As a small business owner you’ve worked hard to build a positive reputation and brand recognition. Yet despite your long hours, difficult days and daily sacrifices, something as small as one negative virtual comment can have a big effect on your entrepreneurial outlook.
Negative thoughts and comments pertaining to your business can make it feel as if the independent enterprise you’ve built is going to tumble all the way down to the ground. However, you have the choice to determine how you will be affected and how to learn from the experience. Here are some tips to salvage sour word-of-mouth and empower your entrepreneurial efforts though the good, the bad, and the ugly.
No one enjoys receiving negative feedback, it's a blow to your business’s confidence and your leadership self-esteem. It’s important not to deny yourself of those feelings; they are real and true and (on a positive note) are reflections of just how much you care.
The first step to salvaging sour word-of-mouth starts with your attitude: be thankful. There’s a chance that if one customer has had a negative experience, others have (or will) experience something similar.
Receiving some sour word-of-mouth is in some ways a precious gift; it empowers you to become proactive and make sure that another customer will never again experience the same type of negativity. When dealing with customer issues and complaints, it will serve your effort well if you keep this kind of “big picture” perspective.
Respond Quickly and Clearly
Once a customer posts a complaint there is an unspoken time clock that begins to tick. The longer you wait to respond with a proper apology, the more difficult it is going to be to win their trust and business back.
Consider utilizing a small business CRM (customer relationship management) system as a way to stay on top of your management game. An online CRM will allow you to collect and access all of your customer’s information in a streamlined effort, making communicating with your audience that much easier.
While timing is important, a tactful apology is even more valuable. Be sure to clearly say that you are sorry and hold off on the excuses – customers aren’t interested in the reasoning behind their bad experience, they just want an apology and a promise that it will never happen again.
Be sure to remember that managing your online reputation comes with an active, on-looking audience. Potential customers are eager to see how a company handles their missteps, which is why after you’ve made your apology it’s time to get creative.
Figure out ways in which your customer service abilities can go above and beyond and share with the online arena how you plan to make things better. From free shipping to full no-hassle refunds, the world wide web is watching (and recording) your efforts to not only apply damage control, but to also demonstrate just how valuable you consider a client’s happiness and satisfaction to be.
Keep in mind that you shouldn’t wait around for a bad comment as a sign that it’s time to spring into action. You can also salvage poor word-of-mouth by being proactive in obtaining positive praise. Be enthusiastic about asking happy customers to share their experiences with your online community. Make your social media sites are obtainable through add buttons and signage and strive to interact with your online audience on a regular basis, not just in times of damage control. Also a CRM with social media integration can help you monitor your contacts social postings.
No matter your industry, longevity or current reputation, every business will eventually endure some sour word-of-mouth. Ease your nerves by understanding that this is just a part of typical business and, depending on your attitude and perspective, can actually be dealt with in a positive way.
Carry on with business as usual, but with some proactive plans in place. Appoint someone on your team to have a handle on what’s being said about you online by setting up Google Alerts. Also, have a policy in place for how to deal with customers’ issues and complaints before the rapid river of word-of-mouth runs wild.
How do you handle bad word-of-mouth?
About the author: Kelly Gregorio writes about small business topics while working at Advantage Capital Funds, a provider of merchant cash advances. You can read her daily business blog here.
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