A good reputation is vital to the success of a music retailer. More than 81 percent of customers research businesses online before making a purchase in excess of $500. Not only do they examine the product information, but they also scrutinize online reviews.

A bad online review on sites like Yelp, Foursquare, Google Places, Yahoo and even your own social-media pages can do some serious damage to your reputation and hinder the sales process. In some circumstances, those bad online reviews can end up on the first page of results when people search for your store.

How should you handle receiving a bad review? What can you do to address the customer in a positive and cooperative way? The best defense is making customer service your top priority. If you take care of your customers, they’ll reciprocate with their loyalty and favorable word of mouth. It’s impossible to be everything to everybody, and it’s likely that you’ve disappointed a customer or two along the way, resulting in negative reviews. How you manage this inevitable rite of passage is what truly affects your reputation.

The easiest way to prevent negative reviews is to make sure your customers aren’t unhappy enough to post them in the first place. “We believe in the old adage that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure,” said Richard Thomas, Executive VP of Listen360. “We advise our clients to be aware of issues and address them—but not to expect a perfect rating from every customer all the time. There really shouldn’t ever be a time when a business is caught off guard by lots of negative reviews.”

The following tips will help you navigate damage control the right way, and even turn negative experiences into positive outcomes.


1. Pay Attention You should be monitoring what people say about your business so you can use their feedback to improve customer satisfaction. One unhappy customer might be difficult to pick out of a sea of transactions. Although it might be a little overwhelming to constantly search the Web for bad reviews, many tools are available that can help you. First, sign up for Google Alerts. You can get e-mail notifications any time Google finds new results on a topic you’re interested in, whether from social networks, review sites or personal blogs. For example, you could get updates about a product you like, find out when people post content about your store on the Web or keep up with specific brands.

Another way to stay on top of what’s being said about your business is to use a service that is dedicated to data mining this information on your behalf. Check out ReviewPush, ReviewTrackers, GetFiveStars, BrightLocal and others. These services offer tools that help you effectively respond to bad reviews and turn the negative ones into positives.

2. Keep Your Cool The absolute worst thing you can do when you encounter a bad review is to respond poorly. Remember: not only do other customers see the complaint, but they also see your response. Take some time to compose yourself, collect your thoughts and draft a response that’s considerate and helpful.

3. Turn Criticism Into An Opportunity   If you’re authentic in your response and resolve problems promptly, it shows other customers that you care about their experience and you’ll go out of your way to correct any issues. This provides the validation they need to be confident in spending money with you.

4. Be Prepared Take the time to write down a variety of scenarios that would cause a customer to lash out online. Then, talk it over with your staff to devise the best responses. Provide access to everyone who will handle these interactions, and be sure to update them as new situations are encountered. By providing your team with uniform, thoughtful responses, you will streamline your process and build consistency, trust and loyalty.

5. Make It Work For Your Business Once you have resolved an issue with a customer, ask him or her to complete a quick survey. Within the survey, include questions that you can use to help build trust with other customers moving forward. Eventually, turning these customers around to become testimonials for your exceptional customer service will have a lasting and powerful effect on your sales. Check out QuickTapSurvey.com.

6. Create Company Policies About Customer Satisfaction Most companies incorporate customer care and communication into their policies. For instance, Tony Hsieh empowers all Zappos employees to satisfy customers by offering refunds, upgrading shipping or sending flowers.

7. Reply To Everything Be diligent about responding to every review, whether good or bad. You might find a review that’s clearly not from a real customer or one that’s making an unreasonable request, but these are rarities. For the most part, customers who take the time to post a review believe they have an issue worth complaining about. It’s your job to address it and resolve the issue to everyone’s satisfaction. Regaining the customer’s trust is often as simple as apologizing and just fixing the problem. When customers post something positive, a simple “thank you” goes a long way.

In our technology-connected world, it’s vitally important to manage your online reputation. Your customers expect you to find solutions to their problems whenever possible, but, more importantly, they want to feel heard and understood.

Don’t be afraid of bad reviews. Having some naysayers in the mix adds validity to all those glowing five-star reviews. You shouldn’t take bad reviews personally, but you do need a response plan. When you view criticism as an opportunity to correct problems, win over skeptics and demonstrate your commitment to customer service, then you’ll start to see fewer bad reviews and many more that are positive.

Every negative review gives you a chance to improve your service: both for the reviewer and for your future customers. No matter how large or small, the feedback you glean from your reviews should be shared throughout your business. Beyond making sure everyone is on the same page to prevent future problems, it lets your entire team know that an excellent customer experience is your highest priority. And, given how quickly social networks can spread a negative customer experience, it certainly should be!

David Hall is Vice President – Sales & Marketing for Cutting-Edge Solutions. Their e-commerce products, The Generator and Pro-Active Websites, are utilized by leading vendors and retailers within the music products industry. Contact him at david@pro-activewebsites.com.

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