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Online criticism feels like a dagger in the heart. But, this doesn’t mean you should brush negative reviews under the carpet.

Whether positive or negative, customer feedback is an outstanding source of information. It lets you identify the issues you weren’t aware of, improve your brand authority and sentiment, and strengthen customer relationships.

It can even impact your SEO efforts and conversions. Namely, 90% of your customers look for negative reviews specifically and spend more time interacting with them. Logically, this indicates that these reviews also shape their perceptions of your brand and impact their buying decisions.

Here are a few steps to take to turn negative word of mouth into positive customer experiences.

Craft a solid crisis management plan

As the number of businesses investing in digital marketing is growing, building an authoritative online brand can be extremely difficult. It takes months or even years of planning and strategizing to get yourself noticed by the right people, create the content that resonates with them, and establish a unique tone of voice your customers recognize. On the other hand, no matter how powerful it is, your brand image is extremely fragile. Just one big mistake you make can cause an avalanche of negative customer reviews and comments.

Just look at Wendy’s that recently tweeted the notorious Pepe the Frog meme, dressed up as their mascot. This caused lots of noise and criticism and yet, they managed to survive. How?

Well, they reacted quickly, removing the meme and tweeting that they weren’t aware of the fact that the meme was declared a hate symbol. Later on, Wendy’s social manager did an interview for Business Insider, where she apologized and claimed the same. In the meantime, they kept firing off witty tweets hourly just like nothing happened.

This only tells us one thing- Wendy’s was prepared to handle such situations efficiently. This is why it’s important to build a solid crisis management plan. Any good crisis management strategy needs to be written in a simple language, comprehensive, data-backed, and focused on predicting and mitigating the real risks your company may face. This way, if you get caught in the middle of a social media crisis, you will be fully equipped to act fast and take immediate steps to handle the problem calmly and professionally.

It’s also important to reassess and update your crisis management plan regularly. For example, you can run occasional simulations of an online crisis to identify the major holes in your plan and find a way to fix them.

Listen to your customers and show that you care

Your customers don’t like to be ignored. Here are a few stats to back me up on that.

  • More than half of them expect your company to answer their reviews within a week.
  • 41% of them emphasize that brands replying to their feedback make them think that they really care about their customers.
  • And, if you’re not replying to customer reviews at all, your customer churn may go up by 15%.
  • In 2018, poor customer support cost companies over $75 billion.

Given these stats, it’s obvious that ignoring negative reviews is not an option. Instead, you need to focus on providing exceptional customer service and turn dissatisfied customers into new marketing wins. Namely, consumers that have their problem fixed during the first interaction with a brand are twice as likely to buy from that brand again.

This is why you should monitor your customers’ feedback regularly.

Start by listening to your customers on social media networks. Sure, you don’t have to do so manually. There are numerous powerful social media monitoring tools that will make this process a walk in the park, allowing you to track both direct and indirect brand/product mentions. The same goes for monitoring your brand mentions across the web using Google Alerts and the multitude of its alternatives.

You should also track your blog comments, create customer satisfaction surveys, monitor your profiles on relevant business directories, and collect customer feedback you get via chatbots or email. These are all gold mines of customer reviews, especially negative ones.

When faced with negative online reviews, always acknowledge the mistake, apologize, and show gratitude for every complaint you receive. To make up for the mistake, you can provide free consultations, offer free services- basically anything that will provide value to a customer.

One of the most powerful examples of how negative reviews can be turned to a brand’s advantage is Netflix. They’re famous for their human approach to social media marketing. Even though they have more than 5 million followers and thousands of brand mentions, they answer customer feedback regularly. Above all, each answer they provide is highly personalized, charismatic, and totally natural.

Another awesome thing about Netflix is that they don’t forget about negative reviews as soon as they read or answer them. They show they really care about their customers’ opinions. For example, a couple of years ago, they noticed that many customers complained about falling asleep while watching a show and losing their place. As a response to this problem, the brand designed Netflix Socs that recognize when a user is asleep and pause the show. How cool is that?

No matter how disastrous they may seem, negative reviews give you an amazing opportunity to strengthen your customer relationships and improve your products. Once you tailor them to your audiences, your sales will grow, too.

Use negative reviews as an inspiration for your content

Customer complaints can also become a treasure trove of content marketing ideas. All things your customers saying about your brand or products, all their problems and dilemmas can inspire new, far more personalized and helpful forms of content.

For example, if your target audience doesn’t understand what your products are for, you can create an explainer video where you would elaborate on the product’s major features and uses. If you find that many customers don’t know how to use your product properly, a comprehensive how-to guide with step-by-step instructions and graphics will serve as a valuable resource.

Show that you value negative reviews

Negative reviews are an amazing source of information for your business. They help you understand your customer better, provide exceptional customer service, and tailor your products to their needs. Above all, you will build and nurture stronger relationships with them.

Precisely because of that, you need to prove that you welcome all types of reviews, both positive and negative ones. Try to answer negative customer feedback as fast as possible, be empathetic, apologize if you need to, and never get defensive. Your comments show what your company thinks of its customers and how you really value them as individuals.

Most importantly, give them a chance to express their opinions about you across multiple online channels, from business review sites to social networks.

This is the only way to turn negative customer experiences into amazing marketing wins.

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