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7 Ways to Handle Negative Customer Feedback

Some people say that you haven't made it as a business until you receive your first negative review. That's kind of like saying it's good luck to get rain on your wedding day or get pooped on by a bird in Italy (the latter actually happened to me, and it did not feel a thing like good luck). It's an optimistic way to view a pretty crappy (sometimes literally!) situation.

However you perceive negative reviews, the day will come when you get one. It’s inevitable and you aren’t alone. Every business--big or small, regardless of industry--has dealt with this negative feedback. Sometimes the feedback is valid--the customer truly had a poor experience with your company and/or products, and is looking for you to make it right. And sometimes it’s way off base--they just had a bad day or are looking for attention or freebies. Regardless of whether the negative feedback is legitimate, it exists in the public eye and you must do something about it.

Here are seven ways to deal with negative feedback, helping you to provide a top-quality customer experience, mitigate further negative feedback and show other online consumers that you are attentive and committed to supporting all customers.

1. Acknowledge The Customer and The Issue

Oftentimes, customers just want to know that their concerns are being heard. Acknowledge the customer and address their complaint head on. Even if you don’t know the full situation or don’t yet have a solution for resolving it, let them know you are looking into it. Something like, “We’re sorry you’ve had an unsatisfactory experience with your order. We’re looking into the issue and will respond when we have more information.” Then make sure you actually do.

2. Explain How You Plan to Make It Right

Is the complaint about a delayed shipment? Explain why their package may have been delayed and offer solutions for tracking it down. Did they received the wrong product? Let them know you’ll get the right product out and share the expected shipping time. Was the product damaged or faulty? Tell them that you’ll refund their purchase, provide a credit or send a replacement. Did they have a poor experience with customer service? Ask for the customer service representative’s name and explain how they should have handled the issue.

Letting the customer know how you plan to fix the issue goes a long way in calming them down. But again, make sure you follow through.

Some airlines have a great track record for providing timely and attentive support, like the time that JetBlue responded to a passenger whose TV wasn’t working, and credited their account. 

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3. Keep Your Cool

Negative feedback about your business can cut to the core, making it difficult not to get emotional. But before you react to a negative post with equal hostility, take a deep breath and consider the consequences. If you need to vent, try grabbing a pen and paper and write down what you’d really like to respond with. This will allow you to get it out of your system, but not allow you to post it anywhere online. Then type up a polite and pragmatic response, and run it by a colleague to ensure you aren’t being impulsive or offensive.

4. Make It Personal and Thoughtful

It’s smart to create response guidelines for how you’ll address complaints, but don’t set them in stone. Using a generic, templatized response for every complaint is obvious to the customer, and may result in more negative feedback, especially if every single negative comment or review has the exact same response. Use the customer’s name and address their specific question or concern.

ModCloth is a shining example of how to handle all types of customer feedback on social media. Not only do they respond quickly, but each message is compassionate and personalized, as shown below in a recent exchange on their Facebook page

5. Take The Conversation to A Private Form

Ask the customer to provide more details by sending a private/direct message, or provide a phone number and/or email address where they can reach you directly. This will move the conversation to a private area, out of the public’s eye. It also allows the customer to share personal information (e.g., order numbers, account numbers), which may be necessary to look into the issue further.

6. Monitor Your Online Presence

Negative feedback doesn’t always happen directly on your website or your business’s social media profiles. It could happen on Reddit, the customer’s personal blog, an online forum, or an online review site, like Yelp or Google Maps.

You can monitor for people talking about your business and products by using online monitoring tools, such as Social Mention or Google Alerts. It may not be appropriate to respond to every negative comment (e.g., if it occurs on a personal blog or niche forum) but it’s important that you know what people are saying about your business and where they are saying it.

7. Look on the Bright Side of Negativity

It may be hard to believe, but negative reviews can actually be good for your business. In fact, having bad reviews can improve conversions by up to 67%, according to research by Reevoo.

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If every comment is glowing and all reviews are five stars, other potential customers could become suspicious. It can seem as if you’ve fabricated, manipulated, or worse, paid for positive comments. Having some negative feedback helps to build trust that you are a legitimate business operating in an ethical manner.

Negative reviews and comments come with the territory of running a business in today’s digital world. With a thoughtful and structured response plan, you can provide a better experience for existing and potential customers.