In a recent client meeting, we were discussing the issue of negative online reviews and the impact they can have on your business’s perceived reputation. The client in question had received 2 negative public reviews online in the past month, yet had also received gifts of wine, flowers and chocolates from some of the hundred plus new clients they had served that month. Taken into context, the 2 negative reviews should be a drop in the ocean, yet they are there online for all the world to see, while the Thank you cards and gifts remain discretely in the office.

Managing your online reputation and encouraging those positive reviews online is one thing, but dealing with difficult customers in general is another and if you really want to minimize the negative online reviews then the customer issue is what you must get to the bottom of.

Whilst there are some people who will always be a nightmare customer, no matter who they’re dealing with, they’re few and far between. Most people who submit bad reviews will legitimately feel that they’ve been hard done by and if you seem to be getting several of these type of reviews it may be worth adjusting your customer engagement plan to make sure that you’ve got all your bases covered every step of the way.

Set Expectations

Make sure your client knows exactly what it is and isn’t that you’ll be doing for them. Explain your working hours, expected turnaround time, potential problems that could arise and how you can work around them.

Think about putting together some sort of fact sheet or welcome pack that you can give a client to take away with them, but make sure you draw their attention to the important parts. If there is a step in the process you are likely to be kept waiting for information or results then make sure your client knows that any delay there will not be down to you or your business, for example if you are a conveyancing solicitor and waiting for survey results.

Above all, make sure that your client is happy with the process and that they understand what is going to happen.

Have a clear Communication Strategy

A common complaint from customers of many businesses is around communication. Either that they didn’t get any updates, or that they were kept waiting, or that they couldn’t get hold of the person they needed to.

When you are explaining your process to a customer make sure you let them know when and how you’ll be getting in touch with them with updates. Whether it is a daily email, weekly phone call, or a letter next month make sure you stick to it. While you might know that everything is moving along as it should be and that there is nothing to report, a client who is waiting to hear from you about their Divorce paperwork, house purchase, or Tax rebate may be frantic with worry.

Make sure that you follow up when you have promised to, even if it’s a simple email saying you’ve got nothing to report! Likewise, make sure that if people need to contact you there is a way for them to do it. If you never check your voicemail, then make sure people can’t leave message on it, if you’re away for 2 weeks then make sure people know who will be looking after them in your absence.

Always be Proactive

Don’t leave it to chance that a customer could go online and leave a bad review. Every time you deal with a client, ask if there is anything else you can do for them. If there is, then great, you’ve saved them from going elsewhere! If there isn’t, then ask them for feedback there and then; with more positive reviews the odd negative review then won’t have the same impact. It’s also a great way to ensure that you’re always doing everything you can to keep all of your customers happy.

And finally, always thank clients for giving you their business and make them feel like they’re your most important customer.