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A Step-by-Step Guide to Dealing With Negative Reviews

No matter how you choose to run your business, it is inevitable that at some point or another, you will experience the tough situation of getting a negative online review. Negative reviews are inevitable in business. They are part of the game.

Unhappy customers, disgruntled employees and even unscrupulous competitors can hit your brand with harsh comments and online reviews. And, no matter how great your products and services, there will usually be at least one unhappy customer that take it upon themselves to leave a negative online review.

Generally, users expect to see a few negative reviews. In fact, the existence of a few negative reviews can make some people trust the positive reviews more, because they know they weren’t manufactured.

There will always be something about the way you have chosen to run your business that certain individuals will not like. This is why it is important to always monitor the review sites where you are listed so that when a negative comment is received, you are able to respond, and quickly.

Impact of Poor Reviews on Small Businesses

One study has found that a single negative review can cost a business up to 30 customers, and 39% of people would change their minds about a purchase after reading 3 bad online reviews.

However, no matter how bad the review, it would be a mistake to respond immediately when you are probably still feeling pretty emotional about the review. Give yourself 24 hours to respond, and always respond professionally.

Don’t be tempted not to respond at all. Not responding could give the indication that you simply do not care about that unhappy customer’s concern. When you do respond, show the world that you care by responding in a positive and professional manner.

The way you respond to a bad review will tell a prospective customer more about you than the person leaving the review, and may actually turn a negative review into a positive outcome.

No matter how negative a review, it is important not to take it personally. Treat it as constructive criticism or feedback.

The truth is, unless the review is purely motivated by malice or jealousy or is an outright fabrication, most negative reviews have some basis in fact, even if they are exaggerated. So, if the negative review is warranted, thank the customer and apologize for the bad experience.

Welcome negative business reviews an opportunity to show the world how you actually run your business by responding in a manner that is friendly, professional, genuine and in line with your policies and guidelines.

Being able to deal with the negative comments that you receive will also help you develop a reputation as a friendly, caring, helpful, knowledgeable and transparent individual and business.

If you receive a negative review, do not argue with the reviewer. Yes, a negative review can decrease your online reputation. However, you will only make it worse by picking a fight with the reviewer. Arguing with an unhappy customer may lead to them spreading even more negativity about your company, which could lead to even more chaos.

On the other hand, giving a positive response shows that you are open to criticism, willing to hear what the reviewer has to say, and willing to correct the problem. By responding in a positive manner, you will also encourage positivity from other customers.

Here are ten ways to deal with negative reviews should they occur.

negative review infographic
Negative Review Infographic


Monitor Your Online Reviews

You need to know what customers are saying about your business and where they are talking about you. Setup Google Alerts so that you can monitor what is being said about you, your business, and your product or service so that you can respond appropriately. Use your review listing’s URL as the entry for the “Create an alert about…” Be sure to choose to be notified “as it happens”. Claim your listings page if you haven’t already done so.

Focus On Sources that Drive Traffic To Your Sites

It is not practical to monitor the entire web for every mention of your business, so focus your resources on places that actually drive traffic to your website.

Respond Promptly

When you discover a negative review, act quickly by acknowledging the review with a short response. Since negative reviews can sting, avoid giving a detailed response until you are in a much better frame of mind. For now, simply thank the reviewer for trying out your product or service and taking the time to leave a review.

Empathise With The Reviewer

Empathise with the reviewer by saying that you are really sorry that they did not enjoy the experience with your company. Explain that you’re currently looking into the matter so that it never happens again because customer service is a top priority with your company. Promise to return with a more detailed response as soon as you have completed your investigation into what happened.

Keep Everything Open & Transparent

Be sure to keep everything in the open so that the world can see what you did to resolve the problem. This will leave a positive impression on other prospective customers, letting them know that you really do care about customer satisfaction.

If the review is fraudulent, take action by flagging it. Respond to the review by indicating that it is fraudulent and has been flagged. Keep in mind that you will have to present your case to the moderator who will have the power to remove the review.

Request That Reviews With Profanity Or Personal Attacks Be Removed

If a review contains inappropriate language such as profanity or personal attacks, it is acceptable to get it removed. Inappropriate language is a violation of most reviews sites. Most popular review sites like Google My Business and Yelp have a flagging system that can get inappropriate or fraudulent reviews removed.

