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Gaining Loyal Brand ChampionsNo business owner likes to see customer complaints. Whether those negative comments come in via your social media feed or land in your business email box, it is easy to dismiss them and focus on the positive. But before you dismiss those disgruntled customers as a few unhappy cranks, take a step back and recognize a great opportunity instead.

Every negative comment, every disgruntled customer and every piece of less than glowing feedback is a golden opportunity, one you should not ignore. With a little bit of research and some customer service charm, you can transform those unhappy buyers into lifelong ambassadors for your business and your brand. Here are 10 steps to turn a negative customer experience into a positive one.

  1. Listen to what the customer has to say.

    When someone takes the time to write a negative review or say something bad about your brand, they have something important to say. Even if you do not agree, you need to listen to the complaint.

  2. Acknowledge their concerns.

    From the customer’s point of view, the complaint is legitimate and the criticism well deserved. Take the time to acknowledge that fact.

  3. Respond calmly and keep your emotions in check.

    Avoid the temptation to strike back or get defensive. Take a minute to calm yourself down, then respond to the complaint professionally.

  4. Research the situation.

    After acknowledging the customer complaint and responding professionally, it is time to find out what went wrong. Do your homework, check your records and determine the cause of the problem.

  5. Offer a reasonable solution.

    Once you know what went wrong, continue by proposing a reasonable solution. It could be a refund, a replacement product or a compromise of some sort; just make sure the solution is fair.

  6. Make internal changes.

    If one customer felt compelled to complain, you can bet there are others who feel the same way but are keeping silent. Now that you’ve identified the problem, you can address your internal processes to make sure the issue gets resolved for good.

  7. Ask if you can share the experience on social media.

    Social media is a valuable tool for business owners and a great place to own up to your mistakes. Ask the formerly unhappy customer if you can share their experience and the steps you took to resolve the problem.

  8. Encourage sharing.

    If you do the right thing and work hard to identify and solve the problem, that complaining customer could become your best friend. With the issue resolved and the customer happy, you can encourage the individual to share their experience and talk about your brand.

  9. Follow up.

    Even if you think that everything is fine now, it pays to follow up. Make sure the proposed solution got implemented, and that the refund or replacement product has arrived and is satisfactory.

  10. Offer a discount for future purchases.

    If you want to turn that disgruntled customer into a brand ambassador, offering a discount or other enticement is an excellent place to start. Whether it is free shipping, a percentage discount or a sneak preview of a new product, these enticements great at turning the tide.

Whether you just opened your doors or have been in business for years, seeing those negative comments roll in is no fun. Every business owner, no matter how competent, experiences a small, sinking feeling when reading negative reviews and sorting through customer complaints. In the end, however, those complaints are a great opportunity, and a chance to do things even better. The 10 steps outlined above can help you turn those bad customer experiences around, building loyalty for your brand and ultimately enhancing your bottom line.

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