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Excellence in customer service is a goal all businesses should strive to achieve. There are many advantages to a business when they reach the point where great service becomes an everyday offering. The strongest benefits being customer loyalty, repeat purchases and the resulting word of mouth advertising. However, even with strict standards and detailed service programs in place, bad reviews can happen. As much as we would like to be perfect,we can’t be 100% of the time. Employees occasionally have bad days, and sometimes personal issues can interfere with work. Sometimes it is the customer. A customer may have unreasonable expectations or may just be having a bad day themselves; where no matter what you do they will most likely walk away unhappy.

On the employee side, there are steps you can take to minimize slips in service quality. A good training program is key. Employees need to understand the importance of good service. This is especially true in this age of social media where consumers share opinions and reviews on their purchases so much more frequently than any other time. Motivation is important too. For employees that deal with customers,performance objectives should include some form of service quality measurement. Employees that offer excellent customer service should be rewarded. As a manager or owner, strive to make the workplace a fun and enjoyable one. It is much easier to offer great service when you are happy and fulfilled than when you are unhappy or depressed. A positive work environment will minimize bad customer experiences. So, you have done everything you can, programs are in place and yet bad reviews will still appear (justified or not). So what is the best way to manage these?

First and most importantly, you need to respond to bad reviews as soon as possible. The longer a bad review stays online, without any response from the business, the more damage it will do. There is more potential for other consumers to see the review, and more opportunity for them to decide to take their business elsewhere.

So how fast is acceptable? Since the SOCIALDEALER platform provides notifications to you when a new review about your dealership has been submitted, the response time will be drastically reduced. If you received a notification of a bad review during business hours, having a response posted within the hour would be ideal. However, you may not always be able to respond right away. While responding sooner is better than later, we recommend responding within a 24 hour window. Bad reviews also have the ability to grow with time. What started with a single comment from one angry customer becomes a community tearing you down as people add “me too” or “the same thing happened to me”. The sooner you respond, the sooner you can defuse this ticking bomb.

So how do you respond to a bad review? Before starting a response, put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Try to understand their expectations and where you fell short. People post bad reviews because the service was less than they expected – they either expected it to be faster, the people to be nicer or more helpful, or they are evaluating the price paid in relation to the value received. Understanding where you fell short gives you insight into how to respond to this review. Every bad review should be responded to, even if the customer was completely unreasonable or in the wrong. Your goal in responding is to rectify the situation, which may not always be possible. Even in times when it is not, the rest of the online world will see that you are putting forth the effort. That is what people want to see: not that you have a perfect business that never gets a bad review, but if service does fall short in some way, you are standing by the customer to make it right.

There are several ideas we like to see in a response to a bad review:

Apologize The problem may not be your fault, but you can apologize for what they felt was a bad experience.

Empathize Empathize with the customer. Let them know you understand why they are unhappy. This shows that you are listening to them too, and people want to feel that someone is listening when they are upset. An example would be “I understand it can be frustrating to wait so long, especially if you are excited to take your new car out for the first time.”

Rectify How you will rectify the situation? What are you going to do to fix the complaint? Be specific. Don’t make vague promises and definitely don’t promise anything you cannot deliver.If you can’t get them what they want “I want a purple and pink mustang” then tell them what you can do for them “I can get you a white mustang and the name of a body shop that will paint it.”If you don’t know what to do to fix their complaint, go ahead and ask them: “What can we do to fix this” or “what can we do to earn your business back?”and follow up with “I will do my best to make this right”. Many times customers will offer up a reasonable solution. If they make an unreasonable request, politely tell them you cannot grant their request but here is what you can offer: “While I cannot give you $500 off the car, I can offer you free oil changes for the next two years”.

Converse Be conversational and personal. People want to talk with a person,not receive a corporate response from a nameless title. Talk to them as you would a friend who is upset, and give them your name.

Stay Positive Never attack the person or respond defensively; this will do more damage. However, if they are misstating the facts, it is OK to point out the correct information.

Restate Commitment Restate your commitment to offering good service and to making things right. Promise you will try to do better in the future.

Handle The Situation Handle the situation yourself whenever possible. Customers, especially those who are angry, do not like to be passed around. Following these steps will minimize the damage that bad reviews can do. These conversations also make it public that customer service is important to you, and you care about the people you are interacting with. This is not only what consumers look for in review sites, but it is great positive advertising for your business.

A final step you can take to minimize the impact of bad reviews is to get more positive reviews posted about your business. What for our next post on "How to get more Good Reviews"

To download this article as a pdf, click here

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Tags: Bad, management, media, online, repuation, reputation, reviews, social

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