So, if you don’t have the power to delete reviews, notify the moderator. It is imperative that you have a policy if you choose to delete content at your own discretion.

After you have deleted the review, you can send a private message to the other party explaining why you have done so, and include a link to your guidelines.

If a review contains information that is inaccurate or incorrect, do not delete it. The author may simply be misinformed. If you just delete or ignore the comment and don’t respond, it will appear as though you’re trying to sweep it under the rug, and the misconception could spread and escalate.

Moreover, your community may have seen the post. If you don’t respond and promptly, it would appear as though you are arrogant or unconcerned about customer support, which can be detrimental to the online reputation of your brand. So, be proactive in educating the disgruntled customer. You can respond thus: “Thank you, but the more accurate information is…”

Engage The Reviewer

If a review contains information that is inaccurate or incorrect, do not delete it as the author may simply be misinformed. If you just delete or ignore the comment and don’t respond, it will appear as though you’re trying to sweep it under the rug, and the misconception could spread. If you don’t respond and promptly, it would appear as though you are arrogant or unconcerned about customer support.

If the author is clearly irate but is in the wrong, engage with him or her by using wording that diffuses their anger such as: “I hear what you are saying…”, or “I understand how you must feel about this…”, or “I can understand your frustration…” or “I am sorry that you feel that way…”, and then state your position.

When addressing the author, be sure to use their title and surname rather than their first name until you have built some rapport with the individual.

If the review has an element of truth or a mistake was clearly made on your part, respond and correct the situation quickly, offering some solutions. You could use words such as “I value all our customer opinions, and I am glad you have pointed this out to us. Here is how we plan to proceed on this…”

By being truthful and honest, you build up integrity and trust in your organization. Once you have resolved the problem, you can ask the author to remove or edit the review at their discretion to reflect the outcome.

Do Not Get Too Personal

When addressing the author, be sure to use their title and surname rather than their first name unless you have already built some rapport with the individual. Some people might get offended if you use their first name when you don’t know them personally.

Encourage Customer Reviews

Reviews are vital for reassuring prospective customers and increasing sales, so encourage your customers to leave reviews by asking for feedback. Make it as easy as possible for customers to leave a review. Don’t incentivise customers by offering a discount or reward to everyone who leaves a positive review.

Share All Your Reviews

Be sure to share both your negative and positive reviews. Prospective customers expect to see a few negative reviews and may become suspicious if every review about your business is positive. As contradictory as it sounds, negative reviews can add a layer of credibility to your business, rather than diminish it.

Get advice on how to rebuild your small business after a reputation blow.

Dealing with Positive Reviews

A lot has been written on how to deal with negative reviews. But knowing how to deal with positive reviews is sometimes just as important.

When you receive a positive review, it is important to acknowledge the customer who wrote the review. This will demonstrate that you truly value the opinions of your customers. This will make them feel happier and engaged with your brand. This also presents the perfect opportunity for you to connect with these customers.

Fake Positive Reviews

As a small business owner, maybe you’ve felt desperate to build positive customer reviews on the various online review sites. Whatever you do, be ethical about it. Posting fake reviews in order to enhance your company’s reputation is wrong and doesn’t work in your favour.

Not only that, consumers today are much smarter than that and can usually tell a genuine review vs. a bogus one. This only hurts your reputation – it really doesn’t help at all. If your potential customers – or even existing customers for that matter – sense that you are creating and posting fake reviews, they will run the other way. They will wonder what else is “fake” about your company and avoid you at all costs.

Believe it or not, there are ethical ways to build your online reputation, which will result in better customer relationships, as well as a surge in new customers. For instance, you can simply start asking your happy customers to leave “real” reviews. If your company is providing the level of quality and service that your patrons expect, this should be an easy task.

Most people today don’t mind going online to post a review of companies that they are satisfied with, although it does take a little more work sometimes. People are quick to go online and post reviews when they’re not happy, but if you simply ask your happy customers, they are likely to post a review as well.

Creativity and very deep thinking are necessary when it comes to motivating your customers to leave genuine reviews – faking it is just not worth it. In fact, it could cause the opposite effect, which is the last thing you want.

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