Receiving criticism of any kind requires a form of finesse possessed by few. Oftentimes, reaction to the critic can determine if the criticism received is constructive or destructive. In truth, no one likes to be criticized. But the fact remains, negative reviews and customer feedback happens to every business at some point.
When it does, the first step is to determine whether the feedback is legitimate.
Illegitimate feedback can come in a form of a “low-blow” from a competitor that is unwilling to compete on an even playing field. This is against most review website’s policy, and can be flagged for review. Other times, the feedback is a blatant injustice, the kind that comes when a misinformed customer makes an unfair and biased assessment of the way you do business (even when you and your team have done nothing wrong).
Once you have determined the customer feedback is genuine, and after your initial gut reaction to reply with swift justice of your own, the best course of action is to own the feedback, apologize for any inconvenience, ensure the feedback was responded to, and move on with your life.
The truth hurts
The other side of the coin is the one-star review that is full of painful truths. The one that glaringly identifies the shortcomings you have on your agenda to fix tomorrow. The one that points to every aspect of your business in need of improvement. The one that really hurts you personally. Every business knows of some things need to be fixed, but the realities portrayed are difficult to accept and process.
You have to pick your battles.
Reviews like this are bound to happen. Knowing how to respond internally through operational changes, and externally, through a solid review response, is essential to the health of your online reputation.
Let’s take a look at what needs to take place if you want to make the best lemonade of the review lemons that come your way.
One-off or Systemic Concern?
When someone drops the ball and a customer has a less-than-satisfactory experience, it is your responsibility to dive into the issue and find out if you are looking at the first symptoms of something systemic that is likely to happen again and again, or if it is a simple fluke.
If it is a fluke, you still need to communicate the concern to all stakeholders. Knowledge is power, and a well-informed team is very unlikely to make the same mistake twice. If your business is generally a great performer when it comes to reviews, then you may want to include the issues escalated as part of your daily notes, or mention it during a scrum or team meeting.
People, Process, or Product Issue?
In most instances, we can isolate customer concerns to people, process, or product, or a combination of several of these factors. Before implementing any changes, you need to step back and evaluate the root cause of the problem.
According to a highly experienced food and beverage manager, when personnel drops the ball in the foodservice industry, problems can be often tackled by implementing technologies instead of training or firing staff.
A great of example of this in action is a digital display of food orders at the table. This new form of accountability can reduce the error rate in the kitchen and improve overall customer satisfaction. In most instances, when there are discrepancies with food orders, the customers tend to point to the server or other frontline employees as the culprits of a less-than-excellent dining experience, when in reality, it was a simple miscommunication.
Fix only what needs to be fixed. Don’t come out swinging left and right. Intentionality matters.
Deliver a Sincere, Respectful Apology
This is the most important takeaway from your new feedback. It may be inconvenient, but your reviewer is also your customer, which means the reviewer always right. If your one-star review is full of painful truths, don’t forget the long-term value of honest feedback. Thank the reviewer profusely. After all, he or she is giving you a priceless opportunity to get your act together.
“It may be inconvenient, but your reviewer is also your customer, which means the reviewer is always right.”
But apart from saying thank you, provide a respectful apology that includes the steps you are taking going forward, and provides the customer a remedy that leads to subsequent engagements. That is, do what you need to do to have that customer come through your door again.
And remember, your response is being evaluated by everyone who leaves a new review. It will reflect your business’ attitude toward all customer feedback forever.
Earn a second chance to do it right! Sincerity goes a long way when it comes to customer experience strategy. At the end of the day, customers value knowing that behind your organization and brand there are humans that care at a personal level.
VIP the Reviewer into a Second Opportunity
Almost everyone reacts positively to outstanding comebacks. Everyone loves an underdog. Make every effort you possibly can to have the reviewer come again and, if possible, review your business again. The best way to do this to have them edit the review they left earlier, before you had the chance to redeem your business.
A second-chance review is a powerful testimony of your commitment to delivering superior customer experiences time after time. Not only do you stand to gain a loyal customer, but you are also earning a badge to display on your review profile that will add credibility and increase trust from potential customers.
Establish an Early-Capture Feedback Process
One-star reviews are very unlikely to happen if you have processes in place aimed at reaching out to customers immediately after a transaction. If you give them an opportunity to voice their concerns privately, before they even have a chance to consider public third-party review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, you will be ahead of the game.
One of the best ways to reach out to customers is by pushing a NPS (Net Promoter Score and System) survey to all your customers. Polling your customers with a simple one-question survey will give you a better picture of the direction your business is heading, and it will give your customers a chance to escalate concerns. Early-capture feedback is tremendously helpful to organizations of all sizes, and it can help you refine your customer experience strategy without having to spend on pricey marketing research.
Your one-star review can be the catalyst for a radical change in your business. One that can benefit your customers, and improve your business, taking it to the next level. Don’t waste it.