Dealing With the Negative

As you continue on your path of social media and the digital age stretches into more aspects of our lives, eventually your business will receive a bad review. A bad review is not necessarily bad; it means you are just like millions of other companies in America. Every day thousands of bad reviews are posted online on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and Google+.

How you handle the bad review or bad press is what can make or break your store. Handling it wrong will haunt you for weeks and months; handling it correctly can save a disgruntled customer who will continue to tell everyone they know about the bad experience they had in your store.

The biggest mistake any company can make is to ignore the offended individual. They will not go away, and many times they just yell louder and more often in an attempt to be heard. With that in mind, here are five ways to handle negative feedback.

Go Offline
Attempt to contact the offended customer and ask for a way to personally interact with them offline. We have all seen friends air their dirty laundry online and it leaves a negative view of them. Having a digital conversation with someone who has a negative outlook on you or your business will never have a positive outcome.

By speaking to them over the phone or inviting them into your store to have a personal conversation will first off show that you care about their experience and you are willing to correct the problem. If you both decide to have them come in your store, have the discussion in a private area – again this is a one-on-one issue, no need to have an upset customer stand in your store in front of other customers and cause a scene.

If the customer has had a negative experience with an employee, don’t have the employee visible during the discussion, or in the store if possible, when the customer comes in. All this will do is dredge up negative memories for the customer. Your goal in this meeting is to clearly understand in what way the customer was wronged and how you can address it and save this customer and the hundreds of potential customers this customer will tell of their negative experience in your store.

Take Notes
While you two are meeting, be sure to take notes – it will help you create a timeline of the events that occurred and it will also show that you are concerned about the event in the eyes of the offended customer. It will also be a good reference tool for future issues and training sessions with your employees. Obviously the customer’s side of the story is just one side of it. You will need to continue the investigation process, especially if an employee is the cause of the problem in your customer’s eyes.

Take Action
After you get your customer’s side of the story, ask a simple question: “What can we do to correct this problem and make you a satisfied customer again?” Be prepared for extreme answers ranging from nothing, to asking for the employee being fired. While these are extremes, realize that upset people make outrageous claims at times. Hopefully you will have thought up a few of your own resolutions to the problem and can present them to the customer as options. A full refund on the product or purchase they made, a discount the next time they shop in your store or, if they have a real problem with an employee that you agree stepped over the line, have a formal personal apology given to them from the employee.

Your customer is expecting results and a resolution – your job is to find a middle ground you can both agree on and walk away from happily and satisfied with.

Post the Resolution
Once your customer has been satisfied and the matter is closed, take a moment and publicly thank him or her for meeting with you or discussing the matter with you. Explain the matter is closed and that because of his or her actions your store is much better off now and promise your other followers that the issue is resolved and everyone is better off.

By posting that everything is resolved, it will show that you care about each customer and that even one unhappy customer is too many.

Moving On
Sometimes nothing you offer or attempt to do to resolve the issue will make it right in their eyes – that is just part of being a retailer. Offering to talk offline will be ignored or just cause more negative comments to be posted. When you do encounter such a person, you need to remember that throwing more negative comments back to them online is not the answer. In situations like this, just post the truth, tell them that you are sorry you cannot meet to resolve the issue but you have made multiple attempts to do such. Apologize for the conceived wrong as politely as possible and move on. If you take this route, ensure you write your apology before-hand and edit it to ensure it is friendly and honest. Then after you have it written perfectly, post it in the same place the offended customer has been posting. If they continue to post negative feedback you will eventually have to block them and move on with your life.

Unlike Hollywood, life doesn’t always have a happy ending and you need to accept that and move on. If you’re able to create a happy resolution though, then congratulations. Every negative comment or unsatisfied customer needs to be handled as an individual case, though over time you will surely see certain trends appear. Learn from each encounter and make it a learning experience for all of your employees.

How have you handled negative feedback that has been posted online? Have you confronted the individual or ignored it? Share your thoughts with us all on our
Facebook page or in our LinkedIn group.