Updated: Sep 19
Negative reviews provide you with an opportunity to become better. Bad reviews are a brilliant way of showing that if something goes wrong you have credibility in how you deal with the issue. It shows you care about the customer.
Before you buy something online, drive across town to a restaurant you’ve never tried, or download an app, what’s the first thing you do?
You probably check the reviews. If they’re bad, you probably won’t purchase an item or try a new restaurant. But if they’re good, you’ll likely give it a try.
Before the digital era, we all relied on our friends and families for testimonials. But now, it appears that trustworthy reviews now have a bigger influence on online purchase decisions than family and friends do for 68% of shoppers. Recommendations from friends and family influence only 42% of consumers.
Today, 97% of consumers read product reviews before making a purchase decision. 89% of them consider online reviews to be an essential resource in the process.
The way that a business treats a negative review can tell you a lot about them.
Don’t ignore them.
Instead, embrace them.
Constructive feedback is a gold mine for any business. It is a form of valuable, direct, instructional feedback from the people who matter most. Your customers.
Businesses of all sizes spend a lot of time, money, and effort trying to find out what their customers think of them. For small businesses in particular, this can be time-consuming and expensive. You may have used online surveys, comment cards in your location, social media surveys, or even in-person customer focus groups to try to get a handle on what you’re doing right—and wrong.
When a customer complains, they’re dropping honest feedback right in your lap, without any effort on your part. That’s as rare and valuable as gold.
What you can learn from customer complaints
Customer complaints are a tool you can use to quickly improve your products, services, and customer experience.
They can tell you:
What systems, processes, or policies at your business aren’t working
Which employees are not pulling their weight
Which products or services need to be improved or eliminated from your offerings
What your competitors are doing that you could learn from
What your customers expectations are
The gap between their expectations and what they received from you
Pain points in your customer journey
Unfortunately, many businesses brush off customer complaints as one person’s opinion or an isolated incident. As a result, they don’t learn anything from them.
How to get the most value from customer complaints
1. Look at things from the customer’s point of view. It’s human nature to become defensive—but to get the most from customer complaints, you need to take the opposite approach. Be impartial and look at what your businesses role in the conflict that generated the complaint.
2. Encourage constructive feedback. Most customers will never complain, they leave and give their money to your competitor. Next time you conduct a survey or focus group, specifically ask customers for negative feedback. It may take a little urging to get them to be honest, but let them know you want to hear any complaints, no matter how small.
3. Spend quality time with your loyal customers. Reach out to them on a regular basis with surveys and interviews to get their honest opinions. Invite them into your customer journey workshops to help you understand the current pain points and potential service innovations.
4. Take action. In addition to handling individual complaints promptly, also set a regular schedule to review your complaints. Perhaps once a month or once a quarter, meet as a wider team and review the complaints. This will help you identify the most common complaints as indicators of problems with your business. Create an action plan and squads to tackle the problems.
5. Tell your customers about the actions you’re taking. It may take time to make big changes to resolve a problem with a process or policy. So your customers don’t feel frustrated, let them know you’re working on the problem. Post status updates on your website or share them in your email communications.
6. Follow up. Whether it’s an individual customer complaint or a larger issue that you worked to resolve, follow up with customers after you think the issue is handled. It’s important to make sure that they are satisfied with the outcome. Only then can you truly say you have resolved the customer complaint.
How to respond to customer complaints
Create a game plan before you respond to negativity. Learning from and having a game plan to respond to these complaints is what will set you apart from companies who choose to ignore them.
Decide on a communication strategy that will match your brand identity and tone of voice. Try to keep it consistent across all review platforms.
Take the time to actually investigate each issue and respond accordingly.
You should think of each negative review as an opportunity to show your customers that you care.
Customers expect businesses to respond to their reviews quickly. 51.7% of consumers
expect businesses to respond to their negative review within five days. So if you do happen to receive a negative review, you need to act fast.
Remember a negative review will stay negative forever if you ignore it and never address it.