There’s no such thing as bad public­ity

The Tribune (NZ) - - BACKYARD BANTER -

‘‘The best pizza in town!’’

‘‘Punc­tual, great ser­vice, value for money.’’

‘‘My lawn has never looked so good! Highly rec­om­mended.’’

A good rec­om­men­da­tion is a small busi­ness’ best friend. But what used to be based on who you know is now far more wide­spread thanks to the in­ter­net. The ev­er­in­creas­ing pop­u­lar­ity of so­cial me­dia and re­view sites makes it even eas­ier for con­sumers to tell the world how great their favourite busi­nesses are.

Un­for­tu­nately, the op­po­site is also true. When a small busi­ness doesn’t meet ex­pec­ta­tions, it doesn’t take long be­fore an en­tire com­mu­nity knows about it.

So­cial me­dia makes it easy for peo­ple to dis­cover great lo­cal busi­nesses based on their neigh­bours’ rec­om­men­da­tions. But what if feed­back about your busi­ness is neg­a­tive?

‘There’s no such thing as bad public­ity’ couldn’t be truer for small busi­nesses.

Be­lieve it or not, bad rec­om­men­da­tions don’t have to equal bad busi­ness. In fact, they ac­tu­ally of­fer a unique op­por­tu­nity.

But we’re much more likely to re­mem­ber a bad re­view than a good one, so if you’re keen to turn a less than rosy rec­om­men­da­tion into some­thing pos­i­tive, read on:

1. Don’t delete com­ments. If there’s one thing that an­noys cus­tomers more than a bad ex­pe­ri­ence, it’s hav­ing their re­views re­moved from the pub­lic eye. Delet­ing com­ments, even if they paint you in a bad light, makes it look like you’ve got some­thing to hide. Thank the writer for their mes­sage, let them know you’d like to rec­tify the sit­u­a­tion and then sug­gest tak­ing the con­ver­sa­tion off­line. Ask them to send you a pri­vate mes­sage or give them your cus­tomer ser­vice email ad­dress.

2. Re­spond po­litely and pro­fes­sion­ally. Be hum­ble and open and al­ways be pro­fes­sional. Keep the con­ver­sa­tion civil, even if your cus­tomer is get­ting an­gry, and al­ways take the moral high­ground. Re­mem­ber, this is your rep­u­ta­tion at stake, and if you’ve al­ready got neg­a­tive feed­back against your name you need to work hard to cor­rect prospec­tive cus­tomers’ per­cep­tion of you.

3. The cus­tomer is al­ways right – even if they’re wrong. Never point the fin­ger, even if you’re not to blame. Sure, they may have been the one who got their book­ing times mixed up or didn’t read the con­di­tions prop­erly, but if their net­work is big it could be you who bears the brunt of the sit­u­a­tion.

4. Go out of your way to make amends. Even the most dis­grun­tled cus­tomer will ap­pre­ci­ate a busi­ness that goes the ex­tra mile to right a wrong. Send the com­plainant a dis­count voucher for their next visit (don’t tell them to men­tion their ex­pe­ri­ence next time though – make it as easy as pos­si­ble!), a gift or some­thing for free. If it re­ally has been a ter­ri­ble ex­pe­ri­ence, a par­tial or full re­fund wouldn’t go amiss ei­ther. What­ever you choose to do, make it your mis­sion to turn your cus­tomer’s frown, up­side down. Turn­ing a bad ex­pe­ri­ence into a good one is a sure-fire way of re­tain­ing ex­ist­ing cus­tomers and at­tract­ing new ones.

A lawn well done is the best ad­vert a con­trac­tor can hope for. But the op­po­site can be true if the job isn’t done right.

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