Most small businesses never intend on displeasing customers, but bad publicity and negative consumer reviews can happen to the best of us. But how do you successfully manage a PR crisis to protect and defend your company when faced with a public challenge to your reputation.
We asked thirteen entrepreneurs to share their recommendations on how to deal with negative publicity and bad customer reviews. Here’s what they had to say:
1. Create a response strategy.
“Turn a bad customer review into something positive by creating a response strategy. Whenever possible, first reach out to the customer, address the issue, and work toward an amicable solution. A bad review is a great opportunity to internalize important customer feedback and develop your business.”
2. Enhance online reputation with strategic seo tactics.
“The best way to handle bad reviews is to take a proactive approach with reputation management via search engines. Businesses should create profiles online in as many places as possible, like social media channels, directories, etc., and optimize these profiles for search engines. That way, these destinations can essentially ‘take over’ the first page (or more) of search results if someone searches for your brand in Google, and any bad press or negative reviews will be pushed to the second or third page.”
3. Address negative press head-on.
“Look for trends in the bad press to aid in the continuous improvement of your business. Where possible, address the bad press and what you are doing to remedy the issue. There’s no shame in making mistakes. It’s what you do after the mistake that matters. Businesses that project an image of integrity and honesty are usually businesses consumers want to support.”
4. Respond in a thoughtful way.
“The best way to deal with bad press is to simply respond to the bad review in a personal, thoughtful way! This lets the customer know you hear them and you want to correct things.”
5. Contact your industry trade association.
“If the bad press is based more on a political, civic, or personal viewpoint on an industry than straight hard facts, don’t be afraid to contact your state or national trade association to speak on your behalf. That’s what they are there for, and often they can communicate the issue or problem in a big picture, instead of you speaking about your isolated incident.
6. Follow your customer service policy.
“Be proactive and have a customer service policy so all employees know where you stand on customer appreciation and attitude. If a client is not satisfied, we ask that they let us know, allow us one day at the most to respond, and propose a solution which usually includes additional benefits if we can offer them. If our client is still not happy, we will refund their money, no questions asked.”
7. Embrace negative reviews.
“Embrace it! Bad customer feedback reflects engagement from your audience. If they didn’t care, they would tune out and simply not respond. Take time to understand and engage with people who have feedback for you. You might build a relationship you weren’t expecting.”
8. Own your mistakes.
“Be honest, polite and helpful. If you are in the wrong, own up to your mistakes and be forthright about how you are working to correct them. If you resolve the customer’s complaint and make amends, there is a good chance they will update their review to reflect your actions.”
9. Don’t get defensive.
“Do not be defensive. Respond in a meaningful and positive way. Let them know that they have been heard, and react personally. There are always ways to turn a negative into a positive — it’s all in how you approach it.”
10. Don’t take it personally.
“Remain strong and not fly out in the media trying to defend yourself or your company. As hard as it is, just let it go, see if there is something you can improve and look ahead. News is quick and it too shall pass. People have shorter memories in regards to your business than you do of your own.
11. Outshine negative publicity.
“You can’t unring the bell, but you can upstage it with louder trumpets. This means that you have to proactively and aggressively drown out your bad press and reviews with positive media attention. Damage control takes a lot of work and is best handled with the help of professionals who have the media contacts, experience and “know-how” to get your public image back on track.”
12. Go above and beyond to fix errors.
“Make it right. Our favorite fix is refunding the order and not making the customer waste their time returning items or paying for shipping. We have all been there before. For higher dollar items, come up with a solution As long as they know you are sincere and you actually care, they will probably forgive you.”
13. Let bad reviews reveal excellent service.
“Bad customer reviews are a great chance for your company to show exceptional customer service. Instead of arguing with or challenging a bad review, stay calm, gracious and let the reviewer know what you will do to address the issue. While you may not be able to win back the disgruntled reviewer, the way you deal with the review itself will affect your company’s image for other potential consumers, and handling any negativity in a professional manner will only win you big points in their eyes.”
What are some other ways to deal with negative publicity and bad customer reviews? Let us know in the comments section below.