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MARKETING

16 Tips to Handle Negative Customer Reviews Online

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Online reviews matter.

We all know it, whether we understand exactly how and to what extent they matter, at least in terms of organic visibility across search engines.

Google said so itself: positive reviews and customer-business interactions improve organic visibility.

But, more importantly, customer reviews impact real business outcomes and the decisions potential customers make to patronize or not patronize certain outfits.

Just like their influence in the real world (offline), reviews not only give people a better idea of the effectiveness and quality of a specific product, service, or business – they reinforce a better-than-average customer experience, something all consumers seek.

That’s why all brands must be accepting and engaging with customer reviews – good or bad, always.

Responding to the positive ones isn’t usually all that hard.

It’s the negative feedback that is usually the most difficult to handle, and with good reason.

It’s hard to take harsh criticism.

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It’s even harder to deal with an angry customer that can sometimes, in these circumstances, becomes stubborn and overwhelming.

As such, here are the best 16 tips for handling negative reviews that all businesses will undoubtedly receive.

1. Answer Quickly

If someone is upset enough to leave a negative review, they usually do it pretty soon after the negative experience takes place.

And they’re going to expect a fairly swift response back.

It’s the right thing to do and it also helps limit the damage done.

2. Answer Thoughtfully

On top of being quick on the return, all review responses – especially the negative ones – need to be appreciated for their true value.

All feedback is critical, and even more so when it’s negative.

This feedback likely gives your team an understanding of some of the not-so-smooth aspects and pain points customers experience throughout their everyday experiences with your brand.

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Appreciate their effort to communicate that with your brand’s stakeholders, and make a difference based on it.

3. Answer Honestly

No one is perfect.

Neither is any one business.

On top of being quick and thoughtful in your response, be honest.

Transparency goes a long way.

Most negative reviewers – and customers in general – prefer an honest response to a genuine mistake with the understanding that their complaint is addressed in a fair and heartfelt manner.

This typically results in an outcome that is better for the customer as well as the business in the long run.

4. Be Kind & Keep It Appropriate

There’s no doubt: some reviews get downright nasty.

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Regardless, a business should never stoop down to that level of unprofessionalism.

Keep the same attitude you’d want an employee to use in person.

Stay buttoned-up, remember to think of the customer and their displeasures, and always offer an apology.

Remember, there’s so much more to lose for businesses that don’t act professionally and don’t rectify a negative situation by satisfying a displeased customer.

5. Give Each Response a Custom Response

Customers want to be heard.

They want to make an impact on the people operating the business being reviewed, but also the future of that business so that others don’t experience the same hardships as them.

One of the easiest ways to illustrate that to people is to give them the attention they deserve.

There’s no better way to do that than with a custom response showing empathy and compassion.

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Genuinely caring through emotion – the same emotion a quality business runs on – will go a long way.

Just don’t confuse it with getting personal.

6. Never Get Personal

Be thoughtful and give a unique response, but don’t get personal and certainly don’t ever attack or retaliate.

Even if you remember the exact person leaving the review and know they were not completely – or even slightly – acting in the right way, handle it like a true business professional with so much more to lose.

And remember, you actually have much more to gain.

7. Take It Offline

A standard best practice for handling negative reviews is to take the communication offline as soon as you can.

The key to doing so is to make it easy to move communication offline without overstepping boundaries.

Don’t try and make the unsatisfied customer reach out to you.

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Get their contact info, ask for the best way and time to communicate, and apologize for their displeasure with your product or service.

For this reason, the first response to a negative review is the most important one.

8. Be Thankful & Appreciative

All feedback is useful feedback.

Be thankful someone took the time to give you criticism, even when it’s harsh, and appreciate the fact that they are still offering you the chance to make it right.

Negative reviews can (and should) actually be a good (and free) way to keep customers coming back.

Some customers will never do that.

Scorned once and never to engage again would be a worst-case scenario.

Take it for what it’s worth and improve the company’s imperfections, and be sure to express that in your response.

