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The Day Snakes Become "Toothy Critters"

I am perfectly happy with a vacation that doesn’t include snakes. 

I reached that conclusion two years ago while spending a week at a Florida beach with my family.  Although I had never caught even a glimpse of a snake in many trips to the Gulf Coast beaches, I saw three near the home we were renting and two of them were poisonous.  A fourth one--a long, thick, black snake--slithered from under the car as I packed the trunk for the trip home.

Seven days.  Four snakes. 

A few days later, I posted a review to the rental company’s website. 

“We stayed in so-in-so house and it was really nice.  But we did see four snakes on and near the property.  If you are not okay with snakes, this may not be the rental house for you.”

There was no response from the company.  Months passed and then one day I received an email notification that someone had replied to my review. 

“Thank you for visiting with us!  Aren’t Florida beaches the best?!  We particularly like the area where you stayed because the homes are located in a natural and pristine part of the beach.  Yes, there is an abundance of wildlife there and even some toothy critters!  So glad you loved the house!” 

Toothy critters?  Reptiles with fangs and venom and such are “toothy critters?”  When I think of toothy critters, Barney the Purple Dinosaur comes to mind.  Or Wile E. Coyote from the Roadrunner cartoons.  Toothy critters are harmless.  They entertain and amuse.  Snakes do neither of these things. 

I don’t know who wrote the response—probably someone at a company recently hired to monitor and respond to online reviews.  But I know it was a bad response. In fact, I was more upset about it than I was the snakes!

A response like this would have been better. 

“Thank you very much for vacationing with us.  We were happy to hear you liked the house.  However, we were upset to learn you saw four snakes.  We contacted the pest control company within the hour of reading your comments. May we follow up with you?  Are you available for a phone call today?”

When responding to negative online reviews, here are three things to consider: 

1.    You are writing to a larger audience than the complaining customer.    Prospects are reading your customers’ reviews and they are reading your responses like never before.  They absolutely take to heart your words and your tone. 

2.    Show some empathy and understanding.  Be very careful about making light of a negative experience a customer has shared.

3.    Respond immediately and take the discussion offline.  You have the last say when you respond to a review.  Here’s your opportunity to be smart and win the day.  Resist any temptation to prove the customer wrong.  Rather, demonstrate that you want to solve his or her problem and you want to do it quickly.  There is magic in offering something as simple as this:  “You have some concerns and I would very much like to speak with you about them. Is there a good time today for me to phone you?”

Those are my suggestions on how to respond to negative online reviews.  What are yours?     

How to rescue a loyal customer

You have customers, and that’s a good thing. If you have loyal customers, that’s a better thing. Loyal customers don’t just buy stuff from you. They often are emotionally attached to your company. In their minds, they wave your brand’s flag. Best of all, they enthusiastically talk to others about your company’s products or services. (Depending on your organiation, replace the word "customers" with any group you must have to keep your doors open--like patients, donors or clients.)

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