Online reviews are fuel for online businesses, especially the ones that sell locally. Google gives them quite a lot of importance when recommending businesses, making them essential in local search marketing strategies.
It’s all fine and dandy while your business keeps getting positive reviews. But what happens when a few negative reviews roll in and disrupt the online image of your business?
This is every business’s worst nightmare. One bad review online can turn other potential customers away as well. And if left to their own devices, these negative reviews can continue to hurt your business. A survey concluded that two-thirds of all customers could form an opinion about business after reading reviews left by others. That’s why some companies have gone to the extent of suing customers who’ve left bad reviews online. Their claim is simple: with a few scathing words, these customers have managed to destroy the online reputation of these businesses.
Here’s a simple fact though: it happens to everyone. Even the biggest, best, most celebrated online business has managed to garner a few bad online reviews, and if you haven’t, know that it’s only a matter of time. Whether you are a recently turned entrepreneur, or a seasoned businessman making a move to the World Wide Web, understand that receiving a bad review isn’t end of the world, and it doesn’t necessarily reflect badly on your business practices but how you react to it might seal the public opinion in or against your favor.
Importance of Online Reviews
As mentioned earlier, customers trust businesses that bravely ask for and display reviews online. And why wouldn’t they? It’s only prudent to check out online reviews before paying up a ton of money, whether it’s on children’s clothing or an expensive hotel room in Paris.
Now, these online reviews are essential for your SEO efforts as well. Google has made sure that reviews are a part of the ranking factor, especially for local search. Your business can grow with the right ratings and reviews mechanism set in place.
It’s important that you react to reviews quickly and definitively
Reviews tell your prospects what your actual customers make of your products and services. When you get reviews, whether good or bad, it is essential to show the reviewers and the prospects, that you value this opinion. Responding to reviews promptly shows that your business makes an effort to understand it’s clientele, helping you stand out from others in your niche.
When you respond to a negative review, you aren’t just replying to the person who wrote it, but also addressing your potential customers indirectly. That’s why it is important to handle negative reviews of your business with finesse, gratitude and just a little bit of wit. It can turn bystanders on to your brand.
This holds all the more true for negative reviews. The way your company deals with these will show your potential customers that your business knows how to handle problems, prioritizes customer satisfaction and offers reliable solutions to disgruntled clients. Also, react to a few of the positive reviews graciously. But the positive ones aren’t hard to reply to at all. It’s the negative reviews that will need you to follow a strategy when dealing with them.
I would also react to very positive reviews, especially if the response is elaborate and detailed. Responding to positive reviews will give the opportunity to promote your brand and to show your passion for your company. Responding to positive reviews is not that hard to do. It’s the negative ones that need a strategy.
Your Guide to Responding to Negative Reviews Online
Did you recently spot a bad review for your company on Yelp!, Facebook or even on your own website?
The first order is to stop, relax, take a deep breath and think about it for a minute or two. Don’t reply hastily to a customer who is already ticked off. You need to think things through and come up with an iron-clad response. You shouldn’t be emotional or angry when responding to negative customer reviews.
Make sure all your customers feel appreciated, even the nasty ones.
When you respond to negative customer reviews online, you should try to stand out from the competition. This will help readers remember you as a company and pay attention to what you have to say. Here are our tried-and-tested tips for handling negative customer reviews like a pro:
1. Keep Calm
The negative reviews can be scathing and downright unfair. There are all kinds of people out there who can take up an issue for the smallest of things, leaving behind reviews that can get personal and get across their condescending point-of-view quite harshly.
That’s why it is important to take a breather and gather your thoughts as well as any evidence you may have against their grievance. Once you feel like you are in control of the situation, it is time to start typing out your response in a calm fashion.
2. Have a plan
How are you going to go about crafting your reply? Now if you are a planner, as any same entrepreneur should be, the chances are that you already have your standard review responses lined up to choose from. It’s good to be prepared but refrain from copy-paste, please. Remember that these ‘canned’ replies are just the starting point of your response. Make sure each answer is different from the other and customized to address the exact grievance of your client. Using the same cookie-cutter reactions can further exacerbate the situation and upset an already dissatisfied customer.
3. Own the problem
A negative review happens because the client had a negative experience with your product/service. Maybe they didn’t like that the shipment got delayed (because of the weather and no fault of your own), or that they thought the food at your restaurant tasted bland.
Start off by apologizing for their bad experience. Even if it wasn’t entirely your fault, they did have a negative experience with your product/service. If things went south because of your people or processes, own up to it immediately. Ask for the specifics of the situation and fix the situation. Tell them what you are doing to rectify the situation and invite them to another experience. You’ll be surprised to see that people can be very forgiving if you are willing to show that you are only human.
4. Get help for proofreading
You are emotionally invested in this response and try as you might you may overlook a few commas and full stops. You need someone else to read your response objectively and suggest improvements in tone.
- Keep it short
Remember if they are leaving a negative review, they’ve already made up their mind about what went wrong. Leaving a 13 point-long justification will only make your business sound desperate for attention. Don’t get personal, instead politely and professionally address their grievance, offer a solution and bid them a good day.
- Don’t get trapped in an answering game
Reply once, or twice if necessary. And stop replying after that. A review forum is no place to have a lengthy discussion, and no one wants to read a dissatisfied customer and a business going at it. It won’t reflect well on your business.
- Take the discussion offline if they are adamant
If they keep coming after you, it’s time to get in touch with them in real life. Get your sales department to call them or invite them to visit your offices or restaurant. Make a connection.
What happens after the response?
Once you have addressed a reviewer and responded to them carefully, it’s time to forget that lousy review and help your website’s visitors do the same. Get that negative review buried under a ton of positive ones, so it’s not even visible to the people who come looking for opinions on your business.
Research shows that people love to leave good reviews when they are delighted with a business. The chances are that a majority of your customers have really liked your products and services, so why not give them the incentive to say it out loud. Offer discount coupons and use other customer appreciation tactics to entice them to leave a review about your products and services across the internet.
Also, if you have managed to solve the problem with a dissatisfied client, convince them to edit their review or remove the negative review entirely. It’s not impossible.
Now looking at negative reviews and responding to them is very important. But it is also imperative that you adjust your business model to enhance customer experience. Your business should be known for creating a customer-friendly service structure. Notice if there are any patterns in the way reviews are submitted if one part of the service or a particular product call for more negative reviews than regular. And once you find the outlier, fix it. You need to take steps to usher in a positive transformation. Failing to make changes and take action can bring about long-term consequences for your business.
The Last Word
Bad reviews can have a strong influence on your prospects. However, this negativity doesn’t have to mean the end of the goodwill of your business. Learn to respond to negative customer reviews on time and fitfully to ensure that the business continues to thrive.
In his book ‘The Winner’s Edge,’ Denis Waitley says “Failure should be a teacher, not an undertaker.”
Failure is always a part of any endeavor. For businesses, it is quite impossible to ensure a 5-star experience for every client. From the thousands of your clients, inevitably someone will have an issue. Take each of their negative experience as an opportunity to learn and progress. Don’t let your failure to please a customer, bury your business under a sea of bad reviews and declining reputation. Instead rise above to conquers heart, even the disillusioned ones. Authentic customer reviews can be a powerful tool in your marketing arsenal, as long as you know how to leverage them appropriately.
Chris Mcdonald has been the lead news writer at complete connection. His passion for helping people in all aspects of online marketing flows through in the expert industry coverage he provides. Chris is also an author of tech blog Area19delegate. He likes spending his time with family, studying martial arts and plucking fat bass guitar strings.