A negative online public review - every business's worst nightmare. No matter what industry you work in, whether it be vaping, CBD, or any other supplements business, a bad review is forever dreaded amongst business owners.
So, what can you do to minimise the risk of receiving a bad review? The good news is - plenty.
Long gone are the days when a customer complaint was limited to an in-store face to face conversation, or a phone call to customer services. Any customer can now complain as publicly as they like, and often, they do!
The internet is full of opportunities to share a public opinion. Google Reviews, Tripadvisor, Facebook, Tik Tok, Trustpilot - there is no end to the available options to voice a complaint.
But why? Why do they go out of their way to write something publicly when it can leave such a damning stain on a brand's reputation?
According to Trust Pilot, most surveyed consumers in Europe (54%) said they leave a public online negative review to warn other customers. This is not something a private phone call or meeting will achieve. 28% said they did it to get a company to recognise a concern (implying that, perhaps, some companies aren't adequately responsive in private) and 31% said it was an act of revenge on a company for such a poor experience.
Knowing and understanding why people leave public feedback is an important factor in preventing the reviews from being written in the first place.
It is always a pleasure to hear great feedback from happy customers. But while we all want to see happy customers writing glowing reviews about our shops online, this isn't always the reality.
Most happy customers will get on with their lives after receiving their product. Some happy customers (around 1 in 10) will leave a positive review. But most won't. Whereas, when a customer feels indignant about an experience, the drive to leave a review is much more fierce. The theory is that it then takes 40 positive reviews to undo the damage caused by one negative review, so it is important to try and prevent that negative review from occurring.
Being in business means dealing with people. No matter what line of work you are in, your job will be to communicate with customers (whether it be verbally or in writing) and ensuring that their needs are being met. The same is true whether the customer is delighted or disappointed - communication matters.
Good communication shouldn't wait until the customer complains. It begins way before this. You can demonstrate good communication in the following ways:
If you are low on stock, don't have all the information about your products to hand, or aren't sure when you're next getting an item in, this can reflect poorly on your business. Be proactive with your inventory and ensure that you communicate with your wholesaler about any product issues.
At JM Distro, we welcome retailers and dropshippers to contact us and discuss any products in our catalogue.
This is a good idea for so many reasons, but one of those reasons is that it can reduce the risk of complaints. If your competitor is offering an identical product for a lot less money, you could be accused of ripping off customers! Make sure you know what your competitors are doing and when, and try to always offer something a bit better if you can.
Managing expectations is a big part of minimising complaints. If a customer expects a parcel within 2 days over a national postal strike, this is very unlikely to happen. Make sure your customers are aware of any potential delays or problems. They might be disappointed but they will appreciate the good customer service.
Non refundable items can cause problems when customers aren't satisfied with the quality, or simply don't feel the product is for them anymore. Make sure your returns policy is fair. At JM Wholesale, we accept unopened returns within 30 days.
If you have made a mistake (for example, forgetting to fulfil an order) the best thing you can do is own up to it, and offer the customer some compensation (e.g. 50% off their next purchase). They will appreciate your honesty and your effort to keep them as a customer.
If a complaint is about the quality of a product, make sure your raise the issue with the wholesaler. You should also be proactive in making sure all your products come from reputable sources. At JM Wholesale we check every brand for their reputation, safety and compliance. For example, when supplying CBD products, we ask for a third party lab test report to ensure that the highest quality legal CBD is being used.
Receiving a public complaint is unfortunate but can be managed. You will be given the right to publicly respond, and it is best that you do rather than ignore it. Ignoring it will look like poor customer service and could lead to a follow up complaint.
The Legal Ombudsman UK has the following advice for responding to a public complaint:
Keep it simple. Don't overcomplicate your response. Use short sentences. Be clear.
Be timely. Get in there quickly.
Take it seriously. Make sure your response reflects that you care about the complaint.
Acknowledge stress or inconvenience to the customer.
Apologise, even if you don't think this was your mistake.
Publicly appreciate their feedback. Even though it's a complaint, acknowledge that you'd like to learn from it.
Ultimately, responding publicly to a complaint in this way serves two purposes.
Firstly, you have a chance to keep that customer, even though they've had a bad experience. It might be that you do enough to rectify the situation that they remove their complaint, or alter it to reflect your efforts. You might even be able to sell to them again.
Secondly, you are showing other readers that you take customer service seriously, and care about unhappy customers. You are also showing them that you have resolved the problem in hand, which reduces the risk of new customers thinking that there are unresolved issues in your business. Future customers want to be reassured that they won't have a similar negative experience, and this is your opportunity to show them.
You should never ignore a customer complaint, as it can leave a permanent mark on your company's public reputation. Most customers seek out reviews (especially bad reviews) ahead of a purchase, and one unanswered bad review can have lasting and damaging effects on future business.
Similarly, leaving a response that blames the customer, tells them they are wrong or mistaken, or doesn't properly address the issue, is going to make the problem worse. For example, if you got a complaint saying that the items arrived broken and late, the worst thing you can do is blame the postal service, or accuse the customer of dishonesty. It is also poor practise to accuse the customer of being a spy for a competing business, which is often what happens when bad reviews come in. Being professional, polite and proactive is always the better option.
The bottom line is, no business wants to see bad things written about it on the internet. But it can be avoided if you as a business owner take proactive measures to keep customers happy. This means taking care of your customer communication, your stock / inventory, and your responses.
You can ask our customer service team here at JM Distro for more advice on retailing vapes, CBD and supplements. Or you can read our blog for more tips.