How to Handle Negative Reviews
Business owners hate negative reviews. They can really hurt a business, and a lot of times they are written or designed to do exactly that! We know that customers read reviews and make their decision to conduct business with a company based, at least in part, on reviews. Let’s look at some recent statistics:
So we’ve all heard that it is super important to respond quickly to negative reviews. But what does that really mean? I am going to share some methods that we have used in the past for our clients, which will hopefully help you handle your bad reviews.
First, let me start by saying that negative reviews are not always bad. They can alert a business owner to an area of their business that needs improvement. Consumers share what they didn’t like about your business, and a lot of times there is a lot of truth to what they say. This is especially true if more than one review is about the same issue. I tell my clients to look at it as an opportunity to make their businesses even better. For instance, my client received a negative review that complained about their return and exchange policy. The customer said the strict policy was hidden in fine print. My client said it is not in fine print at all. We have a policy page, it is stated clearly in the FAQs and in the agreement box during checkout. I found out that other customers had complained about the same thing. We made a simple change to their website and added the return and exchange policy as a tab in the product detail page, so it is right there in front of the customer when they are looking at the product. Problem solved. We wrote a response to the customer thanking them for pointing out the issue. Of course, we also pointed out that the policy was already in multiple places. That customer left their review but changed the star rating from 1 to 3.
The other point is that if you have a lot of reviews and they’re all positive, that looks fake. 94% of consumers suspect either censorship or fake reviews when they don’t see any negative reviews.
Make sure you get notified when there is a new review about your company.
- Make sure you have the correct email address in Yelp, Google Plus, Amazon, Facebook, BBB, Angie’s list, Bing Places, CitySearch or wherever you may receive reviews.
- Turn on review notifications. You can enable or disable your review notifications on Google My Business and many other sites. Make sure yours are enabled.
- Use an online reputation monitoring tool that emails you as soon as a new review is posted on any review site.
- Google Alerts is a free service by Google that will send you an alert when your search query is mentioned on the web. For instance, I could create an alert for “Navazon + review”. It will likely return some unexpected results along with what you’d expect. But hey, it’s free.
- Social Mention is a free service that tags the sentiment of the review as Positive, Negative or Neutral. I’ve used them for years. A while ago, I wrote a program that uses their API to send alerts to our team when clients’ brands were mentioned online. You can set up alerts, but last time I checked the alert system was not working.
- Trackur is another good tool that monitors not just reviews, but also mentions of your brand. Prices start at $97 per month.
Some programs offer a control panel where you can see reviews from all sites on one screen and respond to them through the program. You can find a lot of great tools on the web that will help you find out when your brand was mentioned or review was posted.
- Use a 3rd party company like our company, Navazon Digital that monitors your brand, and in some cases, responds on your behalf. In addition to responding to reviews and mentions, an agency can help you develop strategies for garnering more positive reviews on a regular basis.
Do they have the right company?
Make sure the review is really about your company.
- Does it sound like they did business with your company and not your competitor?
- Do they have an invoice or transaction number?
- Can you find the person in your customer list?
If it is not clear that the review is about your business, ask the review site to remove the review or show proof that it is a legit review from a real customer.
Get the facts
Make a list of all of the specific items that the person brings up in their review, because you need to respond to each one, no matter how minor.
Gather all of the facts about the transaction from your employees, your shopping cart, customer service or CRM system (phone and email logs, etc.).
Prepare your response to each specific issue that they raised. Keep it super friendly and positive.
Contact the customer directly
This may or may not be possible. But if it is possible to contact the customer directly and work it out with them so that they agree to remove the negative review, that’s your best option. If you have their phone number, call them. If not, on the review site, ask them to take the conversation private and ask them to call and talk with you directly.
- Call them on the phone. When people are speaking with a person, they are nicer than over email. It’s harder to be a complete jerk on the phone than on email. So if you have a phone number, call and introduce yourself as the owner or manager or someone with authority from the company that can help them resolve the issue.
