No matter how good your product or service is, no matter how comprehensive your customer service is, and no matter how much customer outreach your company does, negative reviews may be an inevitability for your business.
Knowing this, you should create a plan for how to deal with negative reviews, since trying to stifle them and/or hoping they won’t appear is unrealistic. Below are some tips for how you can deal with negative reviews. Use them to create templates to respond to your most vocal critics.
1. Don’t ignore negative reviews
This first point is the most important piece of advice here. Trying to ignore “the elephant in the room” won’t make it go away. In fact, bad reviews have the potential to exponentially harm your business and your brand. They can take root and spread as more people hear negative information. Respond to the negative review and address the issues as best as possible (using some of the other tips here) -- have the public see you are a responsive and respectful business owner who wants to do the right thing.
Keep your response courteous, and try to be relatively brief in your reply. Believe it or not, a personalized response can bring back 51% of your customers who had negative experiences.
2. The timing of your response to negative reviews is important
The sooner you respond to negative reviews, the better. Tracking data shows that customers like to see companies respond to negative reviews less than a week after they’re posted. Be sure to give yourself enough time to process the review and not be reflexively defensive. Draft a response and let it sit for a day, then come back and judge whether it sounds professional or if it needs some work.
3. Demonstrate that you understand your customer’s point of view
Most people are open to giving you a second (or sometimes a third!) chance. They want to be heard and so they leave a review. Show empathy in your response -- you want customers who have problems with their orders to feel like you can see things from their perspective. This can help de-escalate issues and conflicts between customers and your business.
4. DO NOT WRITE IN ALL CAPS
It’s important to keep your cool and stay professional – even if a customer is being rude. Always take the high road; it will pay dividends, especially in the long term. Keep it short, directly to the point, and respectful.
5. Highlight any positive points
Not all bad reviews are 100% negative. Many times, a customer will mix praise with their criticism. Therefore, in your response, you should focus on the positives while working to resolve their issue. By highlighting these and promising to fix problem areas, you can remind readers that your company has a commitment to customer satisfaction.
6. Apologize and/or take further action when it’s appropriate
It doesn't cost you anything to apologize. If someone has had a bad experience with your company, sometimes all they're looking for is an apology. For anyone reading reviews, seeing the business apologize and take responsibility is seen as a positive step. If the review warrants more than an apology, consider providing a refund or a replacement product or service or a discount on future purchases, which increases the likelihood that they buy from you again.
7. Offer to discuss things privately
While keeping your public response short, make sure to offer to continue the conversation offline. This buys you more time to collect more information about the issue and at the same time takes the magnifying lens off your business. Offer an email address where they can reach you or ask for their account or order number to reach out to them directly. The last thing you want is for an online argument to become an epic back-and-forth thread with 10,000 heated responses.
8. If appropriate, ask a customer to revise their review
If it’s possible and when it’s appropriate, consider asking a customer to update their previous review. But be careful; only do this when you believe you’ve fully helped resolve the issue. And, ideally this is done in a private communication. The time to make this request is after you’ve resolved the issue they had (up to and including replacing or compensating them for defective or inadequate products or services or negative experiences.
Before you make this request, 1) make sure it’s possible for the customer to update or revise their review and b) provide complete, clear instructions for how they can update their review. If a business is using an effective review platform with sufficient functionality, it should offer customers the ability to update their review.
9. Try to make sure your positive reviews vastly outnumber the negative ones
Make the heart of your business shine through positive reviews. While a negative review can be inevitable, if your positive reviews outnumber them, people can still have an overall positive impression of your brand despite a few negative reviews. When a quality business implements an effective review strategy, it will consequently start getting more good reviews, be able to display positive feedback, and be able to put its best foot forward.
10. Appeal to the review website (such as Google) to have a review removed
Most review websites will not remove a negative review if a company that’s being criticized merely requests it. But one tactic is to report the review if it doesn't follow the guidelines for the website it’s posted on. Does the review use profane or off-color language? Are there any trade secrets or employees’ names that are revealed? If so, you may be able to have the review deleted. Another angle you can look at is if you can prove that the review is incorrect or contains false information; potentially, it could be libelous and subject to legal action, which most websites are eager to avoid. In extreme cases, a letter from a lawyer may be able to produce positive results in this regard.
11. Dealing with trolls and automated negative reviews
Other grounds for having reviews removed are if you can prove the reviewers aren’t real or are automated bots (possibly activated by a competitor or a negative SEO firm they’ve hired). If the reviewer’s email address is available, you can try searching for it on Google and seeing if it’s a genuine address that’s connected to a real person. Giveaways that it may not be legitimate are if search results are comprised solely of other negative reviews, especially those for your organization’s products and services and/or those of your competitors. Again, significant problems in this area may be grounds for legal action.
Need more help with your online presence or reviews? Talk with the experts at Laveh. Use the webform or call 617.657.9966 to begin the conversation.