How to Respond to Negative Online Reviews
Effective strategies for addressing complaints and gaining your customers’ trust
Social media and online review platforms have become the primary source for shoppers to research businesses. Positive reviews can give retailers a competitive advantage, while negative reviews may scare away would-be customers. Drizly’s customer service team directly addresses problems that arise for its retailer partners, but sometimes complaints arise that are beyond the Drizly universe.
For times when that’s the case, Drizly’s customer service team offers the following advice. To maintain strong reviews online, you — the retailer — should aim to offer gracious customer service. However, if a negative review has been posted about your business, it’s important to take steps to address those concerns. Sometimes you can even turn disappointed customers into loyal ones with a personal touch.
Reach Out Directly
Online reviews represent one customer’s personal experience. As such, you should respond to them personally and not generically. When possible, use the person’s name in the response. One common mistake Drizly’s customer service team notices when owners respond to customer feedback with generic copy-and-paste responses. While these can be efficient, such canned responses defeat the purpose of making the customer feel like they’ve been heard. Retailers should always attempt to include some details in a response to show that they have actually read the complaint and have considered the person’s input.
Occasionally, online reviews can be mean-spirited and untruthful. Regardless of their tone or content, it’s important that a retailer is cordial and gracious in their response. If you do end up taking the customer feedback to heart and instituting changes to your shop’s operation, make sure to thank that customer personally. Taking action from criticism sends a clear message to users that you take customer service seriously. At your store, make sure that managers pass along complaints so you can discuss the incident and take steps to rectify any negative experiences customers may have.
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Don’t be Afraid to Change Store Policy
Drizly’s customer service team often sees several customers complaining about the same issue with a retailer. In these instances, user reviews become less about personal grievances, and may demonstrate an issue with your business that needs to be addressed. Such feedback becomes especially valuable when it can actually help you improve operations. Customer requests shouldn’t be seen as nagging. If someone cares enough to give constructive feedback, they are especially valuable customers.
If you do decide to institute changes based on customer feedback, make sure that employees know where the idea came from. If complaints have arisen from an employee’s performance, that information should be communicated to the employee directly. Knowing that customers are holding them accountable can make employees feel more responsible for maintaining high standards when managers aren’t present.
Remember that complaints made to employees are just as valuable as online posts, even if they lack the impact of the internet’s public record. Keep a notebook handy for staff to record customer feedback, and to leave their contact information if they are interested in receiving a follow-up call or email.
Incentivize Customers to Give You Another Shot
Some business owners have implemented programs to reward customers who provide feedback online. It can be as simple as a discount code for posting any social media or online reviews, negative or positive. If someone does post a disappointing account of shopping at your store, it may be appropriate to offer them an incentive to give you a second chance. It can be as simple as inviting them back for a personal interaction at your next tasting event, or as generous as offering a discount.
Take care to institute these incentives discreetly. You don’t want customers to post bad reviews and expect a reward. However, if you find that the customer has a reasonable complaint, offering them a discount or a voucher is a great way to win their trust back. Most of the time, winning a customer back is well worth the lost margin on a bottle or two.