Online reviews on platforms such as Google, Facebook and Yelp provide individuals with a means to not only air their views with businesses but also to communicate with fellow customers. This means that food producers are getting more reviews and feedback than ever before, and it isn’t always good.

These reviews are a useful resource for consumers considering new products, services, and brands. Consequently, it becomes essential for companies to grasp the art of addressing negative reviews, particularly when these critiques have the potential to harm their brand image.

Make it easy for customers to stay in touch

Customer feedback is an invaluable part of your business model, and it’s important that they can keep in touch with you easily. How they do this is up to you but you should consider a feedback form on your website and social media channels, and including your contact details on product packaging. If a customer is already unhappy, spending 20 minutes trying to figure out how to contact you is not going to help!

Add an autoresponder to forms and emails

In a perfect world, we’d be able to respond to all feedback promptly and efficiently. But in this imperfect world, we have a business to run and may not be able to get back to everyone as soon as we’d like to. Customers will feel more valued if their feedback is at least acknowledged, so consider setting up an autoresponder to let them know that you appreciate their message and to give an estimate of how long it will take you to get back to them.

Don’t overreact

It can be quite disheartening to see someone say something bad about your company or product online. It feels even worse when you consider that other customers might see this and change their opinion of you. But there are no circumstances where reacting angrily will garner a positive reaction. In many cases, it’s wise to step away from the keyboard, so that your emotions don’t dictate what you’re going to write in your response to the review.

Resist burying your head in the sand

When you do come across negative feedback, the temptation is there to ignore it and hope it goes away. And deep down you know it won’t. Ignoring negative feedback won’t do anything for your reputation especially if you reply actively to more positive messages.

Investigate the complaint

Customer complaints could be a sign that something is wrong within the business. For example, if you were to get several complaints about a product tasting different, it could point to a problem in the manufacturing process. Try together as much information as possible from the customer including when and where the product was purchased, and how it was prepared (if relevant).

Consider taking further correspondence private

If a customer has left you a negative review on a public site, it might be worth asking them to continue the conversation via email. This will avoid publishing private information online and also allow you to engage more directly.

Don’t be afraid to apologise

We can’t get it right all the time. By owning up to our mistakes we can rebuild the trust with our customers.

Your reputation is shaped not only by what you say about your brand but also — and probably mostly — by what customers are saying about you. This can make you feel like you have little control over how potential customers perceive your brand, but actively responding to your positive and negative reviews can have a positive impact on your brand reputation.

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