How to handle online complaints

Never before in the history of commerce has the customer had some much power shaping public opinion about a business. The ability to write an online review of a restaurant or retail store has made it easy for customers to publish their opinions and have those opinions seen by hundreds or even thousands of like-minded consumers.

On the other hand, business owners have probably never had to be so wary of public opinion and online reviews. Whether it’s Yelp!, or Google Reviews or Facebook or any other sites, business owners ought to keep tabs on what’s being said about them in cyberspace and they will want to respond quickly.

That’s why learning how to handle online complaints has never been more important. A bad review can damage your business’ reputation and drive away potential customers. Meanwhile, a great review can increase business. So, how should you respond to a bad review in order to minimize the damage?

Here are some tips for how to handle online complaints:

Acknowledge the Complaint and Take Ownership
Most of the time, this will be the most prudent approach. It gives the impression that you want to take responsibility for bad acts in your establishment and that you’re willing to own up to mistakes if they were made.

A good idea is to say you’re sorry that the customer actually had a bad experience and that you’d like to make it up to them if they’d like to try your business again. You could offer some sort of a discount to entice them to try your business again. After all, it’s easier to win back an old customer than it is to acquire new ones.

More importantly, others will see the response to the bad review and feel reassured that you as the business owner are aware of the potential problem and that you are taking action to fix it.

Don’t Ever Take Bad Reviews Personally
The review of your business can certainly feel personal, but it almost never is. The person who leaves a bad review just came away with a bad experience in your establishment and, while it can cause sore feelings, try not to respond in a way that makes you appear insecure or defensive. Don’t be argumentative or confrontational. Instead, stick to the facts and pledge to investigate any problems. Or, invite the person back to try your business again.

If The Complaint Appears To Be Suspect …
It’s always possible that someone with ill will wants to sully your reputation for some reason but they’ve never actually been to your restaurant or shop. It may be a competitor or an ex-employee or maybe even a disgruntled relative. For whatever the reason, someone could be attempting to sabotage your online reputation by leaving fake reviews.

If you suspect that’s the case and the complaint is not grounded in reality – in other words, this person never actually visited your establishment – then you should indicate in your response to the review why you believe the review is not legitimate. The review may include clues that can tip you off – such as having the wrong names of employees or other details that are not correct.

Besides rebutting the review on the review website, you may also want to get in touch with the website owners to dispute the claims of what was being said about your business.

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