They aren’t the best thing about running a business, but negative reviews are inevitable. What many people don’t realize is that it’s often not the reviews themselves that can damage a business, but how they respond to them. When handled properly, any potential issues caused by negative reviews can be mitigated. Even better, smart entrepreneurs can turn them into a positive. What you don’t want is to turn a bad situation worse by making one of these mistakes.
Arguing with or matching wits with customers
It can be understandably frustrating to receive a negative review, especially when it doesn’t match what you believe your employees would do or reflect your policies. It’s even worse when a reviewer uses abusive language, is lying or exaggerating, or you think they are trolling or angling for a freebie.
Calling them out is tempting, but it’s almost always a bad idea (until it isn’t – more on that below). Even if you ‘win’ in some online exchange, you will have lost. You won’t come off as clever.
Instead, you will seem petty and defensive. 90% of customers read online reviews before they visit a business. Don’t give them the impression that they are going to be slammed for posting about a negative experience.
Never following up privately
If a review isn’t reflective of an ongoing problem, and the customer has a relatively minor concern or complaint, the best approach may be to simply apologize and offer to contact them privately. This shows concern and attentiveness without needlessly going into detail publicly.
However, this only works if you actually do follow up. If you continually fail to do so, that will become as well known as any negative reviews. You will also miss the opportunity to connect with an unhappy customer and find a way to make things right with them.
Not making meaningful changes
If you are receiving an inordinate amount of negative reviews, or you notice a pattern in the negative reviews that are posted, there might be something systematically wrong with what you are doing. If your reaction to this is to simply apologize or offer refunds without taking any other meaningful action, you will continue to get negative feedback.
Part of reputation management is identifying and fixing things that are wrong. For example, if negative reviews consistently touch on shipping and delivery issues, it may be time to look into making a change in those procedures.
Remember that people reading your reviews notice patterns as well. If they don’t see you doing things to fix issues that are preventing you from providing the best customer experience possible, they may move on to another business.
Finally, if you do make a change to improve customer experience, share that. Don’t limit the news to review sites either. When you make a significant change to address a far reaching problem, that’s newsworthy. Mention that on your blog, website, and social media. In some instances, a press release may be in order.
Failing to use negative reviews as a customer service opportunity
A negative review is much more than a customer’s platform to criticize your company, employees, or products. It’s also a customer support platform that you can use to provide customers with assistance, empathy, and solutions in a public forum.
Let people see you engaged in the following behaviors:
- Showing empathy to customers who had a bad experience
- Maintaining a cool head when the customer may not be
- Making an effort to learn more about what happened in a given situation
- Suggesting solutions or offering resolutions
- Apologizing and taking responsibility
- Making an upset customer feel respected and heard
This is the beauty of online reviews that the public can access. People don’t just learn about others’ experiences. They also learn about your handling of them.
Deleting negative reviews
If you are in a position to control the reviews that are published about your company, be careful. You may be tempted to simply delete negative reviews, leaving only positive feedback. That’s a big mistake. First, nobody is going to believe that everything about any business is all ‘sunshine and roses’. More importantly, people will simply post reviews in places where you cannot control the narrative. Worse, you will damage reputation by deleting reviews rather than responding to them.
One thing that you can do is help customers who have complaints, and then politely ask them to consider deleting or modifying their remarks. In many cases, customers are happy to update negative reviews if they believe you have addressed their issues and treated them with respect.
Taking negative reviews as a personal attack
Negative reviews can be demoralizing. It’s even worse when you feel blindsided by them, or you seem to be getting an especially large influx of them. When it is the business you own, team you care about, and products you believe in that are the subject of these negative posts, it can feel as if the reviews are attacking you as a person.
Try to stay objective. Don’t shut down in frustration or become too defensive. Instead, remember that most customers won’t even bother giving you feedback. They will simply stop being your customer. When a customer leaves a negative review, they have given you a gift. That’s the opportunity to look into a problem and then fix it.
Not reporting abusive reviews or failing to stand up for your business and staff
As mentioned above, it is rarely a good idea to contradict a customer’s review or to confront the accuracy of their claims. However, there are exceptions to this. In these cases, standing up for your company and seeking other remedies is a good business practice.
When to Contact a Review Site Administrator
Here are some instances when it is proper to contact the administrators of a website and request that a review be deleted or other action taken:
- You or an employee is being threatened or doxxed
- You have evidence that a review is posted by a bot, paid review service, or competitor
- If you find evidence that there is a dedicated effort to post multiple negative reviews that have no basis in actual customer experience
- A review contains provably false and malicious information
If you are going to approach an admin to have a review taken down, be prepared to show proof. Most admins are reluctant to take down posts without significant evidence. Remember that these websites are profitable because they are very liberal about letting customers speak their minds.
Still, it is not unheard of for a review website to take action. If you want that to happen in your case, you can increase the likelihood of that by following the right protocol when reporting fake or abusive reviews.
You will never be able to deliver what customers want in every interaction. Things are bound to go wrong on occasion. In addition to this, customer reviews are subjective. You can do things right by most standards and still have customers who are not happy.
There are many appropriate ways to respond to reviews. As long as you avoid the mistakes above, you should be in a great position.
About the author:
James Scott, an independent blogger, CEO at Essay Supply and professional marketer Columbus, Ohio. He has more than 5 years of marketing experience and is passionate about professional and agile team management. Even the smallest member of the team can change everything, so a wise manager should do his best to deliver the best working experience for everyone. Connect me on LinkedIn!