The possibility of openly expressing your opinion along with a great number of technologies and tools making it possible to do it quickly and conveniently has in recent years significantly spurred the practice of posting reviews and comments about a product or service.
A modern consumer behaves in a somewhat different way than the same consumer some 20-30 years ago. Whereas in the past a consumer faced with a bad service most likely just stopped using it keeping all his indignation within his kitchen and conversations with his family and friends, things are different now.
A modern customer does not walk off into the sunset just like that, people like to feel that their opinion means something.
The classic word-of-mouth marketing has crystalized into something bigger - the practice to post positive and not-so-positive comments and reviews in social networks; the practice to write open smashing posts right on giant corporations' pages; the practice to leave feedback on special recommendation websites and platforms and write, write, write incessantly to get as many stars, badges and titles as possible for the reviews.
The good news for business owners is that if you have a proper community strategy in place and provide customers with a good service, you can, through positive reviews alone, without making any special investment in large-scale PR, get the coverage needed for profitable operation of your company.
The bad news for business owners is that negative reviews have never made such an enormous impact on companies' operations as they do now. No matter how good you are in supporting local production and saving the environment, too many negative comments received during one single advertising campaign (remember, for example, the cases of Gillette or Reebok to name just a few) can ruin your reputation once and for all, even if it took years and years to build it.
What's to be done?
Does it mean that negative reviews should be avoided? Preventive measures are certainly very important. You need to work to a high quality standard and provide customers with the best possible service and most commendable products - the kind you would like to use yourself.
You may be really great at doing your job, but a courier may have a bad day, and there you are… a customer gives you 3 stars instead of 5. And this is the best case scenario. Your customer may be in a sulk and you show up, when he is hot under the collar, bringing him a book crumpled at a corner! For him, it turns into a big deal that should be shared with all and sundry as soon as possible.
In real life, it's hardly possible to work in such a way that 100% of customers would be happy. Therefore, there is no way you can avoid reviews: the question is how you respond to them.
The pen is mightier than the sword
The issue with modern reviews is that once they get into the Internet, they stay there forever. And all bad things tend to emerge on the horizon at most inopportune moments. Therefore, the attitude "let's pretend that nothing has happened, wait and forget it" will not work if you understand the value of being future-oriented in your work.
You have to work with negative reviews and their impact on the reputation of your company. You need to work on them daily, meticulously and preferably using a specially dedicated person.
There is a sector-specific joke saying that "everything in Google Page Two is deep web". It can be Yandex, Mail.Ru or any other search service instead of Google, but it boils down to essentially the same thing - people don't go past the first search results page of a search engine. Therefore, if the first N lines are filled with negative feedback, no one would care about the praises sung to you in the remaining 99+ pages. Your potential client will never even go to the second page of the search engine - it's as simple as that.
How to handle negative feedback?
The culture of handling negative feedback is still in an embryonic state in Russian companies. Even large businesses cannot adequately and gracefully process the flow of negative reviews. The simplest and most common solution is just to "close your eyes", in other words, try to remove any negative comments pretending they have never existed.
It is not the most correct, but it is definitely the most common tactic - so much the better for companies that decide to handle negative feedback properly. Below are some simple tips to help you get started:
- Do not avoid talking with a client. The person who wrote a negative review expressed his opinion, which matters more than anything in the world for him. By just paying attention to it, you will significantly improve the way an unhappy customer sees you. Be sure to respond to reviews, find out the details and reasons for negative feedback.
- Speak openly. Remember that you have got nothing to hide. Everyone makes mistakes, and you are not ashamed of them: you perceive your mistakes as an occasion to learn a good lesson and improve your service. In simple terms, if someone has written a public review, do not take the discussion down to the level of private messages. Let your other customers see that you are trying to resolve the situation and seek to do it amicably.
- It goes without saying that you should always be polite in responding to any statements made by a client without lowering yourself to quarrels, insults, curses and attempts to prove that it's all the "client's fault". Even if that is the case, it is you who are directly affected by negative feedback, not he. And if you react unprofessionally, that influence will only increase. Moreover, you will be the one to spoil the company's reputation that time.
- Read the book by Janell Barlow and Klaus Moeller entitled "A Complaint as a Gift. Using Customer Feedback as a Strategic Tool" and develop a calm and persistent attitude towards negative reviews. In the long run, if processed correctly, they will bring you more than they will take away from you.
Important! If possible, monitor regularly what people write about your company on the Internet. It can be done very easily using special paid services. We would advise you to try Medialogy, Brand Analytics, IQbuzz, but there are a lot more of them - take the time to study them and select the one that suits you best.
If you don't yet have a budget to purchase special software for tracking your brand on the Internet, you can still get an idea, limited though it is, of what is going on in the Internet using Google "Notifications" service. Its operation principle is rather simple: you write down the required keywords (company name, the owner's name), and the service sends notifications to your e-mail address as soon as any new information where they are mentioned is posted on the Internet.
A regular Internet search will also help - just google your company daily sorting out the results by the date they came out. It will not give you a complete picture, but you will see the most representative mentions.
And finally, if you directly encourage customers to leave their feedback in your social networks, on your web page, write to a special mailbox, remember to regularly go through these sections and check your mailbox. And always respond to your customers' letters and messages.