Category Archives: Marketing and Stuff

How to deal with negative reviews

Angry Computer

What do you do when your business gets a negative online review?

Recent numbers show that over 80% of the US population is now online. Of those, a full 90% read online reviews before making a purchase. And of those, 88% trust the reviews they read as much as a personal recommendation. Knowing this, you want to have nothing but 5-star reviews for your business, right?

Actually, no.

Consider your own online research – how do you react if you search a company and find all glowing reviews implying the company practically walks on water? You’re probably really suspicious of every one of those reviews.

After all, nobody is that perfect; 100% positive reviews are automatically suspect. You’re actually more credible if readers see a few unhappy ones here and there. Hopefully a small percentage, but we’re a cynical people and we expect to see the good, bad, and ugly. If the bad and ugly aren’t there, we don’t trust the good.

So, do we just welcome bad reviews with open arms? Well, yes and no. Being criticized is never fun, but it is an opportunity to correct a shortcoming you might never have known about if the review hadn’t been posted. We all makes mistakes, but how we respond to our mistakes is what’s important. Equally important is how we respond when the criticism is unwarranted.

By the way, it’s rarely a good idea to try to get a review taken down. Most review sites won’t even consider it and the reviewer certainly won’t. If you make an attempt, you’ll probably be perceived as a bully trying to hide the truth. Unless the review violates a site’s policies (e.g. profanity) it’s there forever.

Best practices for negative reviews

Following these best practices can help you navigate the rough waters of negative reviews.

Some reviews aren’t worth a response

Some have language or opinions that are clearly irrational or unfair. Some are posted by habitual complainers. Those may be better off left alone. Save your energy for legitimate issues from real customers.

Always be professional and polite

This is a basic tenet of good customer service, and it absolutely applies to online engagement. Show respect, even if the customer doesn’t. Take the high road when you respond and stay positive, brief, and never defensive.

Respond promptly and highlight your strengths

Take the time you need to collect your thoughts and to gather the facts about the complaint, but don’t take too long or it will look like you’re ignoring your customer. A day or so is reasonable. If you’ve dropped the ball with a customer, acknowledge it briefly and assure the customer that it’s not how you normally do business. Point out any policy or expectations your business has for a good customer experience.

Quickly try to move the conversation offline

The longer a dialogue goes online, the greater the chance for it to go sideways. Invite the customer to contact you by phone so you can rectify the situation quickly. Even better, if you know the customer’s identity and contact information, you can be proactive and call the customer.

Don’t feed the trolls

Never argue with anyone online, even if in your heart of hearts you know the customer is in the wrong. You will never look good if you take an adversarial tone, and you could be playing into a troll’s hands. He or she may be baiting you, hoping to suck you into an online “flame war.” You won’t win – you’ll only give that person more ammunition to paint you as the bad guy.

Remember, you’re not answering just the reviewer – you’re speaking to the whole world online. Think of it as having a loudly aggressive customer in a crowded lobby. Everybody is watching you, waiting to see what you do. This is the time to show the world what a class act you are.

What if you suspect the review is a fake?

Most of the time even an anonymous review will contain at least a few details that will help you identify the customer. However, a recent review left us scratching our heads.

negative review screen shotHarsh accusations, but pretty vague at the same time. In this instance we searched our CRM and found no record of this person having been a customer. I spoke with the local manager in the city where the review was posted. Neither the reviewer’s name nor his comments sounded familiar at all to anyone. Regrettably, competitors and disgruntled former employees have been known to drag company names through the mud. It’s not ethical (and it’s almost impossible to prove), but it happens.

If someone does this to you, no matter how badly you want to call the person out, don’t do it. Even if he or she is not your customer, what if he’s taking up for a relative or friend he believes has been wronged? What if your database is missing some critical information? You really don’t want to find that out after you’ve put your foot in your mouth.

But if a reviewer makes false statements, you can state the facts as you know them in a calm and tactful manner. You can point out inaccuracies without calling him out. (On the outside chance the review is legit, you haven’t opened yourself up to a world of trouble.)

Using those guidelines, the next day we posted the following response:

negative review and response

We first politely acknowledged the post. We then briefly stated our commitment to integrity and customer satisfaction. Next – and you really have to get this right – we tactfully stated we didn’t have a record of his being a customer. Finally, we invited the reviewer to speak with us offline where we could address his concerns.

While we believe this was a fake review, we were careful not to say that. Thus the situation doesn’t escalate, the online world sees us responding professionally, and the door is left open for legitimate dialogue.

Do you have other tips for handling negative reviews?

