– By: Ray Morgan Subscribe to RSS Feed

etiquetteMy daughter is going to be driving a car very soon. Anytime within the next 27 years is too soon for me but for this 14 year-old, the next year seems like a lifetime away. As we drive, I point out situations and talk through them to familiarize her with the best response.

Recently we were approaching an intersection where I had the green light. A glance to my right revealed a car speeding toward the intersection, clearly traveling too fast to stop. Blessedly, I saw it in plenty of time to stop and let them fly by my bumper. A few angels earned their good deed pins for the morning.

“If I had not stopped, and gone through the green light, what would have happened?” I asked.

“I would be sitting on your side of the car,” she replied dryly.

“If I had gone through the intersection with the green light in my lane, and they ran the red light and hit us, who would have been right?”

“We would. The light was green.”

“And what would being right have gotten us?”

A moment of silence while she thought, “Dead.”

“Sometimes being right is more harmful than just conceding the point.”

When clients and customers leave bad reviews about a company online, I know the first response by the business owner is to blast them with a wicked retort.

“Our service would have been better if you hadn’t been talking so loud in our quiet restaurant that 4 other tables left early, costing us money. Then you had the nerve to curse out my wait staff and fling a glass of water on a nearby patron. I hope you got a bad case of food poisoning! And next time leave your yipping purse dog in the car!” In reality that didn’t happen but it sure makes them look bad, doesn’t it?

Or how about, “We wouldn’t allow you to return your brand name cloth purse, even with your receipt, because you left it in your car where you smoke like a freakin’ fiend and the purse smelled like an ashtray. Are you so stupid that you can’t read the receipt where the warranty explicitly states a smoke odor voids the warranty. Nobody else will buy it now!” This review did not get posted, but the situation is a direct tale from a local gift shop.

We want to lash out at those who so publicly humiliate our business with spiteful, petty reviews, especially since this digital age lengthens the lifespan of bad word of mouth from a few days to infinity, and beyond. (No insult to Buzz Lightyear intended.) And you would, in most cases, be right in retaliating but what does it get you?

Instead of an eye for an eye, apologize. If your grandmother was standing right there listening to this online conversation between you and an angry reviewer, would that change your reply? Would you soften the harsh tone? Nanny believes in just letting it go with a, “Darling, I’m so sorry you feel this way. I apologize if I’ve hurt or offended you. Please allow me an opportunity to make it right to you.”

Disarming, isn’t it? It’s hard to stay mad at someone apologizing and trying to set it straight. New potential clients who see your response to an online review make a judgment about you and your company. What do you want them to think? Is it a reputation Nanny would be proud of?

I believe an occasional bad review is not the end of the world. I have seen situations where a business had garnered hundreds of reviews and they were all positive, and deep inside I questioned the validity of so much sweetness and light. Sour notes in small doses adds a touch of reality, I think. It’s not too good to be true, it’s just good.

In addition to playing nicely in the sandbox, two more points – 1) tell how you will learn from this, 2) change it up.

“Dear 967CupRiderr – I apologize that our service didn’t meet our high standards. We are looking to change our schedule to allow for more help on hand during our peak times. Please ask for me by name – Dan – the next time you stop by.”

In Dan’s subsequent posts he does not need to use this exact same wording. I know it saves time but when you read a series of replies to posts and they all say the same thing, it looks more like a robot is responding than a person. You don’t have to be a brilliant writer, just type what you would say in person.

“Dear StinkyPurse, I apologize we were unable to accept the return of your name brand cloth handbag due to the heavy smoke odor. We have implemented a new practice of reviewing the warranty with each new sale. We hope to earn your business once more. Judy, store manager Gifts Of Life”

Every woman who reads this response will instantly discredit the three paragraph rant from the customer.

Sometimes, being right only means you are right. It does not mean you win back a customer or gain new ones.

Meet the Author

Ray Morgan: Since 1985, I have been working with Small to Medium size businesses in crafting and implementing effective marketing campaigns. I’ve done it all – Radio, TV, Billboards, Newspaper, Yellow Pages, SEM, SEO, websites, Point of Purchase, Identity Creation and Collateral, Direct Mail, Advertising Specialties, Coupons, Video, Internet Yellow Pages, and on and on. Thousands of conversations with small business owners about their successes and failures have taught me so much and I strive to pass this knowledge and expertise to my current clients.