We have arrived at time when customer service has taken to the Internet and is a pivotal tool in how business is done. Most stores, mom-and-pops included, have a Twitter or Facebook presence or have been featured on a Yelp or Google Plus review. But, what happens when that company receives a bad review from a customer? How does the company go about addressing it?

1. Don’t ignore the customer. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) says companies should answer complaints selectively (1), and a Forbes writer also suggests things can go awry when companies respond to every single negative tweet and review (2). Approximately 45% of customer reviews go unanswered (2). But there’s a fine line. Letting too many negative reviews go unaddressed may suggest that the business is not attentive to customers. It might be wise to pick your battles, depending on the size of your business and nature of the complaint.reviva labs

2. Appease with discretion. The BBB and Forbes have differing views about giving coupons and incentives to those that launch complaints. Perhaps, finding some middle ground (i.e., offering them sparingly) is the best strategy. Offering customers coupons in a sincere way to apologize for an inconvenience or issue with a product, in addition to trying to solve the problem, is a good start. However, it is probably not necessary to offer a discount or refund with every negative review. No matter what, it’s important that you listen to frustrated customers and make them feel their concerns were heard.

3. The customer is not always right. One thing the BBB advises is knowing when to walk away. Sometimes, there is nothing you can do is satisfy certain angry customers. The best thing employees can do is listen, remain calm and move forward as efficiently as possible. Do not have a heated argument and try to end on a positive note.

4. Represent your company. Every company has a creed that they abide by when it comes to customer service. Do your best to remember the company’s voice and mission when responding to customers. It is easy to let emotions get the best of us, but it’s important to remember that it’s difficult to change and completely erase regrettable social media comments.

5. Be human. Be sympathetic to your customers. Certain situations call for firm demeanors, but there’s nothing a customer loves more than someone who can relate to them without throwing rules, regulations and an apathetic attitude at them. Be yourself while maintaining the integrity of your company and the interests of the customer. WF

1. Better Business Bureau, “Responding to Online Customer Complaints,” www.bbb.org/pittsburgh/news-events/business-tips/2014/11/responding-to-online-customer-complaints, accessed Dec. 9, 2015.
2. C. Conner, “The 5 Ways Companies Mishandle Online Complaints,” Forbes, Aug. 2, 2013, www.forbes.com/sites/cherylsnappconner/2013/08/02/the-5-ways-companies-mishandle-online-complaints, accessed Dec. 9, 2015.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine January 2016