Men’s Wearhouse gets it right in social media following email snafu

On the Sunday after Christmas Men’s Wearhouse sent an email blast to its customers announcing the last day of of its After-Christmas Deals promotion. But due to an unfortunate glitch in its email system, customers received the same email dozens of times. I counted 64 in my inbox. I was slightly annoyed.

But I’m also in marketing and I understand that automated systems can sometimes go sideways. It sucks, but it happens. As the old saying goes, the true test isn’t whether you make a mistake – it’s how you respond to the mistake that really defines you. I fired off a tweet:

I was curious to see what their response, if any, would be. We’ve all seen examples of companies mishandling screw-ups, either becoming defensive, not responding at all, or worse – attacking the complainer. I wanted to see how savvy Men’s Wearhouse is with social media. Their response would determine whether I unsubscribed from their emails or not.

Now, I’m hardly one of their bigger customers. I do like their products but with two family members’ college tuition to pay, I don’t exactly have a lot of discretionary income left for frivolous things like clothing. If I never spent another dollar in their stores they’d never miss it. It would have been easy for them to ignore me. But to their credit, my answer came 3 and a half hours later:

Short, to the point, and effective: an apology, a brief statement about the cause of the problem, and assurance that action was being taken. No excuses, no phony falling on their sword – just a swift, positive response. That’s all I needed. I didn’t unsubscribe.

My response let Men’s Wearhouse know I was rooting for them to resolve their issue:

I think they were relieved to see I wasn’t going to be a troll – they even favorited my tweet. You can almost hear the relief in their final tweet to me:

What Men’s Wearhouse understands is that social media for business is no different from face-to-face engagement – except that the whole world can eavesdrop. They knew they weren’t replying just to me, they were telling everybody in the Twitterverse that they appreciate customer feedback and they are responsive to us. Well done.

Now it’s your turn. Do you have an example of customer engagement in social media, good or bad, to share? What was your experience?

ConvergeSouth 2013 Notes, Afternoon Sessions

In my previous post ConvergeSouth 2013 Notes, Morning Sessions, i shared some of the notes I took in the morning.  As promised, notes from the rest of the day are below.

A few reminders from the previous post:

  1. These are notes, so don’t expect a lot of complete sentences
  2. They don’t include everything, so if you attended or presented please, please add a comment with your takeaways and/or corrections. No slight intended on my part by any omissions!
  3. Wish I had pics of all the afternoon presenters but wasn’t able to shoot everybody.

10 Principles of Social Media Relationship  Building

Teddy Burriss

Teddy Burriss @TLBurriss

Everything you do in social media must be TRUHE: transparent, relevant, useful, honest, engaging  Continue reading

ConvergeSouth 2013 Notes, Morning Sessions

ConvergeSouth BannerConvergeSouth 2013 has come and gone and once again was a fantastic learning experience. If you’ve never attended, I encourage you to make plans now to attend in 2014. Watch convergesouth.com for announcements.

As I did last year, I’m posting my notes for a couple of reasons.

  1. I need to capture them in a single place for my own benefit and to show my boss what he paid for.
  2. If you can benefit from my takeaways, go for it.

A few things to keep in mind:

  1. These are notes, so most of it isn’t in complete sentences. English majors, get over it.
  2. Where I could, I included links to presentations that you can click for more info.
  3. If you attended (or if you were a presenter), post a comment and share your takeaways or fill in any holes or errors in my recollection. I wasn’t able to attend every session (bummer) and I didn’t take complete notes even on the sessions I did attend. (My mobile device battery couldn’t keep up through the day, partly because I tweeted a lot of the memorable moments; apologies for blowing up your Twitter feed. Check me out at @ChipStudebaker if you’re curious.)
  4. I’m breaking my notes into a few posts to keep it from going on forever.  Continue reading

If content is king, what’s the power behind the throne?

Power

Everybody and their cousin agrees – quality content is the most important component of a good website or blog in terms of SEO and user experience. Google loves fresh content that gives readers what they’re looking for, and they reward it with strong search results (which hopefully leads to site traffic). Good content establishes the publisher as a credible authority or even thought leader in its subject area.

So content is king; what’s the power behind the throne?  Continue reading

New company website launched today

Following several months of planning and preparation my latest big project at work came to fruition today.

Disaster One website screen shot

Screen shot of the new DisasterOne.com

Working with website design vendor 4Marketshare we achieved a complete makeover of the Disaster One website, giving it a vastly more contemporary look and improved functionality. Along the way we revamped our SEO (search engine optimization) terms and phrases, fine tuning according to the search volume relevant to our industry.

My role as project manager was two-fold: Continue reading