HANDLING NEGATIVE REVIEWS – 7 BEST PRACTICES
BY Nina Zoukelman
In our previous post we discussed the prevention of negative online reviews. Just to recap, a recent study found that online reviews impact purchasing decisions for over 93% of consumers. This means that online reviews can be a major source of new customers. But the negative ones can also be damaging to your business. So how can you handle negative online reviews? Here are 7 best practices:
1. Be in The Know
You can’t handle online reviews if you’re unaware of them. To be up to speed, follow your alerts on Facebook, Yelp and Google My Business. To make sure you don’t miss anything else, register on Google Alerts. You will get notifications every time someone mentions your business online.
2. Never Ignore a Review or Delay Your Response
Ignoring bad reviews sends out the message that you either don’t care or don’t think it’s important enough to respond. So never ignore a review -- good or bad. If the review is extremely rude and includes profanity, you can report it as violating community standards. If it features clear, provable falsehoods or was written by someone who has never used your services or bought your products , you can also request the website to take it down. If that’s not the case, you need to respond to the review, and do it as soon as possible.
53% of customers expect businesses to respond to negative reviews within a week. This goes to show that a quick response to the review can defuse the situation. It can actually stop it from escalating to a full-on online crisis, with other users quoting and sharing it. What you’re doing is showing that you are attentive to your customers’ problems and that you take them seriously.
Another benefit of a quick and respectful response is that it can lead to the softening of the initial review or even to it being taken down altogether.
3. Be Respectful and Professional
While it’s important to respond quickly, it’s critical not to respond off the bat. Take the time to reread the review carefully and consider the best response. If you weren’t present for the situation mentioned in the review, talk to the employee who was. Hear their side of the story before responding.
When you do respond, your tone of voice should be empathetic and professional, even if the review was very personal. Never respond to personal insults with similar comments and NEVER bash customers who give you a bad review. Among consumers who read reviews, a whopping 97% read businesses’ responses to reviews. Your tone of voice is just as important as the content of your response.
This is a good example of a professional reply, that acknowledges the mishap:
A respectful, non-defensive response, that addresses the bad feedback, already gives you points with everyone reading the exchange. There is a lot to learn about a business from the way it handles negative reviews.
Even if you think the customer is wrong, don’t be tempted to get into an online argument. The last thing you want to do is escalate the situation into an online yelling match. Plus, online shaming will never go down well with other customers. This is what you should do instead:
4. Acknowledge the Customer's Negative Experience and Offer an Apology
45% of consumers say they’re more likely to visit a business that responds to their negative reviews. So start by acknowledging the issue and offering a sincere apology, such as “We were very sorry to hear you had a negative experience with our business”. Then, thank the reviewer for bringing the issue to your attention and for their feedback. This may not be your gut reaction, but it’s the best way to go about it. This is a good example of the right approach:
5. Take It Offline to Try and Resolve the Issue
After you’ve apologized for the negative experience, explain that you would like to hear more details about the complaint. Offer to contact the customer over the phone or email. You’ll be avoiding an online argument and will have a better chance at resolving the situation offline. Here is how you can handle a negative review:
If you realize there is a good reason to offer compensation, anything ranging from a 10% coupon to a free appointment will work. This can help soothe the customer’s anger and get your relationship with them back on track. You can even include a mention of this compensation in your initial response to their negative review.
Once you’ve resolved the issue, you can ask them to add a comment reflecting this or add one yourself. By going back to the original review and posting a comment about the solution you’ve reached, you’ll be fostering an image of a business that takes customer complaints seriously and works to improve its service.
How to Learn from Negative Online Feedback
Once the dust has settled, it’s time to try and learn from the negative feedback you received. This is how you do it:
1. Leverage Negative Feedback to Improve Your Business
We get that some customers can be a handful, but sometimes feedback is an opportunity to change and improve things in your business.
When you get a negative review, try asking yourself: how could I have prevented this review? If a customer complained about the quality of service, you can make sure to improve on that specific service. If it’s about lengthy waiting times on Wednesday afternoons, then having additional employees cover that specific shift can help with this issue, etc.
Try and see negative feedback as an opportunity to understand how your customers see your business and your services and products. Derive from this what you should do to retain them as customers, while attracting more new customers to your business.
2. Share the Feedback with Your Staff
Your team has a major part in the success of your business, and you should share with them all the feedback it gets, the good and the bad. Don’t be tempted to hide the negative feedback from your employees for fear of demoralizing them. If there are lessons to be learned from negative feedback, your employees should also get those insights and try and implement them in their work.
To Wrap Up
Let’s face it: every business will get a few bad reviews, no matter how great it is. But how you handle those reviews is what makes the difference. Taking the right steps, you can minimize the damage to your business or undo it altogether, as well as turn negative feedback into a learning experience.