While the Internet and social media have brought auto repair shops new sources of advertising and the ability to highlight and market services, online outlets also offer customers and consumers the ability to complain – LOUDLY – in a very public setting, often permanently preserved for any potential customers to view as well. Nothing can be more alarming for small auto shops like a public relations nightmare that is perpetuated online and will not be taken down unless the grid goes down as well.
The immediate temptation for owners targeted by a disgruntled customer is to either insist it be taken down or to mask the review or comment with a collection of fake reviews. But the first is not always the best solution, and the second is one of the worst.
If you get a negative review online, please don’t panic. There are steps you can take to handle and neutralize negative customer feedback, and if done well, can turn it to your advantage. Each website is different, however, and you must consider the review’s environment carefully before you take action.
If the negative feedback is left on a review site such as Yelp, you may need to verify your business with the site in order to address comments directly. Once you’ve jumped the hoops necessary to address your feedback, remember that patience and objectivity are the name of the game. The point to make is never “We’re right, and he’s wrong!” It doesn’t matter on social media who’s right. It matters how you present yourself and whether you appear willing and able to address customer concerns. People know that, no matter the product, there will always be people who will not be satisfied, and most people are willing to overlook a few mediocre to bad reviews. What they are not willing to overlook is poor customer service or a defensive or belligerent attitude. Apologize for their dissatisfaction, offer to make it right, and then, if possible, take it offline where it can’t be observed. The sooner you can make the conversation private, the better. If you handle this interaction adeptly, you may find you actually get new customers as a result of this confrontation.
If your business is dealing with targeted criticism or libel instead of routine customer dissatisfaction, the first step should always be to contact the owner of the associated site, carefully and politely outline the situation, and request that they remove the comment. Often this will be enough. If the site balks at your request, there are a number of other ways to address this problem, one of which would be to employ legal counsel. This may seem extreme, until you realize that businesses have lost thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars in revenue because of unfortunately ranked negative feedback left online.
Other strategies include burying the negative with positive. Use the experience to put a strategy in place for your employees to deal with negative people and to review and tweak your customer service policies so that these incidents happen rarely, if ever. Make a point of asking your satisfied customers to leave feedback on your associated social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn) or on review sites. Let the good do its job and outweigh the bad. Do not get into the fake review business, however. Plenty of businesses have tried that and been badly burned. The answer is to negative press is not more negative press and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.
Reviews do offer a real service to consumers, and we all benefit from honest feedback left for businesses about service received. It’s unfortunate that some people abuse the power of reviews to make trouble, but in most cases, with a little work and good communication and customer service, these problems can be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties.