Every business owner needs to know how to deal with complaints and negative reviews.
At the end of the day we can’t please everyone.
What’s important is to know how to deal with the situation when it arises and not take it to heart.
Very often, if you are a solopreneur or offer a highly personal service, negative reviews or a complaint can fire up the strongest of emotions.
You may want to scream and break things or you might want to curl up in the foetal position on the floor and rock gently to 80s love ballads in the dark.
It can feel like a person attack, a slap in the face after all the effort you’ve put in to have someone come back and say something negative about your obvious fabulousness.
After all, we’re perfect right (*insert sarcasm and a reality check*)?
Before I dive into how to deal with complaints and negative reviews I want to give some basic, yet very important, consumer behaviour theory.
Consumers are twice as likely to express their dissatisfaction with a product or service than if they are satisfied. (Nice eh?)
Think about how often you’ll complain to a friend, or online, if you get a crappy deal? Rave reviews are a lot harder to come by especially if you have delivered on expectation – why? Because the customer got what they wanted – transaction over.
The challenge is how turn a complaint around before it hurts your business and your pride.
1. How to deal with complaints
So, you receive a complaint and someone is unhappy, maybe something didn’t work, or broke the first day, or it shrunk in the wash.
Whatever the complaint is you need to address it immediately. Allowing a dissatisfied customer to sit and stew in the dark is dangerous territory which can lead to a much larger problem.
Quite often you can look at a complaint as a gift – it’s someone taking the time to tell you what is (possibly) wrong with your product or service. Usually it’s not the personal attack on your being that you may initially feel it is.
- First off, make sure you have a clear complaints policy including refunds and exchanges.
- Do include a time frame for complaints – complaining 3 months later is a bit too late!
- Stating “no refunds” is completely well within your rights.
- Take each complaint case by case.
Here are 2 examples of different ways to deal with complaints:
The customer who didn’t follow instructions
I recently had a client really upset that a customer had complained that a product had shrunk, and the dye had run in the wash. The customer insisted she had followed the washing instructions on the product (she clearly had not) – the dilemma was that this customer was a prominent figure in the target market of my client and upsetting her could cost this new business its reputation. Pointing out that the customer had not followed the washing instructions and refusing an exchange was too high a price to pay for this business. An exchange was given which ensured that this small business owner saved her reputation (even though she wasn’t in the wrong).
The client who’s baggage was more than just holiday clothes
A few years ago I had a family come to Provence to rent a holiday apartment in August. From the minute they arrived I knew it was going to be an interesting week. The complaints started almost immediately:
(Here are some highlights of the 17 phone calls on the first day)
Client: “Oh it’s too hot outside”
Me: “Yes, it’s the South of France in August”
Client: “What’s that noise? Can you turn it off?”
Me: “That “noise” is the cicadas – they’re an emblem of Provence in the summer. And no, I can’t turn them off.”
Client: “This kitchen is so ill equipped, there isn’t a marble slab to make pastry”
Me: “A marble slab? For pastry? You are in FRANCE on HOLIDAY, why not go to one of the 4 bakeries in the village and buy some pastries?”
The next day I saw the client’s husband – he was sweet and apogetic about his wife’s behaviour. He went on to tell me that this was a “reconciliation” holiday and he’d already contacted his lawyer in the UK to file for divorce upon their return. OUCH.
So, what can you learn from this story?
Sometimes people are just miserable gits, with epic sh*t going on in their lives, and you are the chosen one to share in the icky-poo stuff that’s going on with them.
2. How to deal with negative reviews
You’re rocking and rolling until one day you get an alert that someone has left you a review online.
Excitedly you go check it out.
It’s bad, really bad.
You yell and scream, it’s online, the world will see it, you can’t remove it, you feel attacked.
Someone actually took the time to type out these nasty things and put them online knowing full well that you can’t do anything about it.
Now, before you run off to make a voodoo doll of this person listen up.
Have a really honest conversation with yourself – is there any truth in this negative review? Maybe? Even just a teeny bit? Tell your pride and ego to take a backseat on this convo darling! Take a deep breath, yes you are a fabulous person and this review doesn’t change who you are.
A negative review amongst a sea of glowing testimonials makes you look HUMAN. It’s normal.
You can’t please everyone – even the most divine beings are disliked by many.
It’s not time to shut down your business, sell all your wordly possessions, and retreat to a cave (even if you want to – this, too, shall pass darling!)
It’s time to put things into perspective; why are you focusing so much on this one negative review?
Sometimes you will have the opportunity to respond to a negative review – if this is the case DO NOT reply immediately. Re-read the lines above and take some time to draft your response.
This is often a usually a good time to refer to your terms and conditions.
And sometimes it’s just best to let it be.
Most negative reviews I see online usually make me question what was going on behind the scenes?
- That crappy restaurant review that had nothing to do with the food or service – did he get dumped?
- That terrible hotel stay that mentioned the weather and other guests – did she just find out she lost her job?
- That terrible product review which exceeded the products capabilities– did it come at a time when huge bills flooded in and they knew they couldn’t afford it?
And then you just have plain old crazy, people who complain as a sport – and yes, the vast majority of your future customers are aware enough to spot the crazies out there.
Basically, the customer is sometimes right. Sometimes.
But it’s important to not let complaints, and negative reviews, dent your confidence and fabulousness. Sometimes it is about you, but usually it’s about them.
All too often we focus on the negative, and we allow that one bad review to taint the rest of the amazing ones.
Yeah, we’re all weird like that.
Go read your amazing reviews, those emails filled with love and appreciation and use those as a guide.
Hopefully this post helps you put things into perspective and if you need to make some changes based on the “bad” feedback treat them as a gift.
How else would you know what you need to work on?
Now, I want you to tell me how do you deal with complaints and negative reviews?
Originally posted 14/02/2013 - Post edited 17/11/2017