How To Avoid Getting “Yelp’ed”

Written by Mike Shapiro | | November 30, 2017

No matter how hard you try, how good your processes and procedures, you’re going to make some mistakes with product and service delivery. And customers feel hurt by these goofs and want to tell someone about it. That’s why there are so many negative reviews on Google Maps and Yelp.

But letting customers blow off steam by trashing you on these sites is opening yourself up to unnecessary reputation damage, and missing a big opportunity to turn the situation around.

It’s surprising how many businesses overlook the fact that by moving toward the problem instead of running from it can not only save  the transaction, but actually improve the customer experience.

Here’s a short list of practical steps you can take when you mishandle a customer interaction:

Find out about it when something bad happens. You’re powerless to fix something you don’t know about. Make it a part of your regular staff meetings to have a “Goofs, Gaffes and Foul-Ups” fess-up roundtable, where your folks are encouraged to bring theirs out into the open and onto the ‘workbench’ for fixing. Better yet, institute a “30-minute rule” where associates are expected to report a mess-up within 30 minutes of its occurrence.

Reach out. Do it soon. The best time is right now, while the customer is still angry, but before they take to the keyboard to tell everybody. Call if you can, or send an email inviting the customer to call, providing a phone number where the customer can reach you.

Empathize. Put yourself in the shoes of the customer. What would you want to hear and see at a time like this?

Offer compensating options. Meaningful, attractive options. Make it something related to the original service promised. (Hotel flub? Offer a discount on the room rate — not a free drink in the hotel bar.) Make it something of substantial value. (Don’t cheap out with something nominal like a “$10 credit” or “5% discount.)

Be honest and straightforward. Don’t make up stuff. Get the facts straight so you’re prepared when you talk with the customer. Say what really happened, why it happened, what you intend to do about this incident for that customer, and what you’re doing to see that it doesn’t happen again.

Do it yourself. Don’t send a “messenger” in the hopes he or she won’t be “shot.” Customers who have been poorly served want and expect to hear from someone with authority. Remember, this is not just a one-way communication where you deliver the apology or offer of compensation. The customer usually wants to tell you something, to give you some feedback, and may want to ask you some questions. Don’t put someone else between you and the message you should hear yourself.

Say “Thank You.” You will learn something and that’s always a good thing. Express gratitude to the customer who took the time to talk with you directly instead of going after you online.

Do something with the feedback. What practices, processes or procedure should be changed? Make it happen.

Go public. Take to your website or Facebook page and tell what you’ve done to make things better, and mention that it was because of what you learned from a customer. Better yet, ask the customer whose business you just rescued to do it!

Flubbing a customer interaction the first time doesn’t have to mean you automatically get dinged on Yelp. If you move quickly and forthrightly, and with a true intention to make things right, you can usually save the transaction. Plus, you get the opportunity to have a meaningful engagement with a real, live paying customer, and maybe improve an important process or procedure.