Running a business does not automatically mean that you automatically know everything there is to know about digital marketing. Even your marketing team or online community manager doesn’t have all the answers and sometimes mistakes are made. In the last two decades, the prominence of online reviews has risen from an internet fad to an integral part of all modern industry from the Google Business ratings of brick-and-mortar venues to product reviews on eCommerce websites. Officially, reviews are by the customers and for customers to help people figure out which is the best company, service, and product for them based on the previous experiences of others. But what do you do about negative reviews?
Negative reviews are a challenge that all businesses face and not everyone manages to handle the issue in a smooth and admirable manner. In the past 20 years, there have been serious blunders. Fortunately, we have the opportunity to learn from these mistakes of the past when it comes to the right response to negative reviews.
1) Don’t Ignore the Review
Many businesses have no idea what to do about a negative review. Your first few can come as a shock and it’s not unusual to feel like responding to the negative review will only legitimize the complaint. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, an ignored negative review is seen by others as the equivalent to a customer standing in the middle of your store being ignored as they try to ask associates for help.
Always respond to a negative review, even if you don’t want to. The best way to do this is to provide a friendly, apologetic message. Even if your company did nothing wrong, apologize for the bad experience the reviewer must have had and offer to make it right through your customer service channels.
2) Don’t Get Defensive
No matter how unreasonable (or unrelated to your services) a complaint may be, never show any anger or defensiveness in your responses. Just like dealing with customers in person, the more friendly and neutral you can be with irate customers, the better.
Yes, customers can be belligerent, unreasonable, and negative reviews often blame the company for a clients mistake. However, in the review realm, “The Customer is Always Right” should be adhered to, at least in tone and approach if not in fact. Keep your responses apologetic and conciliatory, as this is the best way to possibly turn an unhappy customer into a happy one with a much nicer edited review
3) Don’t Respond to Pure Abuse
Some negative reviews aren’t really about your product, company, or services at all. Sometimes people are just out to be mean and are looking to hurt some feelings. In the internet social circles, this is known as ‘trolling’ and common wisdom suggests that you steer clear.
If a customer’s review is nothing but irrelevant profanity or insults without any actual complaint you can resolve, these you are free to ignore as they’re not real reviews. Chances are, if you did engage the abusive review would take this as an opportunity to spew more unrelated vitriol. Your best bet is to report the review as abuse on your platform or bury it in positive reviews to get it off your front page.
If there is something like a real complaint in the abusive message, consider one polite boilerplate customer service response inviting the reviewer to seek assistance on an official channel.
4) Don’t Get Lured Into an Argument
Whether a reviewer is actively trolling or is simply mad enough about a bad experience to be looking for a fight, do not get into any kind of argument over a review. Reviews are not worth arguing about and customers who are wrong shouldn’t be argued with. A vicious back-and-forth is bad for any brand and you don’t want to get caught in a public bad interaction.
Go with the old customer service standard: Politely state the truth, offer to help if you can, and back away carefully if the customer doesn’t want to be helped. If you offer assistance and get nothing but unpleasantness in return, avoid engagement.
5) Don’t Hand Out Compensation Like Candy
One of the biggest mistakes in the industry is also something that has become standard policy when dealing with negative reviews: Compensation goodies. It is absolutely worth your while to try and turn around a negative review by replacing an item or offering a compensatory discount on their next service.
Prompt delivery of replacement parts can turn a bad review back into 5 Stars. But do not offer coupons, free items, or other forms of valuable compensation unless the customer has a real verifiable complaint. Otherwise, you will get reamed by scammers who will post bad reviews in order to get your compensatory gift bag.
6) Don’t Get Caught in a Review Bomb
Speaking of underhanded reviewing tactics, watch out for reivew bombing. It has recently become popular to get a bunch of friends together and trash one business, product, or Steam game for no particular reason. If you ever find yourself looking at a wall of inexplicable negative reviews, you have probably been review bombed. Do not let this stand. Contact the review platform and let them know. Most platforms will be more than happy to clear out the fake reviews, as this is essentially the negative equivalent of businesses buying positive reviews which is also against the rules and the spirit of the reviewing tradition.
Negative reviews can be hard to deal with but with the right attitude and an understand of how it can be done wrong, you should be able to quickly and easily handle most negative reviews and avoid the trap-reviews designed to make you look bad. As long as you are always friendly, helpful, and thankful for positive reviews, the few negative reviews you can’t turn around will be quickly drowned out. For more tips and ideas on digital marketing for small businesses, contact us today!