Nobody likes to receive criticism, nor to be told that their work comes up short. When you’re a business owner, however, this is all part of the job. You may have customers express dissatisfaction to your face, but even more troublingly, you may have them air their grievances in a public forum, such as an online review site.
Negative reviews can lead to hurt feelings, but that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. When left unanswered, negative reviews can fester. They make your entire brand look weaker in the eyes of potential customers and can ultimately lead to a drop-off in your online reputation and even in your sales.
It’s important not only to carefully monitor your company’s online reviews, but to be ready to answer each one in an appropriate way. Here are a few principles that can help you as you deal with negative feedback.
Don’t Respond in Anger
The first thing to keep in mind is that, while negative reviews can make you look bad, that’s nothing compared to what an angry or ungracious response will do. If you fly off the handle and respond aggressively to a customer concern, that’s going to deepen and intensify your branding issues. Yes, online reviews can be aggravating, especially when you feel like you’re being unfairly maligned. Even so, it’s critical to take the time to cool down before typing a response.
Show That You Care
When you do type your response, the key is showing the customer that you really care about their concern. (Remember, you’re not just demonstrating your compassion to them, but to anyone else who happens to be scouring the review site for information.) Some ways to show that you care:
- Address the customer by their first name, if they provide it.
- Restate their complaint or concern, making it clear that you hear them and understand them.
- Offer an apology that they did not have a positive experience with your brand.
- Propose a solution, even if that solution is just connecting one-on-one so that you can talk further.
To this last point, it’s usually prudent to suggest an offline dialogue with your customer, allowing the two of you to come to an agreement without the entire Internet watching.
Look for Opportunities
Negative reviews can prompt an emotional response; that’s only natural. To the fullest extent possible, though, it’s worthwhile to step back and try to view your criticism objectively. Often what you’ll find is that your reviewer has done you a favor, showing you some ways where your team or your product could be improved. In other words, view each bad review as an opportunity to make your company a little better. This may not remove the sting of unfavorable feedback, but it can redeem it.
Provide a Channel for Private Communication
We mentioned before that it can be advantageous to invite your customer to speak with you privately. To make that happen, of course, you’ll need to furnish them with some contact information. In each review response, try to leave your name, your direct email address, and a direct phone line where your critic can talk with you further.
Make Amends (When You Can)
Ultimately, your goal shouldn’t just be to get the customer to stop complaining, but actually to show them some world-class service—completely changing their narrative about your brand. That means doing whatever is possible to make things right. Now, it’s important to understand that some people frankly just want to complain and may not really be appeasable, but most of your online critics will have real concerns that you can address. Offer amends, and sweeten the deal with extra value whenever you can—for example, discounts or savings on future orders, etc.
Highlight the Positives
A final tip is that, when customers point out the things that are wrong with your business, you can seize the opportunity to point out all the things that are right. For example, if a customer comes to you with a bad experience, use it as a chance to publicly acknowledge your high standards of customer service, to remind everyone of your mission statement and value proposition, and to reiterate the things that make your business unique.
Stay on Top of Your Negative Reviews
There’s clearly much to consider as you deal with various forms of online feedback. But all of it means nothing if you don’t keep one eye on your online mentions at all times. To that end, we recommend business owners look into review platforms, which allow them to receive alerts when new ones are posted and to respond expediently.
That’s something we’re ready to talk with you about; reach out to enCOMPASS any time you have questions about online reviews—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Call us today and let’s chat about some potential solutions.
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