There is a school of thought that says when a prospective patient sees reels of five star Google reviews they don’t believe it and judge it to be manipulated, and that a 4.6 average is more credible.
I’m agnostic on that, but I’d be amazed If you haven’t had a bad review at least once. It’s par for the course for three reasons:
- sooner or later you are going to treat someone who is having a bad day, has misplaced anger, or just loves complaining
- an unscrupulous local competitor may want to damage your reputation
- even a five star team has off days
You will take flak on Google, other online review platforms, on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and the comments section of your blog. There is no learning for your business in the ones and twos, you need to filter them out quickly in a respectful manner. On the threes, only a tiny fraction of your patients who want to complain will actually do it, but the number should increase as your business grows (it’s actually a sign of success).
Take the feedback these people give you seriously, it is extremely valuable and provides an opportunity for your business to shine (by making things right with the customer) and improve (by learning lessons).
Even when neither of those is possible you must stay respectful. A spiteful complaint is a bit like a car crash and other users will be drawn with morbid fascination to read the thread and see if the nasty person got a rise out of you. This will be upsetting or infuriating depending on your disposition.
How do you stay calm?
Walt Disney Company hosts 135 million people in its parks each year and has to deal with millions of rude children and parents sensitively to stay in business. It uses the HEARD technique:
Hear: let the customer tell their entire story without interruption.
Empathise: show that you understand how the customer feels. Use phrases like “I’d be angry too.”
Apologise: even if you didn’t do whatever made them upset, you can still be genuinely apologetic for the way they feel.
Resolve: resolve the issue quickly, or make sure that your employees are able to. Don’t be afraid to ask the customer, “What can we do to make this right?”
Diagnose: understand why the mistake happened and focus on fixing the process so it doesn’t happen again, without blaming anyone.
HEARD is designed for customers who approach employees for a face to face conversation. It’s harder for you because you have to instigate the conversation yourself, and everything you say is published in the public domain.
It’s critical therefore that you don’t get defensive and list all the reasons why the upset customer is wrong (you’d be amazed how many businesses enter into this adversarial approach — it’s totally counterproductive). You have to be human, empathetic, apologetic and demonstrate you genuinely want to make the customer happy.
How do you catch negative reviews quickly?
You can set up real time alerts that cover the whole of the internet, not just online review platforms. Fine Online offers a reputation protection service that also helps you formulate your response and then monitors the effect of your reply across the web for any further negative sentiment.