Join Jeff Toister for an in-depth discussion in this video Responding to online complaints, part of Managing a Customer Service Team.
- Let's talk about online complaints. These are complaints written on online review sites like Yelp or TripAdvisor. They also include complaints made on social media such as Twitter or Facebook. Customer service leaders can spend a lot of time worrying about this. They feel the complaints are mean and unfair. They're certain many of the reviews are fake. Of course, they're worried about how the complaints will hurt their business. To me online complaints are like the waves in the ocean. You can't stop them from happening, but you can learn to handle them with style.
Let's use a sample complaint directed at a large retail chain. "Worst. Service. Ever. "Rude employees talk to each other "instead of helping customers. "Everything out of stock anyway. "#servicefailure." Ouch. If this review was about your company, it might feel pretty harsh. Worst service ever? Really? Everything is out of stock? You might not agree with the review, but it's out there, and it's up to you to take action.
Here are three steps you can take when someone complains about your company online. The first step is to take a deep breath. It might feel good to flame the customer with a negative response, but it would reflect poorly on you and your company. You'll also need a cool head for Step 2, which is to respond strategically. There are two goals here. One is to resolve the problem, if you can. If you need to get more information, it may be helpful to invite the customer to connect privately. You can leave an email address or link to a contact form.
Sites like Yelp also allow you to contact customers privately. The second goal is to show other potential customers that you care. This should be a public response to the complaint so other people can see it. Many customers tell me they expect every business to receive a complaint from time to time, and they don't trust a company that only has positive reviews because they figure something's not real. Some specifically look for complaints to see how they're handled. This is your chance to shine. Respond in a way that lets the customer know you're listening.
If there's something to fix, tell them what you've done. If it's something that can't be fixed, tell them you're sorry you couldn't do business together and thank them for their feedback. Your public response will let other customers know whether or not your company is listening. That brings us to the third step, finding the kernel of truth. Inside almost every review, no matter how harsh, is a kernel of truth that can be used to improve your service. Let's go back to the example I showed you earlier.
Two things jump out here, employee courtesy and items out of stock. If we look past the customer's anger, we might even see a potential iceburg. If we look at other reviews and see similar issues mentioned, then this feedback could actually be helpful. Here's a few more sample complaints about the same company. "Online showed in stock, "but the rude employee said they didn't have. "She didn't even seem to care." "I had reserved my items online ahead of time, "but they didn't have them when I got to the store.
"The guy was a real jerk about it." If we put these reviews together, we can see a pattern. Employees might need some help responding more positively to situations where customers expected something to be in stock and it wasn't. We might want to investigate to see if there's a bigger problem with items showing in stock on the website that the store doesn't actually have. So far we've covered three steps for handling online complaints. Take a deep breath, respond strategically, and find the kernel of truth.
I have one more suggestion for you if you have a team of people who respond to these online complaints. Develop a guidebook for your team. This should cover these three steps in greater detail so your team has a clear set of procedures to follow. It should also spell out the style of communication that should be used so it's aligned with your brand. For example, should it be fun, witty, serious? You decide but keep in mind that their work will be viewable to the public and will reflect directly on your company.
- Clearly defining outstanding service for employees
- Evaluating service quality
- Identifying obstacles to outstanding service
- Aligning resources to optimize service delivery
- Calculating the cost of poor service