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9. Take the Extra Step

While you don’t necessarily have to go above and beyond, it’ll almost always help.

This could vary depending on exactly what the issue was and how big of an impact it had on the reviewer.

But sometimes simply apologizing just won’t be enough.

And offering a credit to be used at your business isn’t always going to be the answer either.

Take the extra step to show that you’re not only sorry, but that you want to make it right and earn the person’s trust.

Offering a gift of peace could be the first step in that direction.

A gift card or flowers could certainly make an impact. So could sending a heartfelt gift of appreciation and/or forgiveness.

But it also doesn’t have to be something expensive to win over a once-upset negative reviewer.

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Get creative and think about what would matter to you as a customer.

Even something as simple as a custom video or image could not only improve the reviewer’s perception of the company and how it operates, but it will likely impact many other people for years to come, too.

Those who come across a review – and its response(s) – could quickly shift from once-uncertain or even unhappy customers into brand advocates.

And let’s not forget the impact word of mouth has, especially in the days of social media.

All you’ve got to do is go the extra mile and you’ll likely make an impact.

10. Take the Appropriate Action to Correct the Issue & Show That to the Customer

Again, customers want to be heard and know they had an impact on the business in question.

Take all reviews seriously and, when it comes to negative ones, look for commonalities for real ways to improve your business.

Use what you learn from these reviews and bring it back to the employees interacting with people and making decisions that are impacting customers.

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This will make the changes that need to happen become a reality.

Then explain to people how this feedback affected your business.

There is good to be found in every review.

Find the good in the bad ones.

11. Follow up With Negative Reviewers

Always follow up with negative reviewers.

Make sure their issue(s) has been remedied and that they ended up a happy customer after the experience.

If they are, ask for them to remove the negative review if they haven’t already.

It won’t always happen, but more often than not, a person will take a bad review down because they felt as if they were treated in a fair way and reached what they considered to be a fair resolution.

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12. Offer Compensation for Hardship, If Necessary

Many times, offering compensation when a negative review is posted is not necessary.

But other times it very much is.

Again, people just want to be heard and their opinions cared for.

But if someone suffered financial loss or personal damage, compensation – at least in the form of a money-back guarantee – is the very least a business can do to soothe the grievances of an upset customer.

13. Encourage Customers to Leave Reviews

The best way to ensure happy customers are leaving positive reviews is to recommend customers leave reviews.

Good reviews work alongside negative reviews to build a brand’s reputation.

All businesses will get both good and bad reviews.

But if you want to constantly improve your reputation, consider the power of reviews, the power of good business, and recommend those happy customers take it to popular review platforms like Google, Facebook, Yelp, and other mainstream sites, but also to industry-specific sites that affect brand reputation in your respective niche.

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14. Understand How Reviews & Rating Sites Work

To fully understand the impact of reviews, business stakeholders also need to understand how reviews and rating sites work.

Different platforms are useful for different reasons at times.

To get the most out of these reviews, understand how the platforms work and which is best suited for your reviews in terms of customer impact and business reputation.

15. Request Fake or Misleading Reviews Be Removed

Not all reviews will be authentic.

Sometimes it’s the competition.

Sometimes it’s a former employee.

Sometimes it’s even a potential customer who never became an actual customer and they try to take it out on the brand for whatever reason.

These types of reviews are against most terms of service agreements and can be removed when reported to the proper leadership of each platform.

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16. Monitor Your Online Reputation

Monitoring your online presence is the one sure way to stay on top of all reviews consistently.

By doing so, you’re able to apply the all the previously mentioned guidelines for handling reviews and ensure your business is positioned for success online and beyond.

More Resources:

Searchenginejournal.com

MARKETING

8 major email marketing mistakes and how to avoid them

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8 major email marketing mistakes and how to avoid them

As email marketers, we know we need to personalize the messages we send to subscribers and customers. I can’t think of a single statistic, case study or survey claiming an email program of one-to-everyone campaigns outperforms personalization.

