Negative reviews don’t feel good but it’s not the end of the world. While the old saying “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” is debatable, it is often true that “no press is bad press.” If your business is not being discussed online at all you’re doing something wrong. So if you’ve received negative reviews, ride the silver lining by recognizing that you’re receiving online press in the first place. Then take it as an
opportunity to keep the online conversation going and staying relevant.
Here are 10 Tips on How to Respond to Negative Online Reviews:
1. Monitor Your Online Presence
Monitor your online presence to be aware of every site and directory where your business is listed and is open to receive customer comments and reviews. In addition to the social networks you have set up for your business and review sites like Yelp, Google yourself regularly and comb through the pages to see what is being said, if anything, about you. If your business has gained enough momentum that it’s reviewed on a regular basis then you may want to sign up with a service like ReviewTrackers. They monitor your online business reviews and report both the good and the bad, allowing you to respond in a timely fashion.
2. Claim Your Business
If public feedback is a big part of growing your customer base then spend the few extra bucks to claim your business (usually involves a small monthly fee) on review sites. Claiming your business allows you better interaction with reviewers and also allows for better control over the account. You can either be in the room when someone is talking about you or you can be outside. Which would you rather?
3. Don’t Ignore It – It Won’t Go Away
“The internet isn’t written in pencil, it’s written in ink.” This quote from The Social Network is one of the all-time greatest quotes about the internet. Once someone puts something about you online, it’s there to stay. If you ignore it, it remains. The only thing you can do is respond and respond well, because that too will remain.
4. To Delete or Not to Delete?
You can delete negative comments from your social networks and some review sites allow you to contact administration if you’ve been unjustly targeted BUT only do so if the review appears to be more of a personal attack or if profanity is used. Otherwise, constructive criticism should be visibly addressed every time.
5. Thank Them
Instead of getting defensive, always begin by thanking the reviewer for bringing the issue to your attention. It sets a positive tone for the rest of the conversation.
6. Be Personable
Form letter responses are a joke and incite aggravation on the part of disgruntled customers. Respond to the reviewer by name, talk about the specifics of the day in question, and encourage them to reply with a follow-up. By responding like an actual person you’re more likely to receive a much more cordial reply. You’ll also develop an ongoing dialogue and you just may create a repeat customer in the process.
7. Be Wise with the Apologies
Here’s a newsflash – in today’s day and age, when the online world is watching, the customer is NOT always right. Don’t immediately jump into “forgive me” mode unless it’s justified. Other viewers may only see the “I’m sorry” and assume you were at fault. Consider the review carefully. If the customer is truly being unreasonable because of expectations that they themselves set, respond with a brief statement that your product /service may not be a good match for them, and consider recommending them to a business that is. That being said, if the issue did come from your camp (product, staff, etc… ) then a heartfelt apology is certainly in order.
8. Take it Easy on the Freebies
Yelp extortion was coined in a recent article in the Sacramento Bee. It refers to when customers threaten a business with bad reviews if they don’t cough up free product/ services. It’s safe to assume that the concept was sparked by businesses publicizing refunds or complementary product/service offers to unhappy online reviewers. While it’s a good idea to invite them back for a better experience, be careful about giving away too much as it sets a standard for everyone else watching. Consider future discounts instead or have the customer contact you offline so you can make the complementary offer there.
9. Friends, Family & Fiction
On many occasions a business will attempt to combat bad reviews by setting up fake accounts and/or have friends, family, and employees post extremely positive reviews as soon as negative ones begin to make an appearance. Sorry, but the public is wise to this tactic. If they see a consistent pattern of less-than-stellar reviews followed by sudden spikes of PERFECT 5 Star raves that talk of a business as if it can do no wrong, they immediately get suspicious and the business looks ridiculous. It’s like snagging a copy of the mid-term in junior high and copying the exact answers word for word onto the test – you have to at least put down a few wrong ones to get away with it.
10. Fix the Issue/s
This final tip should be obvious. If your business is consistently chastised for something (e.g. poor service) then fix it immediately upon receiving the negative review/s. Take complete ownership of the issue and show online reviewers that you take their feedback very seriously. By confronting the issue and rectifying it in the public eye the results can be far more positive (enhanced customer loyalty) than the negative ever were.