They Said What?! 5 Tips for Responding to Negative Reviews About Your Business
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The term “word of mouth” has changed with the introduction of the Internet. Small mistakes made by a business in the past would have spread to only a handful of people that the consumer knew. Today, one can share their experience with countless others online. Since no one is immune to negative reviews, it’s important to know what to do when it happens to you.
The importance of reviews has never been higher. According to a 2014 study by Bright Local, 88% of potential customers read reviews to determine the quality of a local business. Also, 67% of consumers say they read up to 6 reviews before they feel they can trust the business.
A question we get from a lot of our customers is how to remove negative reviews. As business owners, they worry about their online reputation. Although they might not enjoy the answer, the truth is that negative reviews are here to stay. Shift your efforts from trying to take them down to learning how to respond to them.
1. Calm down and rejoice that you received a negative review
I am serious. I believe that reviews are great opportunities just waiting for you. You have an upset customer who put your business into the spotlight. This is an opportunity for you to explain your culture, purpose, and commitment to your customers for others to see. You get some attention and for free!
You are likely thinking there isn’t much you can do if someone leaves a bad review. Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, created what he calls the 90/10 principle. “10% of life is made up of what happens to you and 90% of life is decided by how you react.” I use this approach to reviews. A consumer leaving a negative review is only 10% of the review, the other 90% is how you react to it.
Take Frontier Airlines as an example. They get reviews about once a week. Most are negative but none have been responded to. These are missed opportunities. Think of how they could show the other viewers of these reviews how they are professionally and politely handling these reviews.
Online reviewers can be harsh, often more harsh than they would be in person. Many business owners feel personally attacked when someone leaves a negative review for their business. Before you get started in writing a review make sure you are not responding angrily. It is good practice to give yourself time to cool down before you write a review. Remember that this review is an opportunity for your business to be in the spotlight and should be approached that way.
2. Learn what you can about the reviewer and their concerns
Identify the reviewer and learn all you can about their experience using your CMS, invoices, receipts and any other avenues available to you. Regardless of the legitimacy of their complaint, they are a real person and have presented this opportunity to you. What service or product did they receive from you? Were there any issues or glitches on your side?
Most bad reviews are meant only to be one sided. Reviewers intentionally leave out certain pieces to prove a point. Use their review and all the information gathered to try and understand the customer’s point of view.
Below is an example of a roofing company that didn’t do their research before responding and it makes them look unorganized and unprofessional. (Blue highlighted section)
Taking this step can teach you a lot about your business and practices. In these cases it doesn’t matter who is right or wrong, mostly because the customer is always right. At this point you want to identify with the customer and develop a level of sympathy for them.
3. Be brief
Your responses don’t have to be novels. In fact, it is better to have a short response than a long one. Future and existing customers are reading your comments. Although negative reviews can be long, you should be brief and concise while still providing value. The last thing you want is consumers to have a bad experience reading your review. Or worse, not fully reading through your reply because it is too long.
Below is an example of a review that is perfectly short. It shows that the company cares about the issue and is willing to help resolve it.
The only thing this example is missing is an apology which brings us to our next point:
Apologizing is one of the most important aspects of replying to a negative review. Remember that the customer is always right. An apology will go a long way for those reading your response. An apology doesn’t have to be big or long. It also doesn’t have to admit that you did something wrong (if in fact you didn’t). An apology is an example of the effort your business takes to satisfy it’s customers.
An apology should be the first thing you mention in your reply. Here is an example of a roofing company’s response to a bad review:
This is a great example as the customer complained about something and the company isn’t really wrong in their practice. They apologized and then explained the situation. In addition to saying “I apologize for the miscommunication” you can also say things like: “I am sorry you feel that way”, “I apologize you had a bad experience”, etc.
5. Be polite and don’t get defensive
Business owners often struggle with this. This is the most important aspect in your response and can often be the hardest. Our pride in our products or services should not cause us to be less polite than we should. Check out the below example of an auto mechanic that missed the mark in their response.
A reply to a review is not the time to educate the customer on general business practices…especially when it takes so long to explain. In addition don’t use capital letters, it comes across as you YELLING, which of course is not polite. If you have to put a caveat at the beginning of your message saying that you “don’t want to sound condescending” then it probably means that your message is condescending.
Responding to bad reviews is important. Remember that each is an opportunity for you to share your values with others. Follow each of the above steps and you have a chance at turning that bad review into a good experience.
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