Written by Vivek Jaiswal | Co-founder, Customer Guru
If you are like most people, you will head online to do a bit of research before you make a purchase from any company. At the end of the day you want to get the best value for your money and don’t want to be making the wrong decision on your purchase. Now if you are a company, you can be rest assured that your potential customers are doing exactly the same thing. Positive online reviews will attract customers, while negative reviews will surely repel them. Therefore, you can imagine how important it is to curb negative reviews and create a customer experience that results in more positive online ‘word of mouth’.
Do whatever you can in your power to get to the bottom of a negative review. Whether it is an angry customer, an ex-employee or even a competitor, be prepared to handle the review with care, such that potential customers are impressed with your ability to ethically handle such reviews. Always remember, the internet never forgets.
Now don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean that you delete negative reviews or don’t allow them to be published online; given that it is virtually impossible to do that today. Instead I would like to say that it is Ok to get negative reviews; how else would you improve? Also, it is almost impossible to please every single customer. Essentially, there will be negative reviews but what’s important is how you deal with them. I would like to exhibit this by using an example of how Amazon, the e-commerce giant, resolved a major mistake that they made. A mistake that garnered a great deal of criticism!
How Amazon unburied itself out of negative review?
A recent finding by the American Customer Satisfaction Index reveals Amazon.com as the reigning and undisputed pioneer in both internet retailing and customer satisfaction. Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos has really embraced the philosophy of truly looking after the customer, steering it into the digital era. Bezos built the foundation for Amazon on his pure and unremitting focus on customers and their experience. Sure Amazon also made its fair share of faults, but how they turn around from such situations is also remarkable!
In 2009 when Amazon remotely deleted copies of the books “1984” and “Animal Farm” from users’ Kindles. It wasn’t one of Amazon’s most practical moves. Often times after the damage has been done, it is irreversible. However, Amazon is always persistent to mend any tainted image in their customers’ hearts and is prepared to go to great lengths to undo their wrongs. There was a huge outrage over the uninformed delete of the two books. Moreover, Amazon customers were furious with the usual compassionless and coldhearted apology from their press team. It, however, didn’t stop here. If customers aren’t happy, Bezos won’t stop until they are.
In a move that not many CEO’s are willing to take, Jeff Bezos decided to publicly apologise himself. Bezos issued an informal and wholehearted apology to his customers for the “stupid and thoughtless” solution to the problem.
This bold move by Bezos genuinely impressed Amazon customers.
Customers were not only astonished at the apology, but it also gave them a sense of forgiveness towards Bezos and Amazon. Loyal customers stayed loyal and some angry ones even acknowledged the sincere apology. Everyone faces slip ups at some point in their journey, however, in any case taking the extra effort to fix your mistakes and learn from them can reap great benefits in the long run.
What can we take away from this experience by Amazon?
In fact a lot! CEO’s and managers around the world aspire to be as customer centric as Amazon, and one little aspect of this customer centricity is going the extra mile to put a smile on your customers’ face; whether that comes at the cost of your time or even money it will benefit you at some point in the future.
1. Put your ego aside
Apologising is embarrassing and frustrating. One often requires a lot of courage to apologise with true sincerity; and only this sort of apology will touch your customers’ heart. A lot of managers and CEO’s won’t publicly apologise because it may sting their ego. Well, that’s only going to further abolish the pleasant image that your customers have of your company. Being the head of your organisation, an egoistic approach to any fault of yours won’t do your balance statement any good. Customers don’t care about how much business they give you, they can deprive you of your revenue by simply switching to a competitor. So always remember, don’t focus on the income, pay attention to your customers and their experience and everything else will follow.
2. Take full responsibility for your mistake
“Mistakes happen all the time, no one is perfect.” How many times have you heard someone say that? I’m sure at least a few times. So if you do make very drastic faults that deeply hurt your customers, then you should be willing to take responsibility for your mistake without any excuses. Just like Bezos admitted that their blunder was “stupid and thoughtless” managers should be prepared to admit the true extent of the mishap or else customers won’t be very happy; as what they’ve suffered may be a lot worse than what you have actually admitted to.
3. Go public, to show people that you care
Now when I say go public, it doesn’t mean that you assign your customer support team to issue a public statement like ‘We sincerely apologise for this terrible mistake of ours, and we guarantee it will not happen again.’ That sort of statement has no value to customers, and they know it doesn’t come with any meaning. Customers prefer a more heartfelt and personal apology that they can relate to. One from a CEO or manager of the company will really impress customers.
Furthermore, issuing a generic public apology doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t send a personalised email to your customers too. An email as a first step – within a day from when the error was made – is crucial because customers need to know that you acknowledge the fault and are prepared to do whatever it takes to correct the course. A public statement is vital, since this is what will rescue your company from a repulsive company image. A public statement shows that you recognise your mistake and will avoid deterring potential customers.
In conclusion, despite Amazon’s grave error, Bezos’s earnest apology helped Amazon retain their loyal customer base. Not only that but Amazon also fully refunded the cost of the two books. Amazon spokesperson, Drew Herdener also issued a statement saying that “We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers’ devices in these circumstances.”
How else do you think can companies recover from negative customer reviews?