Handling Unhappy Customers Both Online and Off

Handling Unhappy Customers Both Online and Off


It’s easy to get hung up on certain business factors – from equipment leases to working capital – and lose sight of the single most important part of running a business: Keeping customers happy.

No matter your business, whether you sell products, provide a service or a combination of both, consumer satisfaction is key to success.

With this in mind, there are some general guidelines to remember when faced with an unhappy customer.

Open your ears

More than anything, an angry consumer generally just wants to be heard. Maybe they feel they weren’t provided the service they were entitled to. Perhaps they’re just having a bad idea and are taking it out on your business. Either way, listening to them is often the best way to appease them.

Recognize their viewpoint

The saying goes that the customer is always right. In most instances, this is true, even when it’s not. Put simply, even if a customer is in the wrong, the best way to calm them down and hopefully ensure repeat business is to apologize and attempt to solve the problem. This can be as simple as offering a discount or even just saying sorry. People like to have their feelings and viewpoints recognized. Even if those feelings are misplaced, acquiescing can be the better strategy for the long run.

Keep your cool

While this can be easier said than done, especially if a customer is particularly rude, the last thing you want to do is let your own frustration get the best of you. Snapping at a customer complaint, blaming the customer or otherwise being insulting will not do your business any favor. In fact, it could lead to that customer bad-mouthing you to friends and family, potentially impacting your bottom line.

Employing strategies online

The above tips have been around as long as customers have been complaining. However, the digital age has brought with it another forum in which consumers can voice their displeasure: the Internet.

According to the 2014 Local Consumer Review Survey from BrightLocal, 88 percent of consumers read online reviews to determine the quality of a local business, up from 85 percent in 2013. Meanwhile, 39 percent do so on a regular basis.

The majority of these individuals (72 percent) stated positive reviews are likely to make them trust a business more. Finally, 88 percent said they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

These figures are supported by a survey conducted by Dimensional Research that show 90 percent of respondents who read online reviews said positive ones influenced their buying decisions. Meanwhile, 86 percent said negative reviews also influenced their buying decisions.

These numbers show how important it is for owners to understand the proper protocol when their business receives a poor online review:

Be proactive

Just like with in-person issues, your best course of action is nip things in the bud before they have a chance to snowball. You could try contacting the reviewer and apologizing, as well as offering a refund or discount. This could lead the reviewer to amending their original review to show appreciation for your customer service, reducing the negative impact of their initial post. The longer you let a bad review fester without doing anything, the more chance it has to harm your business.

Don’t argue

It can be tempting to call an anonymous reviewer out and dispute their recollection of events. However, this can backfire terribly and make your business seem like it doesn’t care about what consumers think. Instead of responding in a way that will generate more animosity, do your best to seem apologetic and willing to fix the situation. This could have the positive affect of showing potential customers that you care, essentially turning a bad review into a chance to advertise your business’s superior customer service.

Encourage good reviews

One or two bad customer experiences won’t ruin your reputation online, but in order to counteract the bad, it’s a good idea to encourage customers who are pleased with their product or service to say so online. After all, bad reviews counterbalanced with good ones is a much better result than strictly negative comments.

Contact review sites when necessary

There may come a time when a competitor decides to play dirty by writing dishonest negative reviews about your business online. If you believe this is the case and have proof, reach out to review sites to make them aware. Hopefully this will lead to the bad review being removed.