Responding to customer feedback

Six tips for responding to customer feedback (good and bad)

If you’re a business that actively solicits feedback from your customers, then it’s important to formulate a strategy for how to respond to what your customers are telling you. When a potential new customer is considering buying your services, they are increasingly influenced by what they read about you from your existing customers. But they do want to hear both sides of the story. Not only does responding show that you do actually read what people say, which in itself says something about you. But it also gives you a chance to acknowledge positive comments and address head-on any negative sentiment.

Responding to reviews – especially on a public website where your words are likely to be read by a wider audience – is quite a skill. So here are six tips.

  1. Respond promptly. If you’re going to respond to a comment at all, then do it promptly, ideally within 24 hours. Any longer than that – especially if you’re responding to a negative comment – may even make things worse.
  2. Do your homework. If someone makes a negative comment, then your first task is to assess the situation and decide whether they have a point or not. If possible, look at comparable feedback from others. If it’s not the first time you’ve seen similar comments, it’s strong evidence that you’ve identified an area for improvement.
  3. Don’t just respond to negative comments. If someone takes the trouble to give you some thoughtful feedback (good or bad), then it deserves a response even if it’s just to thank the reviewer for taking the time to write so much.
  4. Show them what you’re made of. Even in the best-run companies, things don’t always go to plan. Most people accept that and are surprisingly forgiving. However, what they won’t forgive you for is responding badly. The test of well-run company is how it responds to something going wrong and handled well, a disgruntled customer can often be turned into a big fan. And if that conversion is made on a public website, there’s a good chance of creating lots more positive sentiment from other potential customers too. So be positive and think of a negative review as a great opportunity to show what kind of company you really are.
  5. The customer is not always right. Responding to unreasonable comments is an art form and skill is needed to avoid pouring fuel on the fire, whilst not offering an unreserved apology when it’s not merited. The trick here is to empathise with the customer by telling them you’re sorry they feel the way they do but without overtly agreeing with them. Remember that you’re writing your response as much for other people as you are for the customer in question. If necessary, respond with an outline of your response and say that you will be in touch directly to discuss the issue. On public websites, people are increasingly savvy about reading reviews and can often tell if someone is being unreasonable. So trust your instincts and think about the wider audience.
  6. Quality over quantity. The more reviews you respond to the better. BUT, if you’re going to respond to a review, then do it well or not at all. You don’t want it to appear that you’re just going through the motions. And make it personal. Even just using a person’s first name in your response will go some way to achieving this. But you should also refer explicitly to their comments and avoid the temptation to copy and paste.

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