How To Respond To Negative Online Reviews

Unhappy customers are going to happen, it’s the nature of any business.  You can’t please everyone.  And with that, negative online reviews are likely to happen at some point.  This isn’t necessarily a reflection of the business as many times, the only people passionate enough to take the time to post an online review are the ones that had a bad experience.people-hate-us-on-yelp

There are 3 things potential customers are going to look at when they read negative online reviews:

  1. Percentage of negative online reviews compared to positive online reviews
  2. If the negative online reviews depict a reoccurring theme/problem
  3. How the negative online reviews were responded to

One or two negative online reviews among a multitude of positive online reviews, is not only acceptable in customers’ eyes, but also adds to the legitimacy of the reviews.  The majority of people understand the concept discussed earlier, you can’t please everyone, and when the happy customers have the louder voice, potential customers feel as if they can trust the business.

If multiple, negative, online reviews reference the same problem, those reviews appear to be legitimate.  In this case, as a business owner, you need to look into this and make the necessary changes, if applicable.  Some complaints, such as the amount of time it takes to remodel a house, can be taken with a grain of salt, as typically everyone wants the projects to go by as quickly as possible. But multiple complaints about the sales man’s technique, might require updated training and procedures.

It is very important to respond to online reviews, especially negative ones.   This does not translate to getting into a back and forth, digital, argument, but you should respond the same way you should in person.  If a customer was to come up to you and share their awful experience, would you just walk away and ignore them or maybe become defensive and attack their credibility? Hopefully, not.  According to Shama Kabani, author of The Zen of Social Media Marketing and CEO of The Marketing Zen Group, “People are not looking for perfection online. What they’re really looking for is humanity and a genuine response, so a negative review can be a great opportunity to respond in a positive and transparent manner.”  This can be an opportunity to show who you are and how you run your business which is an excellent way to win customers over.

Actionable Steps:

  1. Take a breather. Don’t react in haste, instead, stop and think about the feedback, the situation, and everyone one that might read that review and your response. Emotional responses will not win customers over, but honest, thought out responses are far more, positively, impactful.
  2. Time is of the essence. While you should take a breather and step back, don’t be silent.  Urgency shows the level of priority you make customer experiences and feedback.
  3. This isn’t necessarily admitting wrong doing, but acknowledging that the customer had a bad experience and apologizing for that happening can go a long way.
  4. Take action. In your response, include specifics about their complaint/experience and mention the action you are going to take.  This emphasizes your priority of these matters and that the complaint did not go unnoticed. The response can be generic such as, “I will follow up with the crew today to get to the bottom of this and ensure it does not happen again.” Or specific, for example, “Our estimates will now include a full description of the possible fees that can be incurred.”
  5. Take action! These responses are very important and should be taken serious, even after the online review is responded to. Look into all complaints.  Typically, if one person had that experience, there are several others that you may have lost their business as they did not give you the chance to fix the problem by giving you feedback.

Again, treat online reviews as face-to-face feedback; respond quickly, genuinely, and professionally. At some point, you will have to deal with negative feedback, and use it as an opportunity for both growth, and marketing!

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