Instead, you’ll find statistics like these:

  • 72% of customers will engage only with personalized messages (Wunderkind Audiences, formerly SmarterHQ)
  • 70% of consumers say that how well a company understands their individual needs affects their loyalty (Salesforce)
  • 71% of customers are frustrated by impersonal shopping experiences (Segment)

But what marketers often don’t understand, especially if they’re new to personalization, is that personalization is not an end in itself. Your objective is not to personalize your email campaigns and lifecycle messages. 

Rather, your objective is to enhance your customer’s experience with your brand. Personalization is one method that can do that, but it’s more than just another tactic. 

It is both an art and a science. The science is having the data and automations to create personalized, one-to-one messages at scale. The art is knowing when and how to use it.

We run into trouble when we think of personalization as the goal instead of the means to achieve a goal. In my work consulting with marketers for both business and consumer brands, I find this misunderstanding leads to eight major marketing mistakes – any of which can prevent you from realizing the immense benefits of personalization.

Mistake #1. Operating without an overall personalization strategy

I see this all too often: marketers find themselves overwhelmed by all the choices they face: 

  • Which personalization technologies to use
  • What to do with all the data they have
  • How to use their data and technology effectively
  • Whether their personalization efforts are paying off

This stems from jumping headfirst into personalization without thinking about how to use it to meet customers’ needs or help them solve problems. 

To avoid being overwhelmed with the mechanics of personalization, follow this three-step process:

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  • Start small. If you aren’t using personalization now, don’t try to set up a full-fledged program right away. Instead, look for quick wins – small areas where you can use basic personalized data to begin creating one-to-one messages. That will get you into the swing of things quickly, without significant investment in time and money. Adding personal data to the body of an email is about as basic as you’ll get, but it can be a start.
  • Test each tactic. See whether that new tactic helps or hurts your work toward your goal. Does adding personal data to each message correlate with higher clicks to your landing page, more conversion or whatever success metric you have chosen?
  • Optimize and move on. Use your testing results to improve each tactic. Then, take what you learned to select and add another personalization tactic, such as adding a module of dynamic content to a broadcast (one to everyone) campaign. 

Mistake #2. Not using both overt and covert personalization

Up to now, you might have thought of in specific terms: personalized subject lines, data reflecting specific actions in the email copy, triggered messages that launch when a customer’s behavior matches your automation settings and other “overt” (or visible) personalization tactics.

“Covert” personalization also employs customer preference or behavior data but doesn’t draw attention to it. Instead of sending an abandoned-browse message that says “We noticed you were viewing this item on our website,” you could add a content module in your next campaign that features those browsed items as recommended purchases, without calling attention to their behavior. It’s a great tactic to use to avoid being seen as creepy.

Think back to my opening statement that personalization is both an art and a science. Here, the art of personalization is knowing when to use overt personalization – purchase and shipping confirmations come to mind – and when you want to take a more covert route. 

Mistake #3. Not maximizing lifecycle automations

Lifecycle automations such as onboarding/first-purchase programs, win-back and reactivation campaigns and other programs tied to the customer lifecycle are innately personalized. 

The copy will be highly personal and the timing spot-on because they are based on customer actions (opting in, purchases, downloads) or inactions (not opening emails, not buying for the first time or showing signs of lapsing after purchasing). 

Better yet, these emails launch automatically – you don’t have to create, schedule or send any of these emails because your marketing automation platform does that for you after you set it up. 

You squander these opportunities if you don’t do everything you can to understand your customer lifecycle and then create automated messaging that reaches out to your customers at these crucial points. This can cost you the customers you worked so hard to acquire, along with their revenue potential.

Mistake #4. Not testing effectively or for long-term gain

Testing helps you discover whether your personalization efforts are bearing fruit. But all too often, marketers test only individual elements of a specific campaign – subject lines, calls to action, images versus no images, personalization versus no personalization  – without looking at whether personalization enhances the customer experience in the long term.

