Just one of the articles from Pet Care Pro Quarterly, IBPSA's digital magazine for pet care services professionals. Read the current issue online here.
by Alain Parcain
Your online reputation plays a big part in whether or not a potential customer decides to use your facility. Your reputation is largely based on the unfiltered opinions of your customers, who now have access to a larger audience than ever before. While dealing with unhappy customers has always been a challenge for pet care businesses, in today's age negative reviews are for everyone to see, which makes handling the situation properly even more important. So, what’s the best way to deal with a negative review?
Step One: Take a Step Back and Relax
This is the most important step in dealing with a negative review, and the one most pet care businesses get painfully wrong. If someone leaves a negative review about your business, chances are it isn’t personal. However, many business owners take negative reviews personally, and understandably so. They’re proud of the service they deliver, so when someone makes a public comment about that service being lackluster, those business owners feel threatened, hurt, and upset.
In these cases, it’s important to take a step back and try to remove emotion from the equation. Reacting emotionally tends to lead to an over-the-top response, which usually just adds fuel to the fire.
Instead, take some time to relax and think about where the customer may have felt slighted (whether they are right or wrong).
Step Two: Respond Reasonably
Once you’ve taken some time to consider all angles of the situation, it’s time to respond. You never want to air out an entire conversation in a public forum, so start with a simple, generic response. Rebecca Hussey, Market Hardware’s Director of Account Management, suggests the following responses:
Responding with a version of these can help buy you some time and help move the conversation into a more private setting. Communicating with an upset customer in a more personal manner, such as over the phone or in person, can help eliminate any misunderstandings and help speed up solutions.
It will also show the disgruntled customer you are aware of the situation and are working to sort it out. Perhaps, more importantly, anyone else that sees the negative review will know that you care enough to address a customer’s concerns about your business.
Step Three: The Non-Confrontational Confrontation
Now that you’ve thought rationally about how you want to deal with the review and indicated to the disgruntled customer that you’re looking into the situation, it’s time to follow up directly. Rule #1: Be as polite as possible (this is why Step One cannot be skipped). Demonstrate to the customer that you genuinely care and value their feedback. A positive attitude will help get a positive result. In many cases, the customer just wants to have their voice heard. Being receptive to what they have to say might be all it takes for them to remove the review. Which brings us to the next step…
Step Four: Removing the Review (optional)
Bear in mind that most review sites won’t let you take down a negative review, and probably won’t even bother to investigate a potentially false negative review. It would take up too much of their time and resources to sift through every negative review to find out which ones have legitimate claims in them.
So, based on how well you completed Steps One through Three, you’ll have to make an on-the-fly decision about this step. If you feel like you’ve had a positive conversation with your formerly disgruntled reviewer, and you’ve addressed their issues appropriately, it may be time to ask them to edit or remove their negative review. Just proceed with caution. You don’t want to undo any goodwill you may have re-established.
If you do not feel comfortable asking the customer to remove the review, ask them to reply to their initial review with an update on the situation. You don’t want it to look as though no action was taken after the initial response. If people see you’ve taken the time to remedy a negative experience, this can go a long way in boosting your reputation.
Step Five: Be Proactive, Get Positive Reviews
Whatever the outcome is from the first several steps, the primary strategy when it comes to combating negative reviews is to consistently encourage your happy customers to leave positive reviews. One blemish won’t have much of a negative effect when surrounded by several glowing reviews. As an added bonus, reviews now boost your search rankings.
Typically, only a small portion of your customers will take the time to leave reviews online. This group tends to have the strongest feelings towards your business, whether positive or negative. Try to get in the habit of encouraging your customers to leave you reviews online or even consider sending out an email blast with a link to different review sites (Google being a priority). Chances are you have many happy customers who would be happy to take a minute or two to leave a review.
Your online reputation is vital to the success of your business. It affects your online marketing strategy, so don’t take it lightly. Monitor the popular review sites regularly, and make sure you follow these directions closely if you do happen to run into a negative review along the way.
Alain Parcan, Director of Marketing for Market Hardware, Inc., brings nearly 10 years of experience in educating businesses so they can market themselves more effectively. Market Hardware helps small businesses compete on the web and offers special discounts for professional association members. You can reach Alain’s team at 888-381-6925.