Published: March 11, 2014
A few months ago, we shared a post on “hugging your complainers” and embracing negative online reviews. There is great business value in taking this approach, including everything from improved performance and processes to stronger customer relationships. But as reality sets in, most business leaders still scoff at “hugging” the people bashing their business and in most cases would rather avoid negative reviews at all costs in the first place.
According to a 2013 National Customer Rage Study, more than a third of customers publicly share their complaints on online platforms like Yelp and Twitter. Yet many companies are using simple tactics to intercept poor reviews before they hit the web.
“There’s lots of advice available for how to handle customer complaints online, but it’s also possible to keep complaints from reaching the web in the first place,” says Victoria Rossi, Analyst at Software Advice and Managing Editor for the Customer Service Investigator. “Businesses that take a proactive approach to gathering feedback can re-direct complaints and help keep many of them offline.”
- Give Customers the Chance to Vent Offline. “It’s not always possible to prevent a frustrating experience, but you can re-channel customer frustration.” The first human reaction after encountering a problem or issue with a product or service is to make the issue known, many cases manifesting in frustration and the need to vent. Usually this happens first via traditional conversation. In-location feedback gives customers an immediate release if and when they have an issue before they turn to their second channel in hopes of problem resolution – which usually is online.
- Make it Very Easy to Complain. Provide easy access to a phone number or a physical person. Make sure the process to complain or seek problem resolution is simple and clear. When you share your phone number and encourage immediate feedback, just make sure you have someone there to answer. Multiple points of in store or in showroom contact push online complaints further down the line.
- Let Customers Complain Anonymously. “Customers won’t always give feedback in person.” Anonymity allows for honest feedback and ease of access. Many companies find that those who complain or share thoughts anonymously are more forthright and willing to suggest changes or improvements for the business.
- Respond to Customers in Real Time. “Acknowledge the complaint immediately, even if complaint resolution will take more time.” Quick response prevents further aggravation and stalls people from turning to the Internet to vent.
“Honest feedback can be a great way to help a business grow and improve, even when it’s negative,” Rossi says. “But when that feedback appears online, it can also really hurt companies—small businesses especially. The companies and experts I spoke with had some great feedback-gathering tools to help keep customer complaints in-house, so that owners and managers can make preventative adjustments before complaints go before complaints get to social review sites.”
Avoiding negative reviews and hugging your complainers work in tandem. Do your best to cater to customer issues before they take them to the world wide web, but when you can’t and a negative review pops up online, don’t panic. Take your time to understand their problem, listen to their needs, and propose a mutually beneficial solution. In short, give them a bear hug.