- Acknowledge their pain points. Acknowledge your mistakes, if you made any. Then apologize for the specific things you did wrong. Don’t make excuses, blame employees or circumstance. Be powerful and apologize for any wrong doing or for not doing enough. And be authentic about your apology. People sniff out a fake a mile away and this won’t work if you’re mad when you’re on the phone. Acknowledging and taking responsibility for your entire company is usually helpful in getting customers to calm down and be more reasonable.
- Offer them something to make them happy. And not a coupon for future purchase from your company! Something that either fixes whatever they think you did wrong, or makes up for it to a degree. You may think you shouldn’t have to pay, thinking it is wrong or some sort of is bribery, and you would be right. You just have to decide if it is worth the possible loss of business that you could sustain from a bad review.
- How to deal with haters. Sometimes you may come across someone who is just out lying about your business with the intention to cause harm to your business. I can tell you horror stories that you wouldn’t believe. Competitors leaving bad reviews. People trying to commit fraud. Blackmail attempts through bad reviews… I’ve seen it all! In this case, do not be afraid to defend your business, however you can. Written defamation or libel is a civil tort. You could threaten legal action. You can ask your attorney to write a letter. Of course, do not threaten legal action to customers in any public forum. And remember, anything you email them or say to them can be posted online. I have seen customers copy/paste company responses directly below their negative review as further evidence of how bad the company treated them.
Write a response on the same public forum or review site. Remember, you’re not just writing this response to the customer who wrote the review. You’re writing this to everyone else who is reading the review and basing their opinion of your company on how you handle difficult situations. You are making a case for your company. So it is important to keep your goals in mind. You want to come across as a professional company with fair policies and practices. Your tone must be very friendly and professional, with no attitude at all.
- Write about facts only. Specify dates and figures, as well as email or phone communication that may have occurred between your company and the customer. It is better to stay away from negative comments about the customer, no matter how rude they may have been to you or your staff. Mention all of the times you contacted the customer and tried to make it right.
- Be brief. We’ve all seen those defensive business owners whose response sounds angry and rambles, complaining about the customer. Don’t be that person. Tell your side of the story and be as concise and friendly as possible.
- Check the tone. Before you post it, have someone else like your spouse or your friend read your response for tone. Make sure you come across as nice and professional. Never write anything that sounds emotional or accusatory. Trust me, their response will come back ten times worse and you will be in a hole that’s hard to get out of. It’s not worth it, no matter how strongly you feel about it. This is your chance to show how thoughtful your business is and how you treat customers with utmost care and respect.
What about older reviews?
One of our new clients had some mixed reviews from the past few years on their Yelp site. So the question came up: Should we respond to old bad reviews or let it be? In this case, my answer was YES. They had purchased the business a couple of years back. We wrote a message that explained the business was under new ownership with new people and new policy. We invited them to give us another chance. That answer was personalized and posted in response to all the negative and neutral reviews. We wrote a different Thank You message for positive reviews.
People understand that things happen and business transactions don’t always go perfectly or smoothly. As long as your company is doing the right thing, responding to customers and “being nice,” that’s all that matters to most people. They know that haters will always be haters.
Again, your best bet is to have the negative review removed altogether so that it does not lower your overall star rating, online reputation or SEO ranking. But if you’ve done everything you can and you cannot get the negative review removed, then respond to it in a personal, authentic, positive and professional manner.
While you’re at it, leave a nice reply for all the people who left your business positive reviews. Those are the people that recommend your business and help your business grow. They are the ones that deserve to be thanked and rewarded. Don’t take them for granted. They are your biggest fans and will be happy to hear from you. I think I will write a blog on how to leverage positive reviews for marketing. Let me know if that would be of value to you guys.
Responding to negative reviews is part of the larger reputation management that is so important to online companies, as well as local shops. Consumers can talk about your business on many different platforms. It is important to engage with them in a timely manner on the social media or platform that they use. I hope you found this article helpful. Share your negative review experiences with me by commenting below. I’d love to hear from you.