How to Handle Negative Reviews Online
Community Commerce6 MIN READ
Online reviews are a powerful tool that can help your company, but they're also full of risks. One bad review can make the difference between an opportunity and a missed opportunity, so it's important to understand how negative reviews work and what you can do about them.
Reasons Why You Might Be Getting Negative Reviews
If a customer has a negative experience with your business, they may leave a review on your Google My Business page or on one of the many other sites where reviews are aggregated. It's important to know that there are many reasons why someone might leave you a negative review, and not all of them have to do with your brand or product.
Customers don't understand what you're offering.
Image Source: Strategyzer
This is one reason that's often hard to avoid if it's not clear from the beginning. If people aren't expecting something when they make an appointment at your salon or call in for lunch delivery, they're going to be upset when it happens—even if it's exactly what you thought was agreed upon!
Make sure that customers clearly understand what kind of service/product you offer before booking an appointment or placing an order so there aren't any surprises down the road.
Someone from your brand was rude.
Customer service representatives sometimes get overwhelmed by questions and requests during busy times when everyone has problems all at once. When this happens, agents sometimes let their frustration show through tone-deaf responses that come across as unhelpful or even mean-spirited.
If customers have these kinds of experiences with staff members in social media channels, live chat, or support calls, then expect some negative feedback once those conversations start getting posted online.
Your online presence isn't easy for people find.
Most consumers will search online before contacting anyone directly because most companies want customer inquiries as quickly as possible—not after someone has already spent hundreds of dollars elsewhere first! So if people can't easily find information about how long wait times might be, what the product specs are, or how to report a problem then you can expect complaints left on review sites like Yelp, Trust Pilot, Angie's List, or social media.
Your competitor is retaliating.
While retaliation isn’t legal within most jurisdictions (including UEE law), competitors do sometimes retaliate against businesses by leaving fake reviews against your business.
If you're just starting out, this can be pretty intimidating; so don't worry about it too much for now. Just focus on increasing your own positive reviews by providing excellent service and making sure that people know how easy it is for them to leave one.
But if this does happen to you, most review sites and directory listings have a process for report fraudulent reviews, such as this one with Google.
Steps You Should Take When You Get a Bad Review
1. Read and listen carefully.
When you get a bad review, the first thing to do is read it carefully and listen. If you've got a thick skin, this is your chance to get some real feedback on how you could improve. It may sting a little at first, but if you listen carefully and really consider what the reviewer had to say, it can be very valuable.
2. Ask questions.
When customers are upset about something, they often won't say all of their thoughts in the review itself. They will pose questions and raise issues that lead you to believe there's more going on than what's being said outright. So take this opportunity to ask those questions directly: "What was your experience like?" or "Did anything else happen?"
3. Empathize and make a meaningful apology.
A meaningful apology goes a long way towards rebuilding trust with your customers. It helps diffuse frustration and shows them that not only do you want to provide an excellent experience but also that you're willing to work hard at making it right again.
4. Be professional. Always.
Be professional at all times when dealing with upset customers on social media — even when they may not be themselves! Always remember that everything posted online lasts forever and could come back to haunt you (and cost business) if handled poorly now or in the future... so do your part to keep things professional!
5. Invite the reviewer to take the conversation offline.
If you can't resolve the issue right away, invite the customer to take the conversation offline. This gives you a chance to go through all of their concerns and address them in a more private setting. It also helps prevent other customers from seeing that you're having trouble handling one person's complaint or issue.
Source: Review Trackers
6. Offer the person something for free (or a discount) that will satisfy them and help them give your business a second chance.
If a customer is really upset and feels that they've been wronged, they're not going to be satisfied with your apology alone. It's important to offer them something in return for giving your business another shot—like free shipping or a discount on their next order. This can restore their faith in you and show them that you care about their experience at your company.
7. Commit to making things better.
At the end of your apology, make sure to reiterate that you're committed to improving your business. This reinforce your sincerity and show customers that you care about their experience.
8. Credit the reviewer for improving the customer experience for others.
When you’re ready to close out your response, thank the reviewer for their feedback and let them know that they made an impact on the experience of other customers. This shows that customer feedback is valuable to you and can make a difference in how your business improve itself.
More importantly, giving kudos to the individual will inspire others to offer negative feedback in a calm, constructive tone. Your response made them feel safe and empowered, and that's a win for everyone.
What to Keep in Mind When Taking Action to Resolve a Negative Review
When you respond to a negative review, it's important to keep in mind that your goal is not to make people happy. It’s not even about making them feel better about their experience or giving them an opportunity for redemption. Your goal is simply to resolve the issue at hand and make things right for the customer—whether that means offering a discount or refund, fixing an error on your part or just providing excellent customer service.
Respond in a timely manner.
The longer you wait to respond, the more people will read your lack of response and form unfair opinions about the situation. If you can’t respond immediately, at least acknowledge that someone will reach out to them and when they can expect a response.
Never take the bad review personally.
You may feel like a bad review is an attack on your business, but it’s not. It’s just one person’s opinion. Don't let it get to you or make you want to fight back with abrasive comebacks. Instead, take a deep breath and respond calmly and professionally.
People notice your level-headed response to an unreasonable customer.
Remember that you can’t please everyone, and sometimes bad reviews are just a part of the job. But if you handle them well, it can actually help improve your business. In many cases, a reasonable response to an unreasonable customer will improve onlooker's opinion of your brand.
Some angry customers will change their mind and update their review with a positive one.
It's true - this happens more often than you think. Some brands are so effective at handling conflict that they can change the minds of livid customers with respectful, validating response.
Source: Trust Pulse
That said, you can't expect this to happen all the time. The goal is resolving the issue the best way possible because it's the right thing to do. When you do the right thing consistently, even your enemies can become your friends.
Ways to Lower Your Bad Reviews Online
Make sure all of your business details are up-to-date online.
This includes your website, social media accounts, and all other digital assets. If a customer can't find the information they need to contact you, they'll only grow more angry with your business and move on to a competitor.
Also, make sure your website is mobile-friendly so people can easily find what they're looking for on their phone or tablet.
Get buy-in from your leadership and product team to receive customer feedback.
Once you have a process in place for receiving customer feedback, make sure everyone on your team knows how important it is to listen to what customers have to say. Creating a seamless feedback loop between customers and product development is a powerful advantage in today's community commerce world.
Make it easy for customers to come to you directly to resolve their problems.
Your customer service team is an extension of your brand and should be equipped with the tools and knowledge necessary to resolve issues quickly and effectively.
If it's unclear how customers can get in touch with customer service, they will grow resentful and may even purposely try to tarnish your brand reputation online. Part of the reason customer service is so important to the customer experience is that it's a direct line of communication between you and your customers. If a problem arises, they can reach out directly to you instead of having to go through an intermediary like Google or Facebook. The more direct the connection, the better your chances are of resolving issues quickly and effectively.
Ask happy customers for good reviews.
The best way to get good reviews on your website is to ask for them. No, you don't have to send out a mass email asking customers if they'd like to write a review of their experience with your company. But if there's ever an opportunity when you are in contact with happy customers—whether it's through email or social media—ask if they would mind sharing their experiences online.
Negative reviews are inevitable but are powerful opportunities to improve your brand and online word-of-mouth.
A negative review can be a powerful opportunity to improve your brand and online word-of-mouth. In fact, the majority of online reviews are negative—so it’s important to understand how you should respond when one is posted.
By taking the right action when you get a bad review, you can turn it into an opportunity for growth and create long-term customers who will share positive experiences with others.