How you measure success is a key part of this equation. The metrics you choose must line up with your objectives. That’s one reason I’ve warned marketers for years against relying on the open rate to measure campaign success. A 50% open rate might be fantastic, but if you didn’t make your goal for sales, revenue, downloads or other conversions, you can’t consider your campaign a success.

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As the objective of personalizing is to enhance the customer journey, it makes sense then that customer lifetime value is a valid metric to measure success on.  To measure how effective your personalization use is, use customer lifetime value over a long time period – months, even years – and compare the results with those from a control group, which receives no personalization. Don’t ignore campaign-level results, but log them and view them over time.

(For more detailed information on testing mistakes and how to avoid them, see my MarTech column 7 Common Problems that Derail A/B/N Email Testing Success.)

Mistake #5. Over-segmenting your customer base

Segmentation is a valuable form of personalization, but it’s easy to go too far with it. If you send only highly segmented campaigns, you could be exclude – and end up losing because of failure to contact – many customers who don’t fit your segmentation criteria. That costs you customers, their potential revenue and the data they would have generated to help you better understand your customer base.

You can avoid this problem with a data-guided segmentation plan that you review and test frequently, a set of automated triggers to enhance the customer’s lifecycle and a well-thought-out program of default or catch-all campaigns for subscribers who don’t meet your other criteria. 

Mistake #6. Not including dynamic content in general email campaigns

We usually think of personalized email as messages in which all the content lines up with customer behavior or preference data, whether overt, as in an abandoned-cart message, or covert, where the content is subtly relevant.

That’s one highly sophisticated approach. It incorporates real-time messaging driven by artificial intelligence and complex integrations with your ecommerce or CRM platforms. But a simple dynamic content module can help you achieve a similar result. I call that “serendipity.”  

When you weave this dynamic content into your general message, it can be a pleasant surprise for your customers and make your relevant content stand out even more. 

Let’s say your company is a cruise line. Customer A opens your emails from time to time but hasn’t booked a cruise yet or browsed different tours on your website. Your next email campaign to this customer – and to everyone else on whom you have little or no data – promotes discounted trips to Hawaii, Fiji and the Mediterranean.

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Customer B hasn’t booked a cruise either, but your data tells you she has browsed your Iceland-Denmark-Greenland cruise recently. With a dynamic content module, her email could show her your Hawaii and Mediterranean cruise offers – and a great price on a trip to Iceland, Denmark and Greenland. Fancy that! 

An email like this conveys the impression that your brand offers exactly what your customers are looking for (covert personalization) without the overt approach of an abandoned-browse email.

Mistake #7. Not using a personal tone in your copy

You can personalize your email copy without a single data point, simply by writing as if you were speaking to your customer face to face. Use a warm, human tone of voice, which ideally should reflect your brand voice. Write copy that sounds like a one-to-one conversation instead of a sales pitch. 

This is where my concept of “helpful marketing” comes into play. How does your brand help your customers achieve their own goals, solve their problems or make them understand you know them as people, not just data points?  

Mistake #8. Not personalizing the entire journey

Once again, this is a scenario in which you take a short-sighted view of personalization – “How do I add personalization to this email campaign?” – instead of looking at the long-term gain: “How can I use personalization to enhance my customer’s experience?”

Personalization doesn’t stop when your customer clicks on your email. It should continue on to your landing page and even be reflected in the website content your customer views. Remember, it’s all about enhancing your customer’s experience.

What happens when your customers click on a personalized offer? Does your landing page greet your customers by name? Show the items they clicked? Present copy that reflects their interests, their loyalty program standing or any other data that’s unique to them?  

Personalization is worth the effort

Yes, personalization takes both art and science into account. You need to handle it carefully so your messages come off as helpful and relevant without veering into creepy territory through data overreaches. But this strategic effort pays off when you can use the power of personalized email to reach out, connect with and retain customers – achieving your goal of enhancing the customer experience.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Kath Pay is CEO at Holistic Email Marketing and the author of the award-winning Amazon #1 best-seller “Holistic Email Marketing: A practical philosophy to revolutionise your business and delight your customers.”

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