It’s no secret that shoppers prefer brands with less-than-perfect star ratings. But while having several negative reviews in the mix can be valuable to your brand, that doesn’t mean you should leave these reviews unanswered and do nothing to address the situation. In fact, the positive effects of bad reviews are only as good as how you respond to them.
In this blog, we explore the unexpected ways bad reviews can help businesses – and why and how you should respond to complaints from unsatisfied customers.
Ways Bad Reviews Can Help Your Business
If you’re receiving occasional negative feedback from unsatisfied customers pointing out bad customer service, don’t fret. Although the goal is to receive a 5-star rating, there will always be bad days. Starting with its impact on search engine optimization (SEO), let’s explore the benefits of negative reviews.
Negative reviews contribute to SEO. Google states that positive reviews can enhance your brand visibility on search engines. But whether positive or negative, reviews are rich in keywords that your customers actually use, factoring into SEO.
Negative reviews set shoppers’ expectations. Consumers specifically seek out negative reviews to inform their purchase decisions. They are well aware that no product or service is perfect, and so they just go for which would fit their needs best.
Negative reviews serve as actionable insights. Treat bad reviews as constructive criticism. For instance, if many unhappy customers are complaining about receiving bad service in your restaurant, then that’s a business area you need to improve.
Negative reviews convey authenticity. While it can be daunting to receive several bad reviews, consumers are more likely to trust brands with less-than-perfect star ratings. But ensure you don’t leave such reviews unattended to run their course.
So, why do you need to respond to a customer complaint?
Why You Should Apologize to Customers and Respond to Complaints
Notice how we mentioned: apologize to customers and respond to complaints. In brand reputation management, a customer apology isn’t the resolution; it’s only the beginning of it. In a previous study by the Carey School of Business, 37% of customers were satisfied when offered monetary compensation following a bad experience. But customer satisfaction increased to 74% if the business apologized on top of the compensation.
The same study found that 39% of people will avoid a brand for two years after a bad customer service experience. So while unhappy customers are interested in a business admitting their shortcomings, they’re more invested in how you would practically and creatively address the issue at hand.
Now we’ve made plain why you should issue a customer apology in case of bad service, let’s go over some clear steps you can take when you respond to a customer complaint.
How To Apologize to a Customer: Tips for Apologizing to Customers When Responding to Negative Reviews
In the heat of it all, it’s easy to mindlessly and emotionally respond to a customer complaint. However, any brand reputation management expert knows that businesses should approach responding to negative reviews with much caution.
To inform your review response management strategy, here are tips on how to apologize to a customer:
- Say sorry and know what you’re apologizing for.
- Ask questions for full context.
- Explain what happened but don’t make excuses.
- Offer an actionable and measurable solution.
- Take the conversation private.
- Follow up with your customers.
1. Say Sorry and Know What You’re Apologizing For
When writing to apologize to customers, you can be extremely apologetic without explicitly saying you’re sorry. But beginning your response with phrases, “I’m sorry” or “we’re sorry” is crucial to setting the tone. Additionally, your apology should not follow the word “but.” Following through with a “but” essentially negates the customer apology. You’ll come across as insincere and someone who isn’t taking responsibility.
As much as it’s vital to respond to complaints in a timely manner, don’t rush. Take the time to comprehend the review you received and talk to the personnel involved in the matter, if any.
2. Ask Questions for Full Context
To guarantee you’re not misunderstanding anything or missing any significant detail on what happened, ask questions. You can retell the story in your own words, so the customer is aware of how you see the situation. While this seems unnecessary, offering a solution without fully knowing the problem is the last thing you want to do, especially not when you’re addressing an unsatisfied customer on the other line.
After retelling the story, you can simply ask the customer: “Am I accurately understanding your complaint?” or tell them, “Kindly let me know if I understood correctly.”
3. Explain What Happened but Don’t Make Excuses
Once you’re confident you fully understand the problem at hand, you can explain (not make excuses) how or why things went wrong on your end. In some cases, unhappy customers simply want an answer that would make sense of the issue. For instance, if a customer complains about bad service due to long queue lines, you can say your team was short-staffed that day due to an emergency.
There’s a fine line between explaining and making excuses, so tread carefully. Excuses refuse accountability and wholly put the blame on others or circumstances, while explanations explore the facts, admit responsibility and result in a solution.
4. Offer an Actionable and Measurable Solution
Responding to negative reviews goes beyond writing an apologetic message as it entails the next steps you’ll take. Those steps are what interests customers, so you want to clearly explain to them what you’ll do differently. A genuine apology paired with an actual solution helps appease an irate customer and demonstrates how you value your customers and your commitment to the business.
With this, you want to avoid being vague with your solution by simply saying, “we’ll do better.” For instance, if you’re getting repeated complaints about bad customer service, tell them the specific measures you’re taking to improve.
5. Take the Conversation Private
It’s important to reply to negative feedback posted online and not leave them unattended. However, if you feel the conversation would require multiple exchanges between you and the customer, it’s best to continue privately. A private conversation is also safer for customers to share their contact details. And sometimes, apologizing to customers isn’t enough, and the customer chooses to be slanderous.
In that case, in your initial reply, provide contact information on where the customer can reach you privately. If the comment violates any platform guidelines, you can flag it for review and removal.
6. Follow Up With Your Customers
Following up with customers should be a part of your review response management strategy. So even after you’ve extended your apologies and entirely resolved the issue — reach out to your customers. Give an update and thank them for their continued support. You can also ask them for feedback regarding the solution you provided to see if they are satisfied or if there’s anything else you can do.
Similarly, a follow-up also serves as an opportunity to proactively ask in private if there’s any new issue or problem they’re currently experiencing. With that approach, you lessen the risk of receiving a public complaint.
Bonus Tip: Document everything. In case you need to refer to it in the future, take note of the client’s name, the problem’s specifics, the time it was resolved, the date and the agent who handled it.
Further, ensure your team is on top of monitoring every brand mention you receive online. With this, you’re able to practice timely responses.
Need Professional Online Reputation Management Services?
Above all, nothing beats bringing in experts to handle crucial facets of your business, particularly brand management. Rize Reviews understands how it can be difficult for small businesses to ramp up their online reputation. So our team offers professional online reputation management services, including white-label solutions to cater to your specific needs.
See our team in action — book a free demo!