The first rule of marketing is that the customer is always right. It’s a wise rule because customers who have good experiences are much more likely to return to your business. And in the age of the internet, people who have a bad experience are likely to share it. Sometimes it’s a Facebook rant, other times it’s a poor review on your business’s profile or website.
Most customers are great and most reviews are positive. But, if you deal with the public long enough, you’re bound to run into a difficult customer or a bad review. It’s something that is hard not to take personally. But often, how you handle a bad review can be more important than what is said. Doing it right can negate much of the harm, but done poorly can make other customers less likely to trust you or shop with your business.
Can I Learn From This?
This is the hardest step. No one likes to hear that they are doing a bad job or selling an inferior product. But, perhaps you could be doing something a little differently. A little better. Maybe you need to be more clear in your labeling or advertising about some aspect of your product so that the customers’ expectations are realistic. Ask yourself the hard questions…could they be right about this? How can I improve?
It can be a good idea to reach out to the person leaving the bad review. This can be done privately, via email or private messages, or publicly by responding to the review itself. You want to make the person feel like you are listening and concerned, not put on the defensive, which is why the next two steps are important! Public responses are my preference, as I can try to show other potential customers that we are committed to standing behind what we sell and committed to addressing our customer’s concerns. I make sure I am always polite. Even if someone is being rude, it does no good for the image of my business to respond rudely in return.
It’s good business to apologize to a customer who isn’t happy. If you made a mistake, own up, take the blame, and apologize. But it’s a good way to reach out to customers, even if you think they are being rude or unrealistic. This can be hard. But you can show empathy and apologize even if you think the complaint is unfair. Try something like “I’m sorry we didn’t communicate clearly” or “I’m sorry you did not have a five-star experience with us”. These kind of responses are less likely to make the reviewer feel defensive.
Make an Offer
People want to feel like they are being taken seriously. An offer to make it right goes a long way. I usually offer to refund or replace. If it’s food, I’ll offer the customer the choice of a refund of the cost or a replacement of the item. I just assume that they ate or threw away whatever they had a problem with, so I don’t require a return. With non-consumable items like hand forged metal work, I will refund or replace only if the original item is returned. And if it’s an online sale where the return would be a hassle, I may also offer a partial refund- the buyer keeps the item but gets some money back. Many people will feel that they are being treated well if you stand behind your product.
Don’t let one person’s negativity ruin your day, your market, or your week. Respond as best as you can, then move on. Whether they accept your apology or take you up on the refund or replacement is out of your control, so don’t stew. The livestock need fed, the vegetable seedlings need to be watered, the jam isn’t going to make itself. Focus on doing things that make homesteading the lifestyle you love.
Sometimes, people will change their review because an individualized response reminds them that there is a real person, a real business, being affected by that one-star review. And it may be they leave the unpleasant things they wrote but bump it up to two or three stars. Take it as a win- it improves your overall rating! Sometimes they will amend the review when they feel that you made things right. Some people just seem to enjoy being internet trolls. Take less-than-stellar reviews seriously and as an opportunity to improve, but keep in mind that these are an unavoidable consequence of dealing with the public.