Negative reviews are a fact of life – and they’re more visible now than ever.
First, some good news about negative reviews.
If you had to choose, you wouldn’t pick a negative review in your Christmas stocking. Believe it or not, though, there’s actually an upside to getting a few negative reviews:
People Expect to See Negative Reviews (Really!)
The more savvy your customers are about the web, the more suspicious they’ll be of endless perfect reviews. Ecommerce platforms are packed with “perfect” products that turn out to be disappointments. Their flawless scores don’t help people make buying choices.
In short, a smattering of negative reviews shows you’re not gaming the system.
Shh: Some Reviewers Are Just Jerks.
Restaurants in particular know that some patrons love leaving lengthy, spite-filled reviews for the strangest reasons. Look at your favorite bistro and you’ll probably find at least one person who said the food was fine, but gave a 2/5 score because Coke was available instead of Pepsi.
Most people reading these reviews will side with you, so don’t lose sleep over them!
Negative Reviews Can Turn Into a Positive.
Nobody is perfect: That’s as true of business owners as everyone else. Yes, you will make some actual mistakes running your website (or any other business.) But, sometimes, if you face up to them and treat your customers the way they deserve, mistakes can actually work out in your favor.
Lots of people feel wary when they first check out a new company. They don’t know what kind of customer service they’re going to get – and if something goes wrong, they don’t know if it’ll be made right. Working to resolve a problem shows you care about your customers.
That can make a bigger impression than getting it right the first time.
And that, in turn, can inspire brand loyalty you wouldn’t have otherwise.
The 4 Best Ways to Deal With a Negative Review
1. First, Publish That Review.
First and foremost, don’t be tempted to hide your negative reviews. Publishing them not only gives you the benefits we talked about above, but also provides a public forum so others can see you in action. Your professionalism and tact will speak for your brand in a big way.
Transparency is one of the keys to making a negative review a learning experience.
For third-party sites like Yelp, all your reviews will be visible by default. In fact, many such sites insist on publishing all reviews: If you encounter any that you know are shady, you’ll have to escalate it to the customer service team for help, but this is relatively rare.
What about your own review collection?
If you’re using software such as PowerReviews to facilitate review collection, consult your documentation and determine how to process and display your reviews effectively. Try not to wait longer than 24 hours to plan and post your response to poor feedback.
The only reviews you shouldn’t post are those with threats or other sensitive materials. If you feel like any law has been broken – or might be broken – don’t hesitate to reach out to the authorities for help. It could make the difference in keeping your team and customers safe.
2. Respond to Negative Reviews with Personalized Feedback.
We’ve all been to an online help desk where it was obvious the person on the other side of the screen was tapping out buttons to produce whole pre-written responses. While automation is efficient for those who use it, it doesn’t create a whole lot of confidence in customer service!
When you respond to a negative review, make sure every aspect is personalized:
- Acknowledge the specific problem and the user’s feelings about it.
- Don’t be defensive – remember, most reviewers act in good faith.
- Offer constructive suggestions to prevent or resolve the problem.
- Take concrete action to keep the problem from happening again.
Speaking of which ...
3. Use Bad Reviews to Fuel Better Service.
Every month, you should collect your bad reviews and perform a review ... of reviews.
While some negative feedback is just sour grapes, most comments will have a grain of truth you can use. The challenge is figuring out how you can translate comments into something you can take specific action on.
Let’s use one of the most common examples out there: A restaurant.
A reviewer might say the food they received was cold, and that sure sounds like it took too long to get to the table. But, unless you have more detailed information, you won’t be able to figure out if this is a process problem you can address or a one-time fluke.
Always try to figure out the exact day and time (or shift) where a problem took place. Then you can reconstruct the surrounding circumstances even if the reviewer is less than helpful.
A restaurant owner might find that a problem took place when someone was out sick and the team was short-handed. While this doesn’t mean service as a whole is bad, it might suggest you should look at your scheduling and staffing policies to see what could be made better.
In general, every piece of negative feedback will offer you at least one nugget of wisdom.
4. Follow Up With the Review Poster.
Naturally, you won’t necessarily be able to post every detail of the action you plan to take on a review site. However, you can always follow up with the reviewer to offer them a resolution.
That can be as simple as inviting them to discuss the problem with someone who can help. It’s often the case that people feel much better once they have a chance to speak their mind. The sooner that happens, the more it changes their opinion.
Of course, you have the option of offering a coupon or other incentive. If your reviewer ran into some genuine errors in service, it’s best to make amends. At the very least, this will create an incentive to come back and give you another try.
Don’t Fear the Review, Use It!
Review anxiety is a real thing. Once confined to creative types like writers and artists, it’s now a fact of life for everyone who runs a business. Sole proprietors and entrepreneurs are more likely to feel like a sharply-worded review is a personal attack.
Remember, the review isn’t all about you!
Customers rarely think about the people “behind the curtain” when they write a review.
Yes, you should take each review seriously and strive to do even better. But don’t let online reviews get to you. It’s the nature of the web that some people will say things in a review they feel is anonymous that they would never say in person.
- Be tactful: No matter what gets said, be polite – your reply will be on the web forever.
- Be discerning: Sort reviews fast into “helpful” and “not helpful” piles after you read.
- Be proactive: Start taking action on the most meaningful negative reviews right away.
Let these three points guide you and you’ll get all the benefits you can from negative feedback with none of the worry. Then, your positive reviews will have even more to rave about.