Bad reviews can be hard to swallow, but online negativity presents opportunities to exhibit strong customer service
If you’re in business for any length of time, chances are you’ll get a bad review here and there. It’s part and parcel of doing business in today’s digital world, where customers are quick to share any and all experiences they have on social platforms.
Maybe you’ve just been hit with your first scathing review on Yelp or woken up to a furious email detailing an unpleasant experience. You might feel like you’ve been kicked in the gut – It’s easy to panic, feel bad about yourself, and maybe even question your abilities.
Before you get wrapped up in the negativity, take a step back. The truth is that every business encounters the occasional bad review – and believe it or not, these online interactions can actually help your reputation if you respond mindfully.
There’s always a silver lining to getting negative feedback: People are giving you the opportunity to listen to their concerns, resolve any outstanding issues, and publicly show off your amazing customer service.
When you respond directly to a bad review with grace and professionalism, you’re showing the world exactly how you do business – and giving a positive impression to anyone who encounters your business in the online space.
The impact of negative reviews
Before the internet and social media brought instant communication to our fingertips, unhappy consumers had to write snail-mail letters or call customer service hotlines to give company feedback. Now, anyone can vent about an unpleasant experience with just the touch of a button.
And those reviews weigh on the decisions of other potential customers. Roughly 80 percent of online shoppers check reviews before hitting the “add to cart” button, and an overall positive rating is a major deciding factor.
Your business’s reputation is on the line, and controlling the narrative online is key.
How not to deal with bad reviews
Any discussion of how to handle bad online reviews should also touch on what to avoid doing. Any business operator angry about an unhappy customer’s online tirade should absolutely fight the urge to do these things:
- Get in an argument with the reviewer
- Ignore the review
- Get defensive
The goal that should animate all reactions to negative comments is to cast the company in the best possible light and show that it has exemplary customer service. Any of the above will have the opposite effect.
Make bad reviews work for you
Because online reviews are out in the open for all to see – and never go away – it’s important to respond promptly to reviews. A quick response, with an apology included, is sometimes all the reviewer needs to feel respected and acknowledged.
Here are some examples of effective language to use:
- “I’m so sorry. We’re normally known for our exceptional attention to detail, and we regret that we missed the mark.”
- “We always aim to deliver a great experience. We are gutted when we miss the mark! Thanks for taking the time to bring this to our attention. We will use the feedback to make us better and to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
- “Thank you for posting a review and we’re sorry to hear that your experience was not of the quality you expected. We would like the opportunity to investigate your feedback further.”
Use the above as examples, though, don’t just cut-and-paste them into the “reply” field. Boilerplate language will leave the company sounding inauthentic and will be a missed opportunity to remind customer that they’re dealing with real people, not just a faceless corporation. Address the reviewer by name, respond specifically to the issues, and don’t be afraid to inject a bit of personality into the exchange.
Granted, it may not be possible to charm every unhappy customer, so sometimes other steps are needed to leverage reviews so they work in the company’s favor.
Follow the rules
Google, Yelp, and other sites have spelled out clear guidelines for how to respond to negative comments in their user agreements, so it’s advisable to consult those before firing off a reply.
Learn from the data
Anyone ready to write a response to a bad review should first take some time to consider the feedback. Is the complaint valid? Was this customer treated poorly by a staff member, given a defective product, or not given a level of service that could be reasonably expected?
Sometimes the most valuable data a company can receive is hidden in the negative reviews. Complaints are essential to uncovering weak spots – giving management a chance to course-correct where necessary.
Fix the problem
When change is needed, you can exhibit transparency and accountability by thanking the customer and detailing the change that resulted from the bad review. Sometimes that might mean a manager has to find a way to make something right that wasn’t even the company’s fault, but doing so anyway will build customer trust and let them know they can always reach out for a solution to their problems and concerns.
Resist the urge to scrub negative reviews
As tempting as it may be, try not to delete every bad review you find online. While there are certain scenarios that might merit censorship, such as vulgar personal attacks, most people won’t be scared away by the occasional lukewarm review.
In fact, having an off review here and there actually contributes to a sense of authenticity for your brand. That’s not to say that a flood of poor reviews won’t hurt you, but if your ratings are nothing but enthusiastic and positive, people may wonder if they are genuine. After all, some companies will go as far as paying for positive reviews online, and consumers are becoming more and more adept at recognizing a phony profile from the real deal.
Share your story
In the end, negative reviews are not the end of the world. In fact, they can help your business in the long run. Choose to view negative reviews as an opportunity to share your story and cultivate trust with your customers. By taking the time to resolve customer problems mindfully, you can communicate just how much you value each and every client! The VendorSmart℠ directory includes detailed company description and history, contact information and genuine reviews left by community managers. To learn more,