Online customer feedback: Part 2 – dealing with negative comments

negative customer feedbackCustomer reviews, both positive and negative, can be of real value to your business. They can help grow sales and enable you to better understand your customers. In part one we looked at the importance of embracing online customer feedback and part 2 we examine how best to deal with negative comments.

A mix of positive and negative reviews can help improve consumer trust in your business so don’t be afraid of negative feedback. Essentially it’s all about how you deal with comments – the ultimate aim being to turn a dissatisfied customer into a satisfied one. Remember negative feedback has its place:

The benefits of negative feedback

It is important you understand how negative feedback  can actually be beneficial to your business – that way you are better equipped to handle complaints, poor reviews and hostile comments.

Provides a balance. Negative reviews help balance out positive reviews. Indeed as we can see from the research above consumers are more likely to trust reviews when they see both positive and negative comments. Overwhelming positive reviews can actually make consumers question their validity. Of course, it’s about getting the correct balance – clearly a lot of negative reviews is not going to work in your favour either! By balance I mean for example, if you had 15 positive reviews and one or two negative reviews that users can see you have quickly and efficiently dealt with, then you are probably striking a happy balance.

Constructive criticism. Genuine negative feedback can offer you real insight into your products and services. So instead of automatically going on the defensive and dismissing any negative feedback, rather take on board what your customers have to say. After all these are your end users and they may be providing you with valuable insight and information into how you can better improve your product or service.

Educates customers. By responding to some comments, you can actually educate other customers. For example supposing a customer comments that they are having difficulty using a particular element of a product, your answer can guide the customer through the process and point them to where they can find help on your website such as your FAQ page. This information is then there to help other customers who may experience the same issue. You have successfully dealt with the negative comment and educated other customers at the same time.

Feedback on areas outside your immediate control (eg. external suppliers). As a small business owner you may well be reliant on third-party contractors to fulfil certain elements of your business. Feedback from customers about an area which you may have outsourced to a third-party – for example packaging or delivery –  can help keep you in the loop about the service your contractor is providing on your behalf. Too many negative comments may mean you need to investigate the situation with your supplier, after-all it reflects on your business.

Introduce best practice guidelines

Before looking at how to deal with genuine  negative feedback, we should mention those comments that you will need to take a different approach. For example any feedback that is offensive, derogatory or submitted by internet trolls are not genuine comments and you should not be engaging with them. Simply remove them from your website as soon as possible. It is a good idea to put in place some guidelines or rules of engagement that visitors  wishing to engage online must adhere to or risk being removed. For example:

  • No swearing or profanities
  • No personal attacks, bullying behaviour  or derogatory comments
  • No explicit photos or images

Take a look at other businesses forum guidelines and it will help you put together a best practice list for your own site. For example Google’s Product Forum’s posting guidelines will give you a good starting point.

How to deal with genuine negative comments

So, how can you best deal with genuine negative feedback from customers? What is the best approach to take?

Don’t ignore them. You need to deal with negative comments as soon as possible – ignoring them can just make things worse. As we mentioned above, if comments are in breach of the guidelines you have laid out you will need to remove them. If not you need to respond as soon as possible. A quick response shows that you care about your customers opinions and will ensure that the issue is nipped in the bud and doesn’t snowball into something bigger.

Be transparent. If it is your fault (or the fault of a third-party contractor) and you have genuinely made a mistake then don’t try to hide it and don’t be afraid of saying sorry. For example something along the lines of ‘ We are very sorry that on this occasion you didn’t get the service you expect from us, we would like to rectify the situation by…..’. can work well. Also, offering a replacement, a voucher or some other incentive by way of an apology for any inconvenience caused can also be constructive.

Look at things from your customer’s perspective. Try to remember that most of the feedback you get from customers will be genuine. The majority of your customers will simply want you to listen, take their comment seriously and provide a solution to whatever the issue may be. So before you reel off your response without really thinking just take a moment to consider the situation from your customer’s point of view and try to emphasise with how they may feel. Just because something isn’t a big deal to you, it may well be a big deal to your customer. By trying to understand this you are more likely to respond appropriately.

Remain professional, polite and pleasant.  It’s not always easy to remain calm when someone is having a go at you or your business – especially when you feel that their comments are unfair. Remember when people are frustrated they can be emotional and write things in the heat of the moment, you must however not respond in the same defensive manner. At all times respond professionally, politely and pleasantly even if you are arguing a point or disagreeing with the comment. This way the argument will be less likely to escalate, your customer is more likely to calm down and your professional manner will reflect well with other customers who may be viewing the exchange.  And if you do remain professional throughout and follow through with a solution, then your customer is more likely to return, not spread negative feedback any further and even convert into a loyal long-term customer.

Finally, just think about what you as a business can take away from each complaint. What can you learn from it and what may you need to change in order to prevent more negative feedback on a particular issue.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this post so please do leave a comment.

Image courtesy of Simon Howden at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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3 thoughts on “Online customer feedback: Part 2 – dealing with negative comments

  1. Pingback: ShopIntegrator | Getting to grips with social media – 5 top tips for small businesses and start-ups

  2. Pingback: ShopIntegrator | How small businesses can build customer loyalty with 7 simple, cost-effective tips.

  3. Pingback: How to offer excellent customer service – 7 tips for small business ecommerce | ShopIntegrator

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