As a small business owner, you have a lot of control over your business. You’re able to set your pricing, adjust and improve your operating costs, etc. One thing that you cannot control, however, is how people write about your business online. Yours could be the smoothest-running operation in the industry and still receive criticism. So how do you handle a negative online review? Luckily, there are steps you can take. If handled correctly, you can escape online negativity without doing any damage to your company’s reputation. Here are eight ways to deal with and fix negative online reviews.
Some may say, “Ignore the haters,” but when it comes to your business, you want everyone to know their voice will be heard, whether they give you a positive or negative online review.
Remember, the response is not just about you. Responding shows others that you take everyone’s opinion seriously. If someone is looking at an online review about your business and notices you only respond to the positive comments, they may think you don’t care what people have to say, or worse, that you are hiding something. Both options can make you look bad.
2. Respond Personally
Avoid using canned responses like “We are sorry your experience was unsatisfactory. Please contact us so we can help resolve the matter.” It sounds nice, but if every person gets this response, it’s obvious you’re not taking the time to consider the issue. Instead, respond to each person individually. Ask what specifically they did not like and what you could do to improve their experience next time. Or discuss measures that may be in place already that are being worked on to address any issues. A personal response like that will make your dissatisfied customer feel better (and, hopefully, give you another try). This type of response will also let other potential customers know you care about their concerns and will be there for them if they have a complaint.
3. Ask Customers to Leave a Review
It can be tempting to discourage or not promote customer reviews to minimize the chance of a bad one, but people are going to leave reviews either way. Since reviews, positive or negative, are inevitable, always encourage customers to rate your services or products.
Most reviews will be positive if you’re doing a good job, which means they will offset the negative ones. So even if someone is scrolling through and sees those less-than-desirable comments, the overwhelming responses will be in your favor. And these days, negative reviews are par for the course. As long as they don’t make up the majority and you respond well, customers should understand.
Don’t ask people to only leave positive reviews. It’s in bad taste, discouraged by most sites, and won’t give you an honest look at how customers perceive your business. Welcome all feedback — good and bad.
4. Get Your Employees Involved
Let your staff know about any negative (and positive) online reviews the company receives. They’re not monitoring the feedback as closely as you are, most likely. If reviews are positive, it will be a good morale booster to let them know they’re doing a good job. The negative online reviews will let employees know where the company as a whole can improve. Sharing reviews will also reinforce a “customer first” mentality.
5. Respond Kindly
Your business means a lot to you; it’s natural to want to be defensive when criticized. A negative response to a negative online review is not good for anyone, however. You will only make the unhappy poster even more upset; you’ll probably never get a chance to win back their business either. Plus, how will it look to others if you lash out at someone critical of your company?
A better option is to take a deep breath, collect your thoughts, and then put together a response. Explain your side without being defensive, and thank them for taking the time to give you their feedback.
6. Show Your Strengths
When you do respond, politely, to a negative online review, use it as an opportunity to highlight your company’s more positive attributes. This approach is a win-win for you and the customer; they get a personalized response, and you get to defend yourself by sharing the good your company does. Your response could look something like this:
“I am sorry you did not have a good experience. We serve X customers every day, and it is our mission to make sure they have an excellent shopping experience every time. Let’s work together to ensure that you have a better experience with us the next time and every time you do business with us.”
7. Set Up a One-on-One Dialogue
Responding to a negative online review is a good first step. To further address the issue, consider reaching out through a private message, too. You’ll be able to communicate in more detail about what the issues are, plus the customer might be more comfortable discussing the matter in private.
Remember, you’re trying to improve or remedy this person’s poor experience with your company. It’s up to you to make them feel comfortable discussing the issue.
8. Be Proactive Whenever Possible
You don’t have to wait until a negative online review reaches you directly. If you’re on social media and see a general complaint about your business, respond to that person’s post. This is not to say you should scour the internet looking for negative feedback about your business, but if you come across a comment, address it as soon as you can, before the feedback reaches too many eyes without a response.
You may not have control over what is said about your company, but you can control how you respond to it. Learning how to deal with and fix negative online reviews will help you go a long way toward controlling the dialogue about your company online. If you are apologetic, understanding, and prompt with your response, you can greatly increase the chances of the next review being a good one.