular Friday night – then you should step up publicly and apologize for any inconvenience and offer some way to make it up to the customer if you feel it’s appropriate. If prospective diners see that you offered to buy a round of drinks to make up for the fact that you were short staffed, they’re going to understand that you’re serious about customer satisfaction. Apologize when appropriate and make it right.
A lousy review is not the end of the world. Every thriving business has them. The good news is consumers are increasingly savvy about review analysis. They look for authentic reviews – which won’t all be positive – and they look to see how business owners react when they’re criticized. Flipping out, accusing customers of being unreasonable, or making excuses for less-than-ideal customer service is NOT the way to respond to criticism. Be deliberate. Be fair, and above all, be vigilant about responding.