Receiving negative reviews is, unfortunately, part of the job description of a utilities company.

Google pretty much any of the big ones and what you get back is often not very positive.

We’re often asked about the best way to deal with bad reviews. In fact, we’ve even written a few articles and an ebook about it. Reputation management is a full-time undertaking for most businesses, and it’s a very public fail if it’s not done properly.

But dealing with bad reviews in the utilities industry is different from most others.

It’s never been more damaging, too, as more people are switching supplier than ever before.

Trade body Energy UK said 660,000 people switched supplier in February, a new monthly record and 60% up on February 2017. Customers are mobilised and motivated – and they’re shopping around for a better deal, better service or more sustainable energy.

So – utilities companies big and small, new and old: here are our steps for rebuilding your reputation when you’re swamped with negative reviews.

1. Acknowledge it

Don’t hide from your bad reviews (or worse still, try to hide them).

Respond if you can, but don’t cut and paste the same generic response to each. Make a promise to get better and explain how you’re going to do it.

But most importantly, READ THEM. Understand your customers and their pains. It might hurt, but it hurts worse for the people who have experienced bad service – especially if it means they’ve been having cold showers for the last week.

2. Focus on one area of improvement

We’ve heard a million empty promises from brands who’ve been slated online, saying some variation of: ‘customer service is our number one priority and we’re looking forward to restoring the level of service our customers expect from us’.

(For some great ones, check out a few of the banks on the bottom of the CMA’s customer service rankings).

Save it. If you’re getting bad reviews, and they’re publicly available, people aren’t going to expect good service from you. Instead, comb through the reviews and find a few common threads. Pick one issue you can execute straight away, and one you can execute within a year or so and work on those. Something as easy as wiping a fee or adjusting an account process could make a world of difference while you work on the big transformation internally.

3. Tell your improvement story

When you do get a bad review, and the problem gets resolved, take the time to celebrate a little win – internally and externally.

Communicating customer service wins around the office builds a culture of customer-centricity – and giving the megaphone to a happy customer is never a bad thing. You’re building customer loyalty and advocacy – and in this industry, champions are key. The smaller players are doing this well – we’ve spoken about Bulb before, but there are many others doing this too.

Bad reviews might make you shiver, but they can actually be good for you. Still don’t believe us? Read our ebook: Bad Reviews are Good for Business.

A guide for utilities companies dealing with bad reviews