5 Tips for Handling Bad Salon Reviews

Criticism for any business can be difficult to navigate. Social media and review sites provide countless opportunities for customers to voice their frustrations. Missteps in how you handle these complaints can have a tremendous ripple effect.  On the flip side, a salon or spa customer who feels heard and acknowledged can be converted into a raving fan. It’s all the in the approach. Follow these tips to mend customer relationships, repair the damage and start on the road to recovery.

The First Responder
Responding effectively is a matter of planning and strategy. It’s important to prepare for negative reviews, customer complaints and social media jabs in advance, as these could not only damage the reputation of your business but can cut into sales.

Arguably all salon employees should be staying abreast of customer sentiment but it’s important to designate a first responder to address any negative reviews or complaints as they arise, with a backup readily available as needed.  Develop a plan within your salon for notifying this person of an issue, as well as a strategy for how that person can step in, investigate, act, and follow up. Be sure to provide training to all persons who may find themselves acting as a spokesperson for your business.

Is a Response Necessary?
Not every complaint warrants a response. No, I’m not suggesting that every customer is not important, but a balance is critical. Although a dedicated marketing or social media person will typically respond to all negative posts, it’s very different if you or your staff are handing things between clients, as there simply is not enough time in the day to chase everything down. It’s virtually impossible to please everyone and, provided there are plenty of positive posts, a few negative reviews are unlikely to damage your business’ reputation. Trust your intuition about which ones require immediate attention.
However, an angry customer who feels neglected is like a ticking time bomb, especially with social media being so accessible. In this case, make it a special point to reach out and follow up as soon as possible, as the consequences could be devastating. Lesson: Make sure to monitor your salon’s social media (and in-box for email).

Timing is Everything
Bad news travels like wildfire and it’s important to get ahead of it. Before responding, take a few moments to investigate the complaint and how the post was made (explore the policies of the platform where the review was left: Yelp, CitySearch, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.) but don’t wait too long to take action.

Respond Where You’ll Be Heard
It’s best to leave a response directly at the source. For example, if the poor review was posted on social media, the best way to respond would be a direct reply or private message, or even via email if needed. If it’s not possible to leave a direct reply or email, post an open response on your own social media page, blog or website. This also shows accountability to other current and potential customers.

How To (and Not To) Respond
The importance of keeping your response positive cannot be understated. At all costs you must take the high road and avoid making comments that could be taken as offensive. At the same token, look past any jabs cast by the person who made the complaint. Don’t take too much of what they say personally, as they are upset and are lashing out. Focus instead on the qualities of your salon and express your genuine desire to make amends. Re-doing the service, offering a complementary service or product or, if needed, a refund are ways to help the situation and hopefully turn the unhappy client into a loyal one.

The Heart of the Complaint
More or less, customers who complain just want their voice to be heard and to know that any issues will be remedied as quickly as possible. They are usually just frustrated and have found an outlet. As long as you make a genuine attempt to apologize for any errors (actual or perceived) and offer a solution based on the needs of that client, most complaints or bad blood will dissipate quickly.

Having been a salon owner myself, not to mention what I’ve learned running a software company, turning a bad experience around can sometimes be more valuable and produce a more loyal customer than just making somebody happy right out of the gate. Even with the worst reviews or complaints, my suggestion is to make the most of the opportunity!

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