Your business’s reputation is everything. Not only is it how potential customers are finding you, it largely influences whether or not they’ll give your business a chance. Having a beautiful website and social media posts that speak to how great your business is doesn’t carry as much weight as when your customers are the ones sharing their experiences, particularly if that includes a negative review.
The more you focus on building your online reputation, the better off your business will be in both the short and the long run! A higher quantity and frequency of reviews means higher credibility which ultimately means more clicks for your business. The flip side to focusing on gathering more reviews, however, is that the more reviews you get, odds are you WILL receive a negative review once in awhile. But we’re here to tell you it’s not the end of the world! Or, at least it doesn’t have to be if you’ve been building a solid reputation.
So, when is the worst time to receive a negative review, and how can I avoid that scenario? How can I respond to a negative review appropriately? What’s the best case scenario for a resolution of a negative review? We’re answering all of these questions below, so let’s get into it.
When is the worst time to receive a negative review?
At first, you might think, “Always! Why would I ever want a negative review left about my business?” Ok, sure, we aren’t saying you should be hoping for a negative review. Our point is that in a lot of scenarios, a negative review doesn’t mean you should panic, but there is a particular scenario where a negative review is a huge cause for concern — when you have very few total reviews.
It’s a game of averages when it comes to your overall star rating. Someone with dozens and dozens of positive reviews can get a terrible, 1-star review and it will hardly make a dent in their overall rating. Although you should still respond to it (as we’ll discuss below), your overall score will bounce back quickly. But having just a few reviews and receiving a 1-star review will drop your rating significantly, forcing you to go into damage control. It will take multiple new positive reviews to help make up the difference. Don’t ever find yourself caught off guard in this type of situation!
Avoiding that situation comes down to being proactive about gathering new reviews consistently, and engaging with those reviews, so consumers know you take their experience seriously.
How to respond appropriately to a negative review
Although human instinct is to fight back against someone who is attacking you (in this case, a verbal, online attack), it is of utmost importance that you don’t fire back in defense, or try to turn it on them for why they had this poor experience.
It’s very possible that this review was not warranted. That their perceived negative experience was actually the result of something they did. Whatever the reason may be, you’ll follow the the same guidelines to respond in a way that diffuses the situation rather than escalating it into a back and forth comment war on the review site for everyone to see.
Step back for a minute
The first thing you need to do is to take a moment, a few hours, or even a day (but not much longer than that!) to make sure what you respond with isn’t coming from a defensive or emotional posture.
Be kind & apologize
As you’re crafting your response, make sure you are being kind, apologetic and understanding of their feelings. You don’t need to fall on your sword necessarily, but you can easily disarm someone by letting them know you’re sorry they had this experience and that you understand their frustration. People want to feel heard, and letting them know that can help bring their anger or their guard down.
Get honest about your business
Now this next suggestion is something you can only implement if you actually believe and have seen it to be true about your business. We like to apply the old saying, “You can’t put lipstick on a pig,” to businesses that want to take their reputation seriously. If you have bad business practices, horrible customer service and/or a terrible product, focusing on reviews ultimately won’t help you. The truth WILL come out.
However, if the details in this negative review actually aren’t the norm, you can acknowledge that in a way that builds your business up (rather than tearing the reviewer down!). Something along the lines of, “We take pride in our ability to provide excellent service and a happy customer experience, and while it sounds like we didn’t get it right this time, we hope you’ll let us try to win you over!”
Take it offline
Finally, offer to take the situation offline by providing contact information for someone who would be happy to talk it through with them. Like we mentioned earlier, you don’t want to start a negative comment thread for the whole world to see. As much as this interaction is between you and an unhappy customer, it is also an advertisement to anyone else looking on about the experience they might be subject to if they choose to do business with you. Let’s make sure they see it will be a positive one!
What happens next?
Every situation is different, but there are a few things that could happen next.
The best case scenario would be the reviewer modifying or updating their review to reflect how their situation was dealt with in a positive way. They’re giving your business a second chance, but are also essentially advertising for you with this update. You just turned a negative situation into a positive, money making experience. This is why you should ALWAYS follow up on a poor review, no matter what!
Alternatively, the issue might be cleared up, but the review will not always be updated. Don’t be surprised if this is the case! They may not be holding it against your business anymore, but they just don’t feel compelled or motivated to go back through the process.
As long as you followed our guidelines for how to respond to their negative review, anyone who sees the interaction will most likely give you the benefit of the doubt because you took the time to respond in a rational, sympathetic way. You’ve humanized your business, and that goes a long way with people! Also, if you’ve been taking your reputation management and marketing seriously, you know that there are dozens of other positive reviews that will make this one almost obsolete.
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes
You can’t go wrong if you take the approach of putting yourself in your customer’s shoes when it comes to all-things-reputation. Chances are, like your potential customers, you check out Google or Yelp reviews before staying at a hotel or using a new auto mechanic. Think about what you want to see before committing to visiting a new business. Similarly, if you leave a negative review, how would you want the business to respond to you? Most likely, you’re looking for an understanding response and an effort to make things right.
By following our guidelines above, learning from each experience and building up your overall rating, a negative review will just become a tiny bump in the road as you outshine all of your competitors!
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