In today’s market, online reviews are simply a fact of life for most businesses. This is especially true for service-oriented businesses such as laundromats. Forums such as Google, Yelp, Angie’s List, and others provide customers with a voice. They can use this voice to share opinions about interactions they’ve had with your business, both positive and negative.
Online reviews can shape how the public perceives your business. Laundromat owners and investors often dread online reviews because of the lack of control they have and the potential for negative reviews. However, how you handle reviews often has as much to do with the public’s perception of your business as the reviews themselves.
When receiving negative reviews, should you respond or let sleeping dogs lie? If you respond, should you defend yourself or acquiesce? Should you apologize? Here are ten tips on responding to negative online reviews.
Before responding, put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if you were in their situation? Empathize. These negative reviewers are people just like you, with families, not enough time on their hands, and a desire to see their expectations met. When those expectations are not met, disappointment ensues. Thankfully, they are responding to your services, and you have the opportunity to present yourself as a real person who understands their problem.
Since we are all human, be kind. If you are even slightly rude, disingenuous, or condescending, the reviewer and those who read your response will pick up on it. Be kind and gentle. Further, if another consumer responds to the complainer with negativity, be sure to quell the nasty words. Do not blame any reviewer for being rude. Simply say tell the negative commenter that you apologize that some posters do not always respond with the grace that is needed.
You don’t have any control over who may review your business or what they might say, but you do have control over answering complaints. In responding to negative reviews, acknowledge their hardship, genuinely apologize for any mistakes, and mention the solution to the problem. Explain how the customer experience was an anomaly that goes against your normal business practice. If the commenter is misinformed, inform them. If they did something wrong, do not point the finger at them. Simply tell them how to get the best results.
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If you can’t solve the issue, don’t respond, at least not yet. Make a game plan later on how to prevent or solve the issue. If you can solve the issue, make a game plan for how to solve it. When you have a solution, make sure to tell your employees the problem and the solution so that they can implement preventative measures or be reminded of already standing policies. If you come up with a new solution, write it into your policies.
Complains are given by people who are typically angry. Do not debate with them in public. Apologize for their inconvenience and direct them to customer service.
Not all review sites allow you to respond. Some allow you to delete reviews or even edit them. Know your context. Specific rules apply for each site.
Negative reviewers are giving you free research. When you provide a service or product, you often have to provide decent incentives to get consumers to give you feedback. Reviews are free and they tell you what you did right (and can continue to emphasize) and where you need to improve.
You are not the first business to receive negative reviews. Study what others have done and adapt their practices to your own business.
Every customer spreads the word about your business, negative customers doubly so. The best PR is when you solve a negative review and everyone gets to see it. This gives your business and your customer service a great reputation. Social media has a tendency to feel like you are having a personal conversation. You are not. Thousands of people may be watching. You are on stage.
As the business owner, you do not have to handle all the customer service. If you hiring a social manager, be sure to provide a clear policy about responding to complaints. A designated manager will have the availability to check more sites for negative reviews. Despite having a hired hand, make sure to occasionally give a personal response. This reflects well on your business.
However you choose to handle negative reviews, it’s important not to simply ignore them. Negative reviews won’t go away, and people will keep reading them, even years later. They also tend to attract more negative reviews and spread to other sites. Often, all that is needed is a few soothing words from you to calm the complainer. If you can’t solve the problem, refer them to customer service. This will show in public that you are taking care of the issue. By allowing customer service to do their job, you sidestep any personal feelings of defensiveness that may arise and allow for cooler heads to prevail. At the end of the day, this will achieve the best results for your laundromat as well as for the author of the negative review.