How to Turn Bad Online Reviews Into Positive Customer Interactions

The internet makes information more accessible, and potential customers actively seek out reviews to guide their buying decisions. However, online reviews can yield mixed results. Telling the difference between one customer’s unfortunate experience and a genuinely bad business is challenging.

In the digital space, where customers have a voice, it’s important for brands to know how to manage online reviews. But this entails more than just commenting on and fixing a problem. Managing customer interactions starts inside your organization and at the top of the marketing funnel. 

1. Consider Potential Risk Factors and Plan How to Manage Them

As soon as you’ve established an online presence, it’s time to get real about your risks. Whether you’re selling tangible products, digital ones, or services, there are risk factors for customer satisfaction. It might be product quality, shipping speed, or service complexity. Whatever your potential weak link, you need to determine where complaints are most likely to arise.

Work with your data, customer service, and marketing teams to ensure you have sufficient historic data on customer satisfaction. Identify your most frequent instances of negative feedback and consider how to combat them, both operationally and via customer care measures. 

Draft auto-responses to messages on social media, triggered by a key phrase. This won’t be the sum total of your response, but it will prevent already upset customers from being kept waiting. Use a CRM for small business with reputation management capabilities to get to-the-minute notifications of reviews on Google, Yelp, and Facebook. Integrate your responses through your CRM, too, which can streamline your process, maintain consistency, and free up time for more in-depth resolutions. 

2. Acknowledge Customer Reviews, Good and Bad

Now that you know where your customers are reviewing you, it’s time to respond to them. After your auto-responses have triggered an acknowledgment, it’s time to elevate your customer care. 

One common hangup with customer service teams is a lack of autonomy; don’t hamstring your CS reps in this way. Train your associates on how to respond to issues, using scripts, talking points, and valuable links. If you have a form to securely collect customer information, centralize it so that all team members can access it. 

Pre-authorize actions on the associate side, too, which can speed up resolutions. Set a dollar-amount limit for reimbursements, replacements, and other actions that don’t require manager approval. Provide CS team members with the tools, access, and autonomy to initiate a fix when customer feedback warrants it.

Personalize online responses to further humanize your brand, turning it from a logo and color scheme into a real person. Have team members employ individual sign-offs, using their first name and department. Zappos is well-known and respected for its obsession with customer service, and its sign-off habits further personalize customer care. Don’t hide behind your brand — proudly respond to even the most negative review with a friendly salutation, name, and department.

3. Admit Mistakes and Be Candid About How You’re Fixing Them

While it’s never fun to receive a scathing review, sometimes there’s truth to it. What matters most to your customers is admitting what went wrong and then doing something to fix it.

Sometimes, even the most well-engineered system allows quality checks to slip. And once a product is out the door, the risk variables multiply. Quality control in a manufacturing setting is an art and a science — and a particular stressor to those in perishable goods. 

Consider the yogurt brand Chobani, popular for its flavors, product range, and introducing Greek yogurt to the masses. The tangy treat is much beloved, but it can also go bad in the event the sensitive balance of refrigeration is off. 

When one customer went on Facebook to share their spoiled yogurt story, Chobani was quick to respond and act on the information. They empathetically responded, requesting the product code so they could investigate the matter. They also asked for the customer’s address via direct message so they could make things right. By acknowledging the issue publicly but resolving it privately, Chobani displayed excellent customer care and protected the customer’s information. 

4. Transform Unhappy Customers Into Advocates

Welcome negative feedback with a spirit of curiosity, empathetic response, and willingness to transform opinions. Every person wants to be heard, understood, and acknowledged, and customers leaving a negative review want the same thing. 

Generally, people are only driven to leave a public comment when they’re unsatisfied. After all, if a product meets a consumer’s needs, they’re more apt to just use it than to leave a review. When a customer’s experience is so unsatisfactory they feel moved to tell their story to the world, try to regard it as an opportunity. Your job is to respond in a way that turns the experience around — and then encourage the newly satisfied customer to tell that story.

You do that by asking — once you’ve fixed the issue — for feedback on how your problem resolution process worked. Ideally, the customer will be willing to describe the resolution in the original social media thread. If not, you may be able to parlay positive post-response feedback into a website testimonial. Either way, you’ve turned a customer service lemon into brand trust lemonade.

Building a Foundation for Positive Customer Experiences

Brands that show up for their customers, act authentically, and strive for stellar experiences come out ahead. Review your current practices for opportunities to improve, using technology to broaden your reach and speed your response time. When you do, you’ll be ready to resolve issues, surprise even the most disgruntled customers, and foster customer loyalty. 


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