Show your customers some love!Well, according to a recent figure quoted by InsideView in a B2B Magazine article, a negative customer review on YouTube, Twitter or Facebook can cost a company about 30 customers.

It’s a pretty scary statistic isn’t it?

Social media is a great way of sending your marketing messages to a wide audience. From Facebook and Twitter to YouTube, there’s no arguing with their effectiveness in building brand awareness, generating enthusiasm for a product, spreading the word about a new service. Until you fall foul of a negative opinion, that is – and then it feels like there’s no place to hide. Because an awful lot of people are going to see it.

Making a complaint used to mean writing a Mr or Mrs Angry letter to a company’s customer service department or returning to a store to demand a refund. It was largely a private interaction between two parties, unless you told a few friends to never use that particular company or you had a slanging match with the store manager and attracted a large crowd. But now, even the opinion of just one person can be shared with hundreds or even thousands of other customers.

The fear of bad customer experience

Such is the fear factor of negative online reviews that it’s probably one of the most common concerns that crops up when I discuss the use of blogging and social media as part of a marketing plan with many of my clients. Nobody wants to risk their reputation or the possibility of losing or alienating customers because of a negative online review, but shying away from social media presents (potentially) an even greater risk – that of losing out on exposure to an audience that you may not otherwise reach.

It may feel like you don’t have full control of your brand – and it’s true, you don’t. Total control is history – they days of pushing out marketing messages and expecting your audience to simply listen and do what you want are long gone. What we have now is a two-way dialogue. And that’s priceless.

So when can a negative review be a good review?

Online reviews give you instant access to your customers’ thoughts and feelings. You can get a good understanding of how customers perceive your brand/service/products, and ALL feedback – good or bad – provides a way of measuring success and ensuring continual improvement of your business.

If someone does leave a negative comment, don’t feel humiliated or upset. Okay, that’s easy to say and you probably will feel hurt for a while. But pick yourself up and look on it as an opportunity. Yes, really.

A customer has brought something to your attention – you may even not have been aware of it, so this is your chance to make a positive change about that element of your service or product. Show that you’re prepared to listen – offer a refund, replace a faulty item, do whatever is necessary to give your customer a sense of satisfaction. Be considerate and sincere in your response. Get it right and you will actually build greater customer loyalty and trust. Others will see that you actually care about keeping your customers happy. And that negative will become a positive.

Speed is of the essence

This morning I came across a negative review of a lettings agent in a particularly attractive part of London (strictly research, I’m not house hunting!). It was left on Google Maps by a very disgruntled tenant in September 2010. The agent had written an excellent and well considered response and I would have held it up as a textbook reply had it not been for the fact that it was written in April 2011 – seven months too late! And so they committed the ultimate sin of not monitoring what’s being said about them online and not nipping problems in the bud.

Think about their business for a moment. If someone is looking to move into an area, the odds are they are going to Google local estate agents, so that one review will have been on display (in all its glory and unanswered) to all who were looking for rental property in a leafy corner of London. I’d lay bets on how many were completely turned off by that tenant’s opinion of the agent’s service – or lack of. For a whole seven months! And possibly beyond, because it won’t just be me that’s noticed the tardy response time (could come across as just a tad arrogant, perhaps?!).

This example demonstrates just how important it is to manage your reputation online. Always, always, always monitor the reviews you receive and act immediately on any that are negative. Post a reply and then take it offline to continue the dialogue and fully resolve the issue. If you’re lucky, that customer will then feel compelled to write a new review about the excellent customer service they have just received.

And finally…

However bad it may be, do resist the urge to remove a negative online review. Customers will be suspicious of reviews that are nothing less than glowing. Follow my advice and even negative reviews will end up working in your favour.