No brand wants to receive a negative review from a customer. In an age when most consumers base their purchasing decisions on what others have to say, a bad review could send your sales plummeting. The good news is, that doesn't have to happen: If you handle it correctly, a negative review could actually lead to a positive result.
"Research shows that consumers trust reviews more when they see positive reviews alongside negative ones," said Jan Vels Jensen, chief marketing officer at customer review platform Trustpilot. "In fact, shoppers who read negative reviews convert 67 percent more often than the average consumer," he said, referencing a survey by Econsultancy.com. "Having a strategy for dealing with negative reviews actually presents a huge opportunity for a brand."
Other branding professionals agreed. "Answering negative reviews builds [consumer] confidence in your business and your brand," added Phil Penton, president of reputation management firm Social Integration. "When you answer a negative review and address the upset customer, you are also speaking to the hundreds of other consumers that want to know how you conduct your business. Consumers understand that mistakes happen, so when they see a business trying to do the right thing, it builds trust."
But it's not enough to simply respond to an unsatisfied customer: The trick is to respond in such a way that he or she will want to give your business another chance, thereby proving to other potential buyers that your business has top-notch customer service. Vels Jensen and Penton shared their advice for handling a negative review. [MORE: Negative, But Polite, Online Reviews Aren't So Bad for Business]
Answer quickly with a personalized response
In an age of smartphones and constant communication, customers have come to expect instant gratification in many aspects of their lives, including their interactions with brands. Responding to a negative review as soon as possible after it's posted will show that particular customer and others that you're listening and care about customer satisfaction, Vels Jensen said.
Penton noted that it's important to give the reviewer a customized response that cites specific details from his or her complaint. A generic stock response will make your brand appear impersonal, and drive the customer further away.
It takes time to read and thoughtfully respond to each and every negative comment, but doing this will boost your customer retention rates in the long run. Setting up alerts and using all-in-one social media management tools can help you quickly locate and respond to comments across all platforms.
Apologize and empathize
Customers may not always be right, but if you tell them they're wrong, you will definitely lose their business. When responding to a bad review, a brand needs to express understanding and empathy without blaming the customer, and be apologetic about the less-than-ideal experience.
"Let the customer know that you empathize with his or her situation," Vels Jensen told Business News Daily. "Make up for the mistake, even if it's not your fault. By making amends, you're much more likely to get the customer's business again."
Ask for a second chance
Asking customers how you can improve their experience with your brand in the future is the key to retaining their business. Vels Jensen said that brands should listen and learn from negative feedback: Customer complaints contain valuable information that can help improve both your overall customer service and the trust consumers place in your brand.
Offering a coupon, voucher or replacement product after a negative experience can also help you earn a second chance, Penton said. While free products or services shouldn't be your default response (customers catch on quickly and may give negative reviews solely to receive a free product), this can be a great tactic if there is a problem resolving the customer's original issue. If you choose this route, be sure to encourage the customer to update his or her review if the second experience yields better results.
Encourage more reviews
It's not always easy to take criticism, especially from the people who matter most to your business. But using negative reviews to improve your customer service will give your brand long-term staying power, and provide a track record showing that you're truly committed to your customers. Encourage your customers to leave reviews so you can take full advantage of this branding opportunity.
For brick-and-mortar businesses, Penton recommended placingsigns, table toppers or window clings in your store for review sites that you would like to promote. You can also add a note to your invoices or receipts to leave a review on certain platforms. These reminders can increase the likeliness that consumers will share their experiences.
"Empowering your customers to comment on your company and taking the time to respond to them makes customers feel valued and wanted," Vels Jensen said. "Reviews are a great way to show that you are listening and responding to all feedback, and that you truly value your customers' business."
Originally published on Business News Daily.