Turning online complaints into a plus for your small business

By jumping into local search and making it easy for people to post reviews of their local businesses, Google has brought online reviews into the major leagues. They take them seriously. You should too.  If you handle them right, online reviews can help you attract new customers without spending a dime on advertising. 

Why are online complaints good for your business?

First, a complaint is an opportunity to improve. It's feedback. It's the result of someone outside your business who had an experience that you might not want other customers to have. Customer feedback is strategic intelligence that's custom-designed for your business. And It's free. 

Second, most customer complaints are loyalty signals. They are a customer's way of saying, "I'd like to continue being your customer, but here's an obstacle. They are telling you how to keep them as loyal customers.  
Here are some ideas to make the most from your online customer feedback. 

  • Always respond. When you respond to online customer feedback, you're showing the customer (and the rest of the world) you take them seriously. This shows people you care about them and the effort they took to share their thoughts. 

  • Acknowledge complaints and apologize if appropriate. If they make a valid complaint then apologize. If they are just venting then acknowledge their feelings. If they are ranting then at the very least acknowledge their feedback. Always thank people for being a customer and for sharing their thoughts (even if you don't agree with them).

  • Be sincere about addressing customer concerns. Respond to what they complain about. This lets them know you actually read their feedback. If it's something you can change, let them know that. If not, share that too. Most people understand you can't do everything every customer wants. But you can always listen and respond to them.

  • Always take the high road. Don't let a customer's negative or harsh tone poison your reply. It's much easier to flame someone via a keyboard than in a face-to-face conversation. Customers do it all the time. But you need to adhere to a higher standard. Compose your response with all the tact and grace you would put into a real, live, in-person conversation.

  • Use complaints as business intelligence. Even if you don't like or agree with a customer's online complaint, what they say might be useful. So take note of it. Put it into your business improvement system. Or at least keep it available to review at another time. Not all good business ideas come from inside the business. 

  • Let customers know if or when you have made changes. If you make changes based on feedback from customers, let them know. If their feedback came from an online channel, post your reply to that channel. This tells people you are open-minded and willing to improve your business to meet your customer's needs. 

Online customer complaints can be gold for your business. It's all in how to handle them . Use them to engage with your customers and improve your business. This will almost guarantee you'll get value from your online feedback. And you'll find more customers come back again and again as a result.


By Kevin Stirtz of All Business
Read more about small business issues- visit All Business.com

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