For any local business owner, dealing with an angry customer in person or on the phone is sometimes just part of doing business. And poor customer experiences have the potential to turn into a negative review or comment  on a review site, social media page, or other website. But situations like these don’t have to affect your online reputation – especially if you can recognize the issue early and turn that negative experience into a positive one. Plus, how you handle a customer complaint will not only resonate with that particular customer, but will also reinforce your customer loyalty strategy with other existing and potential customers. So, here are a few tips to keep in mind when you to respond to an angry customer to avoid getting a negative review and strengthen your overall customer service strategy.  

Address a Complaint Immediately
If a customer appears upset in your store or on the phone, find out what the problem is immediately, and most importantly, ask what you can do to correct it. Being able to recognize an unsatisfied customer and quickly address their complaint is the first step in mitigating a potentially damaging situation before it turns into a negative review for your business.

Don’t Start an Argument
Whether or not a customer has a legitimate complaint, don’t get defensive, make up an excuse, or assign blame Instead, assume ownership over the situation and take responsibility for what you can. If the error is on your end, apologize for the mistake and assure the customer you will take the necessary steps to resolve the issue. Chances are, if you remain cool, calm and professional with them, the customer will calm down and be more understanding as well.

Consider Offering a Freebie or Refund
In some cases, a discount, refund, or complimentary product or service, can help smooth over a minor situation and help the customer leave with a positive impression of your business. If your mistake was small, such as double-booking an appointment, compensating the customer for lost time or resources is a great way to show them that you still value their business. However, be aware that a simple discount may not work for every situation, as more serious problems may require more serious solutions.  

Address the Root Cause of the Issue
When a customer has a bad experience with your business, there is often an underlying business issue at hand. Was the service unsatisfactory? Was your product damaged? Were your employees rude or unhelpful? Once you determine the problem, take the steps to correct the fundamental cause of the grievance. Addressing the root cause of the issue will not only show the customer you are serious about customer service and help solve the issue at hand, it will also help you avoid experiencing similar issues later on with other customers. One way to address issues like these is to train employees on how to deliver even better customer service. You can also turn this into an opportunity to educate your staff on how to answer phone calls, respond to customer questions, and deliver prompt and friendly service. You may even want to create an employee handbook that outlines proper employee behavior and procedures.

Deliver Great Customer Service – Always
By making great customer service a top priority for your business and employees in your store, on the phone, and online, you help can drive positive reviews and word of mouth that will likely outweigh any complaints that may surface about your business online. It’s important to remain upbeat, speak in a friendly tone, listen to what your customers have to say, and teach your employees to do the same. Even if your business consistently delivers outstanding service, having an occasional negative review or complaint written about your business online is sometimes unavoidable. If you do receive a negative review or comment, it’s important to reply to the complaint and address the problem within your business to maintain a positive online reputation. 

What tactics have you used to handle an unhappy customer before they write a negative review of your business? How does the way you resolve customer complaints fit into your customer service and reputation management strategies? 

Author: Tamara Weintraub helps equip small business owners with information about local online advertising, social media marketing, and more as a blogger for ReachCast and ReachLocal.