Ask Silver Bullet: November 2016
As a retailer, Christmas is our busiest season and we’re worried about negative online reviews and feedback decimating our trade - what can we do to ensure a positive reputation?
The easy answer is, of course, make sure your products and your service are faultless ensuring there’s nothing for people to complain about, but as we live in the real world where mistakes happen and, as the strain of increased Christmas trading begins to take its toll, the mistakes may well occur more frequently at Christmas than normal.
So accepting the fact that, with the best will in the world, there’s going to be an unhappy customer somewhere whose transaction has not gone smoothly and is going to share that experience in this new digital world to do his or her best to ruin your Christmas, is probably a good place to start!
Some 90% of people state they now check online reviews before making a purchase across a variety of sectors with this figure rising even higher for restaurants. Perhaps more surprising is that over half of the younger 18-34 respondents stated that they trusted online reviews more than the opinions of friends and family. In terms of reasons behind negative reviews, poor customer service was the most common reason followed by damaged goods and late deliveries.
But, there is good news too in that a bad review is NOT the end of the world, indeed many people do not trust posted reviews if there isn’t at least one negative review, fearing they are all fake. The important point is the only effective way to combat a negative review is to respond to it, preferably the sooner the better. A fast response can not only pacify a dissatisfied or even angry customer but can also turn him/her from a foe into a friend - what’s more, if you can respond creatively, the response can be shared by your whole online community. In the same survey, 84% of respondents said they would return to the retailer if they addressed the problem
You can also learn from the review and be seen to making changes as a result - again, you’re not only turning a foe into a friend but you’re publicly showing your ability to react to genuine criticism. Respect the criticism and never try to cover it up - the horror stories of organisations’ attempts to get negative reviews removed which then come into the public domain thereby exacerbating the problem and negative publicity are lessons to be learnt.
I think companies can do a lot worse than learn from a global brand - in this case the famous Walt Disney Corporation, a business that hosts 135 million people in their parks annually, more than a few of which will inevitably be disappointed by their experience and angry. The Disney technique is HEARD - Hear (let the customer complain and get if off their chest), Empathise (you understand their frustration), Apologise (whether they’re right or wrong…), Resolve (what can we do for you to make this right) and finally, Diagnose (why did this happen and what do need to do to make sure it doesn’t happen again). You may not be a big fan of the Corporation or their employment policies or maybe even their products, but you can’t argue they know what they’re doing…
You have the perfect opportunity to now begin a dialogue with your customers and turn them into brand ambassadors so that instead of removing the negative review, you drown it in positive feedback about how good your customer response has been – every positive comment reduces the impact of a negative one. If you can also do this creatively, with a sense of humour, so much the better as you show your company to be made up of people just like your customers who do their best in strained circumstances.
Finally, never take the criticism personally and become defensive, listing all the reasons why the customer, on this occasion was wrong – you’re never going to convince him or her or the other viewers of the review - you may think they may have been the most stupid, obnoxious customers your staff have ever had the misfortune to deal with, but apologise all the same and you’ll win customers back every time – whether you may want them is entirely another question - Happy Christmas!
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