Benchmark Business Group

Dealing with Online Complaints

November 26, 2019

In the world of social media, it’s more common for customers not only to complain, but to complain very publicly about your company, your products, and your service. These "at-a-distance" reviews can be more difficult to respond to because you're not personally interacting with your customer.

For many businesses negative online reviews are easier to dismiss than if someone complains in person. It’s easy to forget that behind the complaint is a real person that is upset with an aspect of your business. Your instinct might be to just make an apology, perhaps offer something for free, and move on with the day. After all, negative online reviews are going to happen.

Responses to online complaints are often missing a key aspect in handling difficult customers: empathy. The complaint isn’t connected to a person that is standing in front of you, which makes it difficult to connect to the person. When a customer feels that your business has empathy for their situation there is a greater ability for your business to turn the experience around.

In our Inspired Action Series Training Dealing With Difficult Clients / Take the H.E.A.T. we challenge businesses to Hear, Empathize, Apologize and Assure, and Take Action. Yet, when we look at responses to negative online reviews, the empathy is often missing. The apology and action are almost always there, but stop and ask, what is an apology without empathy?

Upset clients need to know that you understand their issue. In showing empathy, the client begins to feel understood, which can ease their frustration. If you skip the empathy, and move straight to apologies or even taking action, the client can feel as if you are skimming over the issue.

Though apologies and taking action is important, you won’t turn the experience around simply by saying sorry and offering them something for free. Remember, clients make decisions based on how they FEEL, not what you give them. And when they are upset, they want to feel understood.

With any upset client, even those that wrote the negative online reviews, it’s important to stop and look for ways to connect with them. Don’t rush the apology. Use language such as:

  • “That must have been very stressful.”
  • “I can see that you are very upset about this.”
  • “I understand you are disappointed with your experience.”

Communicate clearly that you understand their feelings and point of view regarding the experience. With online communication, try to invite the client to a conversation in person or over the phone; it makes it easier to connect. But if you can, take a step back before responding and ask, how can we make this client feel understood?

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