How to Handle Negative Reviews Online

5 years ago  •  By  •  0 Comments

No business enjoys finding negative reviews on social media or customer review sites, but the fact is, it is likely to happen. In the current digital landscape, for better or worse, everyone has a voice. Your customers talk, take pictures, interact with others, and create positive or negative buzz about their experiences with your business to make that voice heard. In the worst-case scenarios, their feedback may not be remotely true. With a quick visit to Yelp, TripAdvisor, OpenTable, or any social media sites and you can read opinion after opinion of your business. Likely, there will be plenty of positive reviews, but what should you do when the inevitable negative reviews come in?

It’s important to remember that negative feedback is not personal. That’s easy to know but can be difficult to truly understand. Why? Because your business is yours and that makes negative feedback feel very personal. In reality, it’s anything but. The reviewer is responding to their experiences with your business just as they would with any other business; this is not a reflection of you as a person. Put yourself in the role of a customer–when you go to a business and have a bad experience, that does not necessarily reflect on the owners or managers, right? It is simply a reflection of the experience you had when you were in the business, potentially dealing with other people entirely. Now, your first reaction may be to ignore it, delete it, or even challenge the reviewer to an online duel, but that will only compound the damage.

The only thing you can do is acknowledge your customer’s negative experience. You cannot know how they felt–you can only know what they’ve said, but you can understand that their experience was real for them. Then, offer an apology and a solution. This sends a message that “We hear you and value our customers. We will fix this immediately!” This sentiment allows you to rescue a negative experience while simultaneously creating an opportunity to turn a disgruntled customer into an evangelist for your business. This customer obviously has some sense of loyalty to your business or brand, if they’ve spent their money with you, taken the time to write a review, “liked” your Facebook page, and/or followed you on on other social media platforms. The simple act of writing a review indicates a need to be acknowledged for their contribution to the overall experiences with your business or brand.

Does the timing of your response matter? Well, they’ve had an unpleasant experience and just want to know that they’ve been listened to and that you will make things right. Not addressing the problem in a timely manner–less than 24 hours–gives the appearance that you don’t “get it” and, worse, that you don’t care.

It is easy to forget that handling complaints via social platforms is the same as dealing with a disgruntled customer in person, only with higher stakes, since your online customer has a much wider platform from which to be seen and heard. If a customer is in front of you with a complaint, you wouldn’t think of ignoring them, walking away from them, or simply apologizing without offering a resolution. This approach is also not acceptable via social media.

When you deal with negative feedback and complaints effectively, disgruntled customers will tell their friends how awesome your business or brand is and what great customer service you offer. And they’ll encourage their friends to buy from you. They have now become an evangelist for your business or brand. That’s powerful (and free) marketing! You’ve established brand loyalty and trust to a greater degree than you would’ve had if there had never been a complaint.

Just remember that no matter how great you think your business or brand is, mistakes will happen; customers will get upset and complain. With the growth of social media & review platforms, your customers now expect to be able to lodge these complaints – and get resolutions – via these networks. You should think of it as an opportunity to prove how fantastic your business is…or not.  The choice is yours!

If you’re interested in learning more about how to maximize your digital marketing efforts for your small business, as well as bring in more positive reviews and increase your user base, contact us or reach out to us on Facebook!