When is a negative internet comment not such a bad thing? The answer—when you use it to your advantage.
I talked before about the importance of reputation management. For the small business owner, the word on the internet can make or break your business. You have to be on top of it. That means vigilance. While there are a number of tools to help you track comments made about your business or brand, Google Alerts is easy and free. If you are not using it—you should.
Let’s say you do all the right things. You are using CRM software, you have a great business plan, and a tight storefront with well-trained, engaged employees. Super. Things will never go wrong—right?
That is incorrect. No matter how well you run your business, there are going to be mistakes, a customer or client is going to get left out in the cold—and they are going to complain. Trust me. As an experienced small business owner, I know the pain of mistakes that just should not have been made.
Sometimes, though, there was no mistake. You just have an unhappy client, or someone trying to stir up trouble for your business. Does it happen? A lot.
Take advantage of a poor review
We already know that online reviews are important. People believe what they read, often without considering the credibility of the reviewer, or the circumstances behind a complaint. So let’s take a look at how to turn a profit on a bad situation:
- First rule? Do not ignore a complaint: Squeaky wheels get grease and a lot of play on the internet. Ignoring a problem, and hoping it goes away, is a fast way to lose money and hurt your reputation. Remember—people do not often question the credibility of someone who complains. So why respond to people who don’t have anything nice to say? Because you can use the exposure.
- Free publicity is not a bad thing—especially if it gives you a chance to look good. So look good. Because you are monitoring your online reputation, you know right away about the problem. Gather as much information as you can, but intervene quickly on social media. Respond to your accuser by owning the problem—and ask for more information. Do not create a reason for the error—just own it. “I understand you are unhappy about how you were treated, and I want to make that right.” Step up to the problem—absolutely, and quickly.
- Do not delete: Deleting a comment is possibly worse than ignoring it. It shows you saw it and are not taking action to address the problem.
- With bigger or business process problems, you are probably getting more than one complaint, and word spreads fast. Post a note on your website, or via social media, or tell customers you are aware of the problem and working to resolve it. After you have corrected the problem, take the opportunity to briefly discuss the problem, but take more time to talk about how you fixed it. Make it a case study in how to do things right. Add an apology and a discount, coupon, or other perk, to help your customers feel like they were part of the solution—instead of the problem.
- What if someone is targeting your site, or establishment, on social media? Your best defense is an honest response. If your attempts to resolve the problem or the complaint are rebuffed, use social media to show all you do for your clients. Restate the complaint you received, mention what you did in response, and how you offered to resolve their difficulty. The people you want as customers or clients will see and consider your response. They will also see the complainer as unreasonable if you did your best to respond in good faith.
You cannot please all of the people all of the time. But when you treat people who complain with respect, courtesy, and generosity, they usually respond in kind.
After you resolve the situation, take advantage of the feedback to take a hard look at what you could do to avoid a similar complaint or mistake. Complaints are just outside interests helping you troubleshoot your own business—take advantage of the information, and the opportunity.
As a small business owner, I know how to turn the tables on hard times to help you earn your first million. Get a super start on the New Year by attending one of my free webinars, or give me a call at 585-633-7563 today.
Yours in profit,