Facebook, Yelp and many other sites allow consumers to give instant feedback when they are pleased — or displeased — with a retail experience.  Happily we are not impacted as much as restaurants, who can flourish or perish based on online comments. But it is still important that we pay attention to what potential customers will be reading about our shops.

We recently had a negative review on Facebook, and I immediately added an apology for what the writer perceived as a bad customers service experience.  My staff remembers the situation and doesn’t think that the complaint was justified, but that doesn’t matter much when it’s out there for the public to see.   I try to respond right away to all good or bad reviews to let customers know we are listening.

Yelp suggests that you keep these points in mind when responding to negative review:

  1. Your reviewers are your paying customers

    2. Your reviewers are human beings with (sometimes unpredictable) feelings and sensitivities

    3. Your reviewers are vocal and opinionated (otherwise they would not be writing reviews!)

After posting my response to our negative Facebook comment, I waited a few days and then asked our employees to see if a friend or family member would be willing to write a positive review. This moved the negative one off our home page. You could also ask customers who are big fans of your store to write a review, although this may be viewed as an imposition. (I still have a negative memory of a bed & breakfast where the “suggestion” that we write a review on TripAdvisor was phrased too strongly.)

If a customer is unhappy about a specific situation, consider inviting the customer to contact you via email so that you can try to make amends. This shows that you are taking the complaint seriously, and also “takes the fight outside” instead of continuing the discussion where everyone can see it.

In an Open Forum article for retailers, American Express mentions that you can try to have a bad review removed from a social media site, but that this is rarely successful. The exception to this rule is if you are fairly certain that the review was written by a competitor trying to damage your business.

Online reviews are an extension of the word of mouth advertising that we all know is invaluable. Hopefully your business gets enough positive ones to outweigh those that are negative. And even though it hurts to read criticism, legitimate complaints do give us a chance to improve. We can trust that the public is savvy enough to know that a single negative comment surrounded by positive ones shows that this less than perfect experience is unusual. As Len Markidan says in his excellent Groove blog posting on this topic, “Bad Reviews Don’t Mean That You’re Bad.” 

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder