Online reviews and forums have made it much easier for people to communicate their experiences with products or places, which, for businesses, can be a blessing and a curse. Although reviews are a reliable mode of expanding brand awareness, one bad streak in online reviews could scare potential customers away. Management must act quickly and respond thoughtfully to customers in order to protect the company’s brand reputation, but also want to avoid appearing overly eager to please. It’s a delicate balance between satisfying an unhappy customer and standing up for the business you believe in.
Companies are run by people, and people make mistakes. Even large companies like United Airlines and Johnson & Johnson occasionally have a misstep that casts doubt on the integrity of their business. Whether your company’s mistake was real or just perceived, it’s up to you to restore faith in your brand.
Here are some basic steps to follow when encountering a crisis:
1. Be Honest. When a public relations crisis occurs, honesty is the best policy. Own up to your mistakes and take a leaf out of the humility handbook. Excuses make your business look bad, and it’s especially damaging to indicate that the jilted customer is to blame. Accept the blame for the problem, note that you understand the customer’s frustration, and apologize.
2. Empower the Customer. Put yourself in the shoes of your unhappy customer. How would you like the problem to be fixed, if you were her? Ask the customer outright what you can do to assuage the situation. Listen to her response, and if it makes sense to you, implement it. A customer is much more likely to forgive a business that makes changes for the better.
3. Make Changes. To restore confidence in your brand, you need to make adjustments when you goof up. Customers will see the way that you react in times of trouble. Thanks to the Internet boom, communication between the business and the customer is an all but public platform; the way you respond to unsatisfied customers is likely to affect the opinions of both new and returning customers. Though it may be costly to you, it’s important to make your customers whole. In the long run, you’ll make back what you’ve lost by rebuilding customers’ trust in your business.
Customer loyalty is a crucial part of survival in the business world these days. Online reviews can be an extremely useful and empowering tool, as long as they are monitored and responded to with honesty and empathy.