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Responding to negative client reviews

Posted on 7th May 2013 by Madeline Maguire

Posting Review Image

I once knew a salon owner who landed herself in some seriously hot water with online reviews. She performed a straightening treatment on a client, and a few days later that person posted on her salon’s Facebook page that she was unsatisfied with the results and wanted a refund.

In the salon owner’s mind, she had invested a lot of time doing the treatment and had done a great job. She had clearly explained the limitations of the treatment and it wasn’t her fault the client had unrealistic expectations. She explained this in her comment back to the client as her reason why she would not be offering a refund. After a few comments back and forth, the client only became angrier, encouraging other people in her social network to argue her case and join in the conversation.

It wasn’t long before these comments extended beyond Facebook, into just about every other reviews website – touching an untold amount of this salon’s new potential clients. The damage to her business’s reputation was immediate and these negative posts still show up every time someone searches for her business.

You may know someone with a similar story, and the truth is that many salon and spa owners make similar mistakes when it comes to handling not-so-nice online reviews. In this case her intentions were good, but the execution was off.

To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, I’ve pulled together a few of the most common pitfalls for salon and spa owners in managing negative online feedback – and how to avoid them.

Not having a plan

The most common mistake of all is not having a plan for dealing with negative feedback. The rising popularity of reviews sites means that more likely than not, this is something you will have to deal with.

Solution: Be prepared with a strategy, including whom in your business is permitted to respond and what steps they should take. Improvising in this situation is dangerous, and mistakes made in this situation can be very costly!

Leaving it too long

The key to managing your online reputation is to know what’s being said about you and act on it fast. Whether on purpose or simply because you didn’t know it was there, not responding to a blistering review of your business makes it look like you don’t care about your clients. Is that the message you want to send?

Solution: Set up a Google Alert to immediately catch any negative reviews posted about you online, and utilize an instant feedback tool such as Spotlight to quickly survey clients immediately following their appointments.

Showing no empathy

Remember that people reading client reviews and your response have no context by which to judge the situation, other than your client's word versus yours. Getting into an argument about what really happened or dismissing their comments (however unwarranted they may be) will not only destroy any chance of winning your unsatisfied client back, but it also makes you look uncaring and cold to potential new clients.

Solution: Remember your audience and acknowledge that you are sorry that your client feels unsatisfied.

Keeping the conversation online

Rather than getting into an argument online, reach out and offer to take the conversation offline with a phone call. Bringing that personal element into the dialogue is much more likely to get the situation resolved quicker, and prevent the situation escalating. Once you’ve spoken to the client and amended the situation, you’ll often find many people will go back and update their initial review – which is a best-case scenario for your business.


Blog Author Madeline

about the author

Madeline is a seasoned marketing specialist, having worked with a wide range of consumer and trade brands throughout Australia, New Zealand and the United States. Working in a global role at Shortcuts, Madeline executes marketing strategies throughout the USA and Australian markets.

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