6 tips to turn negative customer feedback around

A couple of weeks ago, I came across a one-star review of one of my books. Well, I am not sure if you can call it a review, as there was no comment.

Contrast that to the three-star review another book of mine received back in 2009. The rating was followed by detailed thoughts. The reader had enjoyed the book but mentioned occasional lack of depth and “playing the safe-card”. When I contacted him for more information, he gladly complied.

That day, I learnt an important lesson: Looking at your products only from your perspective is very limiting. When customers take the time to share feedback with you, pay attention. As harsh as their comments may be, they will also make you a savvier business owner.

Of course, no one expects you to do a tap dance when your product get bad or unsatisfactory reviews. They could have a deleterious impact on your business. Further, sharing your work with the world is an emotional experience.

It is my hope that the five tips in this article will help you turn things around. Because, at the end of the day, customers are trying to tell you how you could win them back.

1. Breathe

yelp negative review

Imagine reading this review of your restaurant on Yelp a few moments before heading off to work. How would you react?

My advice: Don’t respond or leave right away! Instead, turn off your phone or computer and take the next few minutes to do something relaxing.

Anything that will allow you to collect your thoughts is great. For example, go for a short walk, call a friend, listen to some good music, or grab a cup of coffee. Even a quick shower will do wonders!

2. Don’t Take Things Personally

Time to assess the situation. Take another look at the review. However, since frustration may still be here, try to remember the statements below:

  • You can’t please the whole world. People have specific tastes, opinions, and expectations.
  • The review is not a personal attack but a reflection of what the customer experienced at your restaurant.
  • There is no attempt at disparaging your message or passion.

As clichés as those statements are, you can’t deny their truth. Customers don’t care about you. What they care about is how much you value their business. Once you realize that, your mindset will change. You will suddenly find yourself able to read between the lines and use the situation to your advantage.

For example, check out the most recent online reviews about your company on Yelp or Facebook. What do other customers have to say? Are the comments similar? After a while, you will start connecting the dots and understanding what you can do to improve the value of your product or service.

3. Focus on Constructiveness

In life, there are two types of people: Those who see the silver lining in everything and those who seem to delight in negativity. While customers in the former category may be harsh at times, their feedback is almost always interesting or constructive.

Customers in the latter category, though, often have nothing of substance to offer. Here is an example:

bad amazon review

My advice to you: Separate the wheat from the chaff. Take opinions with a grain of salt and focus on constructive criticism instead. The example below is much more useful, right?

constructive review

4. Reach out to the Reviewer

As a French person, I grew up watching soccer and rugby games. My hometown actually has one of the best rugby teams in the country, so when the team loses, people choose between one of these three statements: They played badly, the opponent was better, or the referee sucked. In many cases, answer C is selected.

Officiating is a very challenging job. As a former youth basketball ref, I had to deal with at least one angry person at every game. A coach once threatened to throw a bench at me because he didn’t agree with some of my calls!

Business is akin to refereeing at times. You will have to deal with very harsh comments. So, you must prepare mentally for them. Like former NFL official Bill Carollo, remember that people, “aren’t attacking me. Instead of bristling and reacting, I calmly ask, ‘Are you talking to me?’ or ‘What did you say?’ With those questions, I give the person a chance to back off and take stock of what he’s saying. My unruffled demeanor causes the coach or player to reassess his own approach.”

The way you address the complaints will make a big difference in the grand scheme of things. There is always a way to make things better.

Don’t pick a fight or hint that things didn’t happen like the reviewers mentioned. Instead, publicly acknowledge the bad reviews. And apologize for any mistake, even if you don’t feel like it.

The best way to go about it is to thank people via email or the websites they left their comments (e.g., Yelp, Google, Twitter, Facebook). Encourage them to share even more feedback with you. And most importantly, show them how important this is for your company by incorporating the comments into the next iteration of your products.

Mother Bear's Pizza review

You may be surprised by what happens next…

5. Don’t Feed the Trolls

There is one area of the online world that poses many challenges: trolling. Some people feel entitled to attack others gratuitously. They post inflammatory messages to get an emotional response from their victims.

So, the next time you think you are dealing with a troll, remember the following:

  • Trolls are insecure individuals looking for attention.
  • They will do anything to get that attention.
  • Their attacks are not personal.
  • They thrive on negative energy.
  • Most importantly, they probably haven’t bought your products or used your services.

First, acknowledge them, as you want to assess if they aren’t just a disgruntled customer. Remain nice and polite. However, if they continue pestering you, end on a respectful note and stop responding. They are likely to get tired and move on. On Twitter, for example, you can mute, block, or report guilty accounts.

6. Have a Policy in Place

Bad reviews don’t have to mean the end of your business. You can actually decrease their impact by addressing them proactively. A policy is the way to go.

Sit down with your team and jot down a few ideas. You should include typical complaints and responses, as well as dos and don’ts. As always, keep an eye on the way other small businesses tackle bad reviews.

Last but not least, don’t forget to monitor your Yelp, Google, and Facebook pages frequently. Twitter is also the perfect place to catch what people say about your company. In search, try combining keywords like “company name + fail / bad / negative / unhappy.” Also, check the negative filter at the bottom of the Advanced Search page to only surface negative tweet results.

That’s all for now, folks! See you next Friday for another list of tips to help take your small business to the next level online.

Is there a topic you would like me to cover in a future article? Share your thoughts in the comment section…

Cendrine Marrouat
Paper.li Blog Staff Writer, Cendrine Marrouat is a French-born social media coach, curator, and author. She is the founder of Social Media Slant and the #smslantchat Twitter chat. Her latest e-book release, "The Little Big eBook on Social Media Audiences: Build Yours, Keep It and Win", is a comprehensive guide focusing on the four pillars of audience building. Follow her on Google+.

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4 Responses to “6 Tips to Turn Negative Customer Feedback Around”

  1. Sunday

    Hi Cendrine,
    You are very correct about how we should treat negative reviews. Sometimes the feedbacks provoke in the emotions negatively but if we don’t mind them nor take them personally we would be inspired to make better decisions!

    My policy about negative reviews remains this way: never feed trolls, ignore misaligned comments and take corrections where necessary!
    I left the above comment in kingged.com as well.

    Reply
  2. Lance

    Many of us think it’s impossible to win back a customer who has been disappointed by customer service, but the truth is, this is the best time to show them your best customer service. Before your unhappy customer can walk out the door and say something negative about you or your organization, there are ways you could change this experience into a positive one.

    Reply
  3. metz

    As we all know, local businesses face high stakes when it comes to online reviews.

    “Don’t Feed the Trolls” Most important tip for everyone.

    The 6 tips are simple, easy to comprehend and very smart. Newbies can help a lot for this blog post. Negative reviews are everywhere; we can’t command people to leave only good or positive reviews.

    Take note, negative reviews are helpful just like the second example you shared with us. Reviews like that are useful since this gives us awareness or information on how well or not our products are.

    Replying to them with useful information and following the “Reach out to the Reviewer” subtopic will help both parties.

    If review remains unchanged, evaluate public response

    Thanks for sharing this with us.

    Reply

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