How to Deal with Negative Online Reviews

Bad Reviews Can Have Dire Consequences For Your Business

5 Steps to Turning a Bad Review into an Opportunity for Your Business

Ratings and reviews are becoming increasingly critical for building a successful online presence.  However, you are not going to like everything that your customers have to say.  When an unhappy customer writes a negative or hostile review on a site such as Yelp, it can have extremely detrimental effects on a business. People that write negative reviews are known as detractors, since their bad reviews can easily deter customers from your business.

Many businesses get it right, and when a negative review published, the company does whatever it takes to correct the situation and get the detractor back on their side. However, in a natural defensive reaction, many business owners respond to negative reviews with an aggressive retort or ignore it outright.  Although the customer may not always be one hundred percent correct in their accusation, ignoring their claim or responding with a rude comment in a public forum is a quick way to damage your company’s reputation.

The key to dealing with detractors is to remember that your response determines whether the review helps or hurts your business.  If you choose not to respond, then the damage is done. If you decide to post a rude comment back or call the customer a liar, you have doubled the damage (or worse).  However, if you respond in a respectful way and remedy the situation, then you prove that you care about customer satisfaction and are willing to deal with problems head on. These five steps will help you deal with detractors in a way that allows you to turn a negative comment into a positive opportunity for your business.

  1. Research the facts. Collect as much information as possible and make sure that you have a firm understanding of what went wrong before you contact the detractor.  Find out the details of what happened from the people involved and keep an open mind to both sides of the argument.
  2. Correct the problem. Figure out if the problem requires an actual change in your business (i.e. changing suppliers for a product with frequent complaints) or if it was just an isolated incident (i.e. one of your employees had an off day and didn’t handle a problem properly).  Speak with the individuals involved for their input on how the situation should be addressed.  Once you understand how the problem could have been avoided, take the necessary steps to prevent it from happening in the future.
  3. Apologize. Contact the detractor as soon as you have all of the facts and have figured out a solution.  Provide a thoughtful and sincere apology before you explain how you have addressed the situation. Be very clear about what you are apologizing for and take full responsibility without making excuses. Many people simply want their complaint to be acknowledged, so by contacting the dissatisfied customer and recognizing their bad experience, you may be giving them what they really want.
  4. Make it right. After you have apologized and explained how the problem has been addressed, extend an offer to make it right.  Depending on the severity of the situation, the remedy may be as simple as refunding their money back or it may require a more complex solution. Whether making it right requires a free meal or a free vacation, the cost is nothing compared to the price of losing customers because of a negative online review.
  5. Recognize the opportunity. When you follow these steps, it reflects positively on your customer service standards, problem solving abilities, and willingness to address a problem head-on.  This is an opportunity to demonstrate in a public forum that you care deeply about customer satisfaction, and are willing to go the extra mile to turn a detractor into a happy customer.

There is no shortage of consumers looking to voice their opinions online through ratings and reviews. Protect your business and decrease the opportunity for bad reviews by running the best business you can, and making sure that your staff understands the importance of meeting customer expectations from start to finish. When a bad review does happen (which it will), always respond in a way that reflects positively on you and your business.

How have online reviews had an effect on your business?


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