If you’ve ever been the victim of bad customer service you’ve probably contemplated taking your grievance to the court of social media to post a negative review on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp! or other online forum. If you’ve ever visited company review pages on these forums you’ve likely seen complaints and gripes as well as positive comments. Hopefully your small business isn’t one of those targeted for complaints but chances are if you’re doing it right the negative reviews will be at a minimum. But some people just can’t be satisfied, right mother?
Learning from Reviews
The good news about other companies bad reviews is that you can use them as a learning experience for your own enterprise and possibly avoid them yourself. Spend a few minutes surfing the web entering similar search terms to your own company, carpet cleaning for example, and read over customer reviews. They can be some great intel about what customers are saying about your kind of service. Don’t limit your search just to your own city, go nationwide.
Why Do Customers Complain?
What do customers complain about? Late arrivals? Unfriendly service people? Less than stellar performance, overcharging? Take each negative comment and think about how this relates to what you do. Have you trained your employees in how to treat your customers? Are your service technicians on time or properly dressed? I once saw a great Yellow Pages ad (yes, it was the stone age when we cave people used big books to find information) for a plumbing company, “If our service man smells bad we’ll give you a discount!”
I wondered how many people actually asked for a discount. It was a great attention getter regardless.
Include your staff in what you uncover on online review sites. Complaints about surly salespeople, refusal to make good on a problem, adequate but not great product turnaround are some of the things customers care about and reviewers will often go into specifics about just what cheesed them off. “The technician showed up an hour late with no apology and then didn’t listen to what I was saying about my washing machine.” This will also remind your employees that if they mistreat a customer chances are the web will hear about it.
Same with glowing online reviews. What’s making customers happy? Sure great service will always please them but who went the extra mile and how did they do it? Does a printing company also have a graphic designer on staff who can help with logo design or letterhead? Did the carpet cleaning technician also offer a couple of tips to the homeowner on stain removal? Maybe the restaurant manager waived the valet parking fee for an expectant mother. Going above and beyond for customers is how you score big.
Competitive research has never been easier and online review sites are about the same as hiring those shady corporate spies who I imagine are now looking for work. I may have had one mow my lawn recently. So read what people are saying and learn from it.
What if you have a Negative Review?
BTW, if you find yourself on the negative end of a review (and you will, plan for it) the first thing you should do is investigate the claim and then respond to the complaint. Don’t be argumentative, it just looks whiney, own up to it if it was an honest mistake, explain if it was a misunderstand and learn how to avoid the mistake in the future. Sure, there will always be some jerk who complains about little stuff but concentrate on making your company look like it cares about his problem. Most readers know a jerk when they read one. This is how you uncover just what people care about. You might believe that your customers like a modern store interior so you spend big moolah on mid-century modern knock offs only to find that printing company customers just want professional advice, friendly and helpful salespeople and easy access to office supplies and not faux Eames chairs no one can get out of.