Open dialogue with stakeholders: If employees are mentioned by name, let them know and collect their account of the interaction. Inform management that a negative review has been posted, then advise of the potential negative impact to branch foot traffic, the options for response, and the proposed course of action. Generally, the immediate reaction from internal stakeholders will be to deny and defend. Help them to understand your role by sharing this post with them. If the reviewer was unclear and did not leave actionable feedback, send him a private message requesting more details.
Hesitate for as long as it takes to proceed without anger or defensiveness. As another blogger put it: Stop for a moment, Drop your defensiveness… THEN Roll.
kNow your audience – it’s not who you think. Imagine your Yelp page as a room full of people waiting to open an account. Considering 35% of people who read yelp reviews will visit a business they checked within 24 hours, this analogy is quite fitting. Now, imagine someone shouts his criticism so loud that everyone in the room can hear it. You would care much more about how your public response sounded to the prospective members in the room than to the person complaining. This should be your frame of mind when crafting a response.
Own what you can: It takes humility to recognize one simple fact: you did do something wrong. If the complaint of the Yelper is reasonable, it makes your job easy. Just own it and move to the next bullet. However, if the member had an unrealistic expectation, you can still own the fact that it was you who either set that expectation inadvertently, or failed to temper the expectation.
(Note: I generally get the most push back here. If there’s a brand out there that doesn’t use asterisk disclosures or exaggerate its strongest suits, then it’s probably exempt. The rest of us need to recognize that our job is to highlight exciting things, which necessarily minimizes “the catch.” We should not be upset when someone gets excited about the messages we put out there with that very intent, but fails to appreciate the things we buried in a disclosure or hid from the spotlight.
Hold yourself accountable: If a complaint is legitimate, it’s usually easy to define and make amends. But if you were expected to move mountains and you only moved foothills, the problem to fix is the expectation you’ve set with this particular member – even if unrealistic. Candidly, this is my favorite part. The more ludicrous the expectation, the more humorous the response will appear when viewed by your real audience – the “people in the room.”
Empathize and identify: Never forget the business power of “I’m sorry.” If a person has attempted to do business with you, they have validated your marketing efforts by taking a meaningful step towards a relationship. If that step was met with something less than they expected or outright rejection, then confusion would be appropriate on their part. Apologizing for causing this confusion would be, quite simply, the right thing to do. Not to mention, you are in a virtual room full of people who want to see how you would treat them if they had a problem.
Do not argue: Correct misinformation, and nothing else. Remember that anyone reading a consumer review is doing so because they naturally trust peers more than businesses. You are at a disadvantage in any he-said, she-said argument. If a dispute is a matter of opinion, do not correct it. If it is tangibly wrong, and you would not expose account information in correcting a statement, do so with tact.
Invoke motive: In the case of a declined loan, it is in the mutual best interests of the salesperson, the credit union’s owners and the applicant to get a good loan approved. A commission salesperson has every reason to work quickly and thoroughly on a member’s behalf, and this should be pointed out. If you’re a credit union marketer, you’ve got it easier than your bank counterpart when it comes to Yelp responses because of your access to complete transparency. At a bank, the profit generated by an extra fee (for example) would only benefit the owners. At a credit union, the members are the owners. Don’t be afraid to share that we have no profit motive, and therefore, little reason to steal from their left pocket only to put it back in their right.
Negotiate a truce: Always work to part ways with positivity and leave the door open for the reviewer to change his tune on Yelp, or even consider doing business with the your organization in the future.
Thank the reviewer – And mean it! You should genuinely appreciate all actionable feedback. Yes, it stinks to get a bad review. But the complainer has given you an opportunity you would not have without Yelp – the ability to publically respond. Appreciate this opportunity to earn trust and improve service.