The dreaded unhappy customer. We all aim to never have one, yet a bad night's sleep can be the catalyst. Or bad service. Yes, if you have humans working for you and patronizing your offerings, then they each can behave 'humanly' on occasion. How do you deal with this, beyond breathing dragon fire?

The world we are moving into that involves electronics, well....it kind of creates a safe place for us to behave however we wish. We get this veil we can hide behind and truly most will never call us out on what we say and do from behind there. Think of the almighty wizard from 'The Wizard Of Oz'. Although I'm not advocating for bad behavior from behind this veil, I am acknowledging it is a component that makes it easy to vent. To judge. To speak differently than we might face-to-face.

While we're talking about acknowledging, let's consider something elemental to being human: Most people want to be heard, acknowledged, validated. Whether we're talking about their opinion or their fashion style. We humans have this longing to feel as though we count, that we matter, that how we show up and the rules we play by matter on this journey. I am not a psychologist by any stretch of the imagination, but human I AM! So when one of our fellow humans unloads on Yelp about the cold hamburger they were served at XYZ burger joint, I have to believe that ultimately they want others to see their opinion as valid. They want for Mr. XYZ to see their desire for a hot, juicy hamburger is important and a valid perspective.

SO! How exactly does one handle a negative review? The best and really ONLY way one ought to be handled is with validation. Acknowledge to that customer that they are perfectly correct in their desire for a hot, not cold hamburger. Acknowledge that the humans working for you, behaved humanly and that you and they are terribly sorry that you had a customer leave your place of business less than 100% satisfied. Trust me on this one, an apology and admission of guilt will buy you the farm when it comes to not only regaining this particular customer's trust, but you will shine like diamonds to folks who have never been to your place of business. You will be seen as human. And all of us know how messy being human can be at times. We all have the ability to imagine ourselves in another's shoes, and we are willing to do it usually when that person takes responsibility for their actions and behavior, whether intentional or unintentional.

Use this negative review as an opportunity for employee education, and make the necessary changes to improve service. EVEN IF it seems the review was motivated by a never-happy person, throw the customer a lifeboat. No, you won't make them skip sunshine paths, but you will keep a customer and gain the trust of potential new ones. And if you want to up your image of being close to perfect, offer to make amends on the dissatisfaction. A free burger next time they come in? Fries with a purchase? I recently vowed to discontinue using a local car wash that consistently had a broken car washing machine, that consistently wouldn't take my secret code and when I would go inside to ask for a new one, even the manager accused me of having already used the code. Now it may not seem like a lot to lose my measly $7 car wash. One to two times weekly. Fifty two times in a year. For my likely 40 remaining years in my community. But as you can see, when you add up the annual revenue, it is significant. Factor into that, how long I live here and how many people I know and will gladly tell to NEVER use that car wash. This could be damaging, especially to a small 'mom and pop' business.

Believe it or not, research suggests that a the number of people who are influenced by how a review is responded to, is up 10% higher in 2017 from the 20% it was in 2016. I have to imagine the negative review is to be expected on occasion. I mean, how likely would you be trusting of a business that had ALL and ONLY, consistent 5-star reviews. The word skeptical comes to mind. This goes back to us expecting to find that others are human and imperfect, just as we find we are at times. Even if it is obvious that it's clearly the reviewing customer that has the issue. We trust an imperfect human or business, more than we do a 'perfect' one. No one is perfect, right? Neither is any business.

  • So remember:
  • Give a negative review-er the validation they seek.
  • Leave them feeling 'heard''
  • I am sorry' - three words, worth more than most any currency
  • Offer to make amends, throw your customer a lifeboat or a new car wash code
  • Only take things as personal as the changes you can make improvements upon
  • Move On!

  • Remember the broader picture when you bite your tongue and give away fries

  • Shine on that essence, my friend and forge through those elements!