February 14, 2019

Do’s and Don’ts of Responding to Online Customer Complaints

Most small business owners can recall a time that a customer has written a negative review about their business online. When these grievances are aired online, it adds an additional layer of complication, since other customers can read about it. Although it can be tempting to ignore online complaints or react angrily, small business customer service matters should be handled delicately. To start, you and your staff should have an action plan to utilize when a negative comment or review is posted online about your business. The goal should be to spare your business’s reputation, while also attempting to resolve the issue and retain the customer. If you need help dealing with customer complaints, keep reading to learn about the dos and don'ts so that you can better understand your customer expectations, form successful relationships, and ensure that your business's brand remains intact!

How to Respond to Customer Complaints Online:

DO: Respond Quickly and Apologize

Each day check your business's online channels to see if anyone has posted a comment or review. Once you see that your business has received negative feedback, you should respond as soon as possible. While we don't suggest responding quickly and not thinking through your response, you shouldn't wait more than a few hours to get back to the customer. Businesses with a short response time will be more likely to retain customers than companies who ignore feedback. When you respond, swallow your pride and say, “I’m sorry.” Even if the customer is being unreasonable or isn’t telling the truth, stating that you're sorry that they didn't have a favorable experience will help repair the relationship.

DON’T: Argue

Again, even if the customer is wrong, starting a back-and-forth argument will only make your business look unprofessional to outsiders. When responding to disgruntled customers, you may want to fight back, but your business will benefit from offering productive, peace-making decisions.

DO: Have Outlined Responses Ready

Preparing an outline for your customer support team to follow will keep them from feeling overwhelmed, or hastily responding to an online customer complaint. This summary will give your employees something to work with, but they can tweak it depending on the nature of the complaint.

DON’T: Post the Same Response to Every Complaint

Posting the same uniform answer to every customer will make your business seem insincere and lazy. Not every complaint will warrant the same response and the key to improving customer relationships is to make each customer feel valued. Using your outline will help you maintain a professional tone but personalizing your message will help each customer feel as if you’re trying to offer a solution to their particular issue.

DO: Ask Customers to Address Issues Privately Before Posting Online

It can be frustrating for any small business to see a nasty review written about their company, especially when the customer never contacted them about the issue previously. You can’t control what your customers do but consider posting on your website and social media channels about your customer service department and their contact information, such as their phone number and email address. Sharing a short message encouraging customers to contact your customer service channel before posting about the issue online may deter them from doing so. The issue will likely be resolved in a more direct way if the customer comes to you personally, and it could also lessen the amount of online complaints that you receive.

DON’T: Ask a Customer to Remove Their Review

When a customer complains on your business's social media pages or review profiles, it isn't surprising that you'd want it to be removed. Some business owners simply ask their customers to remove the review, but this is a risky move. Asking them to do so may cause more of an issue, so be wary of this. Instead, we suggest focusing on how you can help the customer and fix their problem. If after resolving the customer’s response, they offer to remove or update their review, you may accept this offer.

DO: Encourage Happy Customers to Share Their Experiences

A good way to improve customer relationships is to thank your happy customers for their business. They’ll feel appreciated, and when you thank them, also ask them if they wouldn’t mind sharing their testimonial on your website or serve as a reference to prospective customers. More than likely, they'll oblige, and you could receive a boost in your business’s reputation and an increase in customer retention!

DON’T: Ignore Customer Comments

Overlooking these social and review sites won’t help you improve your small business customer service. Your customers will be frustrated after they don’t hear from you, and it will look as if you don’t take their opinions seriously. Replying to customers may seem time-consuming, but it will only benefit your business’s reputation and customer relationships.

Conclusion: Responding to Customer Complaints Can Help Your Business in the Long-Run

Having negative reviews written about your company online can cause a lot of stress. It can seem frustrating to see negative remarks written about your small business, especially when in your perspective, the reviews aren’t factual. By responding to online customer complaints, you’ll repair severed customer relationships, and show people reading the reviews that you care about ensuring your customers have a good experience at your business. Let us know in the comment section below how you respond to your customers online! Editor’s Note: This post was updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness in February 2019.