As small business owners, we put our heart and soul into the products and services we offer our customers. For this reason, it is hard not to take it personally when you see a negative review on Google, Facebook or industry publication. The key is to reframe our view of negative reviews and treat them as an opportunity. As I always say, “In life and in business, everything you encounter is an opportunity to grow.” So how do we turn those lemons into lemonade?
Acknowledge the Problem
Dr. Phil says it all the time — you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge. The same is true when dealing with an unhappy customer or client. If your first instinct is to assume that your product or service is perfect, or that the customer must simply be having a bad day — you’ve missed an important opportunity for your business to move forward.
Get to the Root
What went wrong? How can you prevent it from happening again? Customer complaints and negative reviews are a great way to fix the cracks in a system that we may not have noticed before.
Be Accountable and Transparent
Apologize. Do not make it seem like you are passing the buck when responding to a complaint. Tell the client or customer exactly what you believe went wrong and what steps are being taken to ensure that it will not happen again. If the complaint was made somewhere public, be sure to respond to that public post — even if just to let anyone reading know that you’ve seen the issue and are working on it. While studies show that most unhappy customers do not come forward, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t watching.
People can spot insincerity from a mile away — and that range is only increased when they are already unhappy. Be genuine — how would you feel if you had been disappointed in a product or service the way your client has? This is the perfect time to try out the old adage — “treat people as you would be treated.” Do for your customer what you’d want done for you.
Turn a Frown Upside-Down
It is very possible that the person making the complaint will never again use your product or service. This step isn’t necessarily about creating a repeat customer — it is about damage control. After a negative experience, word of mouth travels at least twice as fast as after a positive experience. Offer a discount, refund, or free product on their next visit — whatever it will take to ensure that the unhappy customer is left with a smile on their face — and compliments on their tongue.
Studies have shown that only 4 percent of your dissatisfied customers will actually voice their complaint while the remaining 96 percent simply tell their friends and family about the experience (“Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner). For this reason, it is imperative that you treat each unhappy customer as an opportunity to learn and to grow — you may even turn a dissatisfied customer into a loyal one.
DISCLAIMER: This article expresses my own ideas and opinions. Any information I have shared are from sources that I believe to be reliable and accurate. I did not receive any financial compensation in writing this post, nor do I own any shares in any company I’ve mentioned. I encourage any reader to do their own diligent research first before making any investment decisions.
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