There is no business that, as it grows, is entirely free from criticism. Even those that do their best to ensure that every customer is as well cared for as possible is going to come up against some pretty harsh words, be it on review websites, in social media, or more directly. Public criticism, especially online, can feel particularly stinging, but it’s important to not act on your immediate instinct. Take your time, think about your approach, and make sure any response is done in order to protect the business in a healthy and responsible way.
Get in touch
Believe it or not, many a potential public relation nightmare can be nipped in the bud if only the business is quicker to respond to the initial criticism. In most online forums, be it social media, reviews sites, or other community hubs, you should be able to respond directly to a customer. You can’t always please them, but getting in touch to apologise for their experience publicly, then offering to move the conversation into a more private platform, such as by calling them or emailing them, can help. You can offer the displeased customer the support that they need while signalling to others that you do take their issues seriously and are willing to act on them.
Fix your mistakes
If you have made an honest mistake, especially if it has affected several customers, then there will come a time to come clean about the issues that you have faced and what you’re going to do to combat them. Coming back from failure isn’t easy. It requires humility, honestly, and, most important, self-introspection. Take the time to apologise to your customers about the issue that has been affecting them and look at ways to fix it. If you can publish something like a case study that looks at how you improve the issue, you can show your audience that you take their feedback seriously. You can even end up turning a PR snafu into the opportunity to win them over more deeply as brand fans.
Don’t let lies stand
However, sometimes there is no mistake to correct, nor a misunderstanding to clear up. Unfortunately, malice can be as much of a motivator for bad reviews and online criticism as anything else. It’s not unheard of for disgruntled employees, customers, and even competitors to spread false news and reviews about businesses online. Removify has stood up to help fight against fake Google reviews and tools like this can help you manage your reputation. If there are reviews that have no basis in truth, then you can get them removed. As such, it’s important to ascertain, when possible, if a review is based on a real customer experience or if someone might be lying behind it.
Build your positive bulwark
Your brand’s online reputation isn’t going to be dictated by one negative review. While criticism can, indeed, tarnish the reception that you get from customers, they have to be taken in context. If people see that your business has overwhelmingly positive reviews with just a few stand-out negative accounts from customers, then they’re still going to assume that your business is mostly reliable. This doesn’t mean you should ignore criticism if you have great reviews. The other tips above still stand, but you can look at how sites like Checkli can help you encourage customers to share their experiences. If you’re able to keep them happy, then these tools can make sure that your online reputation better reflects the reality of things.
Don’t take it personally, but make it personal
This tip might sound like a word salad, but it can be highly effective. First of all, never take criticism as a direct assault on you or any employees that might be involved. It’s a business relationship, and reacting too personally can make it seem like you’re petty and unprofessional, which is only more likely to turn other customers away. However, you can introduce something of a personal element. Introducing yourself as well as how you are connected to the team can show the customer tat there is a person on the other side trying to reach out to them, rather than just a faceless business. This can help calm things down and make them more likely to respond with a little more nuance in mind.
You’re going to continue to face online criticism as your business grows, so it’s important to learn how to deal with it sooner, rather than later. Let the tips above help form a strategy that’s better for all parties.