No one is perfect and sometimes people are going to call you out on it. Negative reviews have become a reality that all businesses all have to deal with, but that’s ok—it provides them a chance to show off how much they care. Here are a few examples of businesses that thrived at responding to negative customer experiences:
A classy, well-written reply
Here's an example of review response done right:
This reply is the simplest and most replicable of the examples. The manager gives a sincere-sounding apology, doesn’t argue the reviewer’s claims, and avoids throwing his staff under the bus. They provide contact information in the form of both a phone number and an email, giving the reviewer the ability to reply in a way that works best for them, as well as the ability to take the conversation out of the public eye.
A personal, honest, accommodating reply
Boloco, a small fast food Mexican chain in New England, has many examples of superb review handling. John Pepper, the company’s CEO, has become famous for the care with which he treats his customers. The following is an email John sent to a diner who was upset that an item was removed from the menu. The human tone and the detailed explanation regarding the decision is unlike any response I’ve ever seen. Prepare yourself, you don’t see feedback like this every day.
From: John Pepper [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, January 24, 2006 8:31 PM
Subject: RE: Boloco.com: customer response
First of all, thanks for your note. We always appreciate hearing from customers… even if we’ve done something that doesn’t make them happy, it helps us a great deal.
We worried a lot about Roasted Veggies and what the reaction would be. The reason they disappeared in the first place is because so few people actually ordered them, and the amount of prep time and waste (because they’d sit too long and we’d have to throw them out) stopped justifying keeping them on the menu years ago… but because of the few, and outspoken, customers who lived on them, we kept them in place. You are now the 7th person that has written about this loss since we took them off three months ago (not including a handful of our employees who are also quite upset).
From a purely business standpoint, it didn’t make any sense to keep the Roasted Veggies. From a customer loyalty standpoint, however, your note (and the others like it) makes me want to get them back on the menu tomorrow! The challenge we always have is balancing the two… you would be amazed at the number of requests we get on a weekly basis from our customers – obviously, we can’t accommodate everyone, but we do listen to everyone, and consider what they say carefully.
I don’t know how this will turn out in the months to come. I know I can’t promise they will return unless we start hearing overwhelming feedback that they must. We’ve taken items off in the past and had no choice but to bring them back (ie. Buffalo chicken is best example where it felt like a riot was about to take place)… so far, this hasn’t been one of those items.
I hate to even suggest trying the tofu, if you are in fact a vegetarian. My wife is, and that’s what she gets religiously. It’s not your standard tofu, it has spice, flavor, and people love it!
Other vegetarians will get the fajitas, though I agree with you are far different than the Roasted Veggies.
And finally, others will just get any of the items we sell “as is”, which is to say without chicken or steak. Most of our menu items start vegetarian, and only when you add chicken or steak do they become otherwise.
I am sorry I don’t have the answer you are looking for. To try and make up for this, and to give you a few visits on us to possibly find something else that gets you excited, send me the 16 digit code on the back of your Boloco card (you can pick one up if you don’t have one, and send it to me then) and I’ll add some Burrito Bucks on there for you to use. It’s the least we can do, and maybe you’ll find something that works. If not, we will hope that something we do in the future brings you back to our restaurants – we have sincerely appreciated your business and hope we’ll find a way to earn it back soon.
If you think that was good, wait until you see the next example.
A simple, mind-blowing act of caring
A customer sent out a tweet complaining that the music playing at a nearby Boloco was too loud. Marketing noticed the tweet right away and called the restaurant and told them to turn the music down, so the restaurant did. Marketing then provided a description of the woman (from her Twitter picture) and had a cookie delivered to her. They then retweeted her with the addition of the word “done.”
Take a second to imagine being the person who sent that tweet out. You'd be completely wowed, right? She was. The customer sent out a tweet praising Boloco, which then many of her followers starting talking about and sharing. She then wrote a blog post on the experience, the content of which has since spread to books and other blog posts, including this one! Boloco turned a noise complaint into Internet fame for their restaurant.
Put that camera on your phone to good use! Creating and sharing video these days is simple. Here’s a video of Domino’s apologizing to a customer for an incorrect order and slow delivery. If you aren't afraid to go on camera, a video can do a much better job of portraying sincerity than the written word can. I would recommend keeping videos a tad shorter, and more direct than this one.
Negative Reviews Can be Good for Business
There you have it, some examples of handling negative feedback. Hopefully, you can draw from these the next time you are responding to complaints for your clients. The takeaway is to show to the customer that the business cares, and, ideally, leave a little bit of marketing. Not everyone will be satisfied, but most people will accept and be happy with the explanation. Everyone who scrolls through reviews and sees the business handled negative feedback with care will further appreciate the business.
For more information on handling negative reviews, check out our post on how to respond to negative reviews.