Are your customers telling you the whole truth?
How to own your mistakes and use them to your advantageJanuary 8th, 2020 by
Business owners today are fully aware of the importance of online customer feedback. You have likely already looked into strategies for encouraging positive reviews that promote confidence in your company. However, sooner or later, every business must also confront the other side of the coin: negative reviews. No matter how stellar your customer service and the quality of your projects, mistakes happen and unhappy customers react to them online.
However, negative feedback does not have to damage your reputation. On the contrary, handling negative reviews the right way can boost your credibility and enhance your authenticity. When dealing with online responses, keep in mind that you are handling your relationship with an existing client while also influencing the perceptions of site visitors who may become your clients in the future.
Ignoring bad feedback will not make it go away. You may not be able to solve the customer’s issue immediately, but you can make it known that you have seen the review and are doing something about it. After posting a brief response reassuring the customer that you are taking the matter seriously, you may opt to get in touch privately and explore possible solutions in more detail. You can learn exactly what to say by watching our quick webinar, here.
Bad reviews can happen for several reasons. Your own company may have made a mistake. The fault could also lie with a supplier, a contractor, city officials and a whole variety of other people. Sometimes a customer’s own misunderstanding can be the cause of his or her unhappiness.
Wherever the fault ultimately lies, you never want to look as if you are making excuses or shifting blame. Your response should include an apology and a concise statement on how you plan to follow up on the matter. Avoid weak apologies that shift responsibility to the client. Phrasing such as “we are sorry you feel this way” is usually not appropriate.
Business owners sometimes feel admitting a mistake puts them in a vulnerable position. If you do have legal concerns, consult your attorney. However, in most cases, it is fine to accept responsibility for a customer’s bad experience. No one believes there is such a thing as a perfect business that never makes mistakes, so trying to present your company as such tends to undermine your credibility.
Not all customer feedback is polite, let alone reasonable. Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind that your response represents your company and its values. Resist the temptation to respond angrily even if the review contains profanity, personal insults or exaggerations. A calm and courteous response to an angry rant can have the effect of enhancing your credibility. It also showcases your company’s attitude to customer service. As a residential contractor, you want to project a friendly, professional and reliable presence; avoid using language that undermines that.
Some mistakes are easily remedied, while others may need more complex solutions. Your response should include a statement of what you intend to do next. In some cases, this can be as simple as writing that you will issue a refund or send a professional to examine and correct the problem. In others, you may need to state that you will get in touch and discuss possible options in more detail soon.
Be careful to avoid promising anything you may not be able to follow through on. You also do not want to publicly offer anything that is an exception to your company’s general policy. Future customers reading the review and your response will form certain expectations of your company based on their content.
Take notes for the future
Part of handling negative reviews effectively is learning from the mistakes that led to them. Identifying the issue that caused the customer to leave the review can help you do better in the future. This is true even if you think the review was based on the customer’s misunderstanding rather than something your company did wrong.
Figuring out how to avoid similar misunderstandings can be valuable. For example, you may consider whether the customer got a full explanation of everything involved in the project, including factors that could affect the cost and time of completion. Another common reason customers leave unhappy reviews is that the contractor was hard to reach. Answering phone calls and emails promptly can be a way to handle issues before the client resorts to leaving an online review.
Avoid common mistakes
Negative reviews can be stressful to read, especially if you feel they are unfair or exaggerated. However, it is important to remain calm and avoid some frequent errors that get your company the wrong kind of attention:
Deleting reviews. This makes you appear untrustworthy. In the case of inappropriate content, you may be able to hide the review and/or report it to the hosting site.
Calling the reviewer a liar. A reviewer may be purposely untruthful or simply have a very different perspective on what happened. You can gently and courteously correct factual inaccuracies, but refrain from making accusations.
Asking the customer to take down the review. Doing so undermines the customer’s trust that you will prioritize his or her issue rather than your company’s reputation. Responding promptly and going the extra mile to fix the problem is far more likely to impel the customer to take down or amend the review on his or her own.