Posted by Tessa Wegert on May 17, 2016
For brands, negative feedback isn’t usually perceived as a positive thing. When unhappy customers vent online, your reputation is put at risk. Word of mouth, after all, wields an immense amount of influence over consumers—whether those words are good or bad.
That said, what brand hasn’t received its share of criticism and poor online reviews? Today’s consumers have incredibly high standards and expect a lot from the companies they deal with, from product quality to the speed and efficiency with which brands respond to their concerns. And with an abundance of product and service options at their disposal, customers aren’t opposed to jumping ship. Recent research shows that 90 percent of US adults are likely to switch brands after a poor customer service experience.
The obvious solution is to curtail negative feedback by providing the best possible product and customer experience. Realistically, though, you won’t completely stem the flow. When you do find yourself faced with negative commentary, turn it into a positive. Here’s how.
1. Respond ASAP
Whether a negative comment appears on your brand’s Facebook page or you receive a complaint by email, rule number one is to respond—and fast. With countless digital channels and touchpoints in place, communicating with customers has never been easier, yet 72 percent of consumers who gave negative feedback to a brand report not receiving a response of any kind.
That’s a huge missed opportunity. Studies have shown that when brands do respond to negative reviews, 18 percent of the reviewers go on to become loyal customers and make additional purchases, and 30 percent of those customers make the effort to replace their negative review with a positive one. In the mind of the consumer, the quicker a brand responds, the more it cares. That can translate into positive brand sentiment, increased loyalty, and stellar word of mouth.
2. Humanize Your Brand
Many brands automate their social media activities, but replying to a negative comment with a scripted or form response isn’t likely to win anyone over. This is a case where personalization, authenticity, and compassion count for a lot. One investigation into how airlines reply to customer comments on Twitter found that a casual communication style, as opposed to a more formal tone of voice, resonates with users. Above all you, make sure your brand sounds human. This is no time to be mistaken for a bot.
3. Provide a Solution
Apologizing for the situation is a must, but it doesn’t provide much value to the customer. Instead, couple your apology with an actionable solution. Offer a coupon or free product, if appropriate. If the complaint is related to a shipping error or packaging mistake, promise to investigate further. Do whatever it takes to make things right. Your customers expect nothing less.
4. Make the Criticism Work for You
Customer feedback can be a wellspring of insight into how consumers use your site, shop for your products, interact with your social media accounts, and share branded content. Suss out constructive feedback. Ask your customers what kinds of changes they’d like to see made and how you can better serve their needs. You can use this information to make improvements and guide future business decisions.
5. Know When to Take it Offline
There will be times when a customer simply can’t be appeased online. If you’ve tried your hardest to resolve the issue and they still aren’t happy, relocate the conversation from the web to a more private platform.
Aside from giving you more time to address their needs—without the rest of your followers looking over your shoulder, that is—resuming the talk offline is an opportunity to introduce a new player. A senior manager may have better luck inciting a positive response, and connecting your customer with a brand emissary who’s higher up in the organization shows them how much you value their satisfaction.
The next time you’re faced with negative feedback, think of it as a positive. This is your chance to convert an unhappy customer or disillusioned client into a fan for life.