Nobody likes a bad review, but when you’re in business for yourself, you need to know how to respond to one. Even when you go out of your way to provide great customer service, negative reviews can happen in spite of your best efforts. Fortunately, you can blunt their negative impact with a well-timed, well-written response to customer feedback.
Online Reviews Matter
Businesses used to think that a personal recommendation was the gold standard for gaining a customer’s trust. It still is, but online reviews have quickly caught up.
The Nielsen Research firm found that 88% of consumers trust online ratings almost as much as they trust a personal recommendation from a friend or family member. The percentage jumps to 91% for those aged 18 to 34.
Top Five Tips for Dealing With Negative Feedback
1. What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You
The first thing you have to is know what you’re dealing with. Burying your head in the sand is not going to work when it comes to keeping track of your ratings.
You don’t have to spend hours searching for every mention of your company online. There are several tools that will search for you and let you know if there’s something you need to look at. Some of the most popular monitoring services are:
Google Alerts: Google Alerts searches articles, blog posts and review sites for mentions of your company name. With its huge SEO reach, this free service searches far and wide to find everything that people are saying about you.
Social Mention: This works similarly to Google Alerts but also includes social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. It’s a great way to track comments about your company that don’t show up on review sites. Social Mentions is free.
Reputology and Review Trackers are two services that search every review site online. They find mentions of your company, product or service on the major sites and lesser-known ones. These services each cost $29 a month.
2. Respond to Every Review
Responding to customer feedback is one of the most important things you can do.
A 2018 survey by the BrightLocal polling company found that 89% of people who read online ratings also read the company’s response to complaints.
Responding quickly and consistently is the key to handling customer ratings. If your customer writes a glowing review, be sure to thank them. Let them know how appreciative you are and promise to always maintain those standards.
Be Professional and Use a Standard Response
If the review is less than glowing, reassure the customer that you’re working on the issue that they rated negatively.
If a review is extremely negative, you may feel upset when you read it. You might think the customer is completely wrong or unreasonable—and you might be right. You can’t respond with anger, however, so take a moment to calm down. When you respond, be understanding and professional. Prepare a standard response that you can use in almost every situation.
Say something like, “I certainly understand why you were upset that this happened, and I would like to do what I can to remedy the situation. Here is what I’d like to do to remedy the situation,” and then lay it out.
You can also say something like, “Please feel free to email or phone me at your convenience.” When the person calls or emails, you should have a remedy handy, whether it’s a reimbursement or just the opportunity for them to air their grievances.
If the review is really negative but it isn’t something that can be remedied easily, many review sites give you the opportunity to respond privately to the reviewer. If the matter isn’t something you want to air on a public forum, this is a good option.
3. Always Apologize, Even If They’re Wrong
This is a tough one. It’s hard to apologize if you know you’re in the right and they’re in the wrong.
You need to remember that starting off with an apology doesn’t mean you agree with the customer’s rating. It’s just an acknowledgment that they’re upset and feel unheard. Starting with “I’m sorry” acknowledges their bad feelings without necessarily agreeing that they are entitled to feel that way.
If you are in the wrong, it’s even more important to acknowledge that and say you’re sorry. You don’t have to grovel. Always be professional, acknowledge what went wrong and declare your intentions to improve in the future.
The exception to this rule is if the customer was unacceptably rude to you, one of your customers or one of your employees. In that case, you don’t need to put up with the abuse. You could say, “I understand that you were upset, but your response to my employee was abusive and unwarranted.” Yes, you might lose that person as a customer, but is that really such a loss?
4. Offer to Resolve It
In your immediate response, you should include an offer to make things right for the customer. Typically, this involves a freebie or a reimbursement of some kind:
- A free meal at your restaurant.
- Reimbursement of all or part of their money.
- Free replacement of the product.
- Discount code for their next purchase.
People have been known to change their ratings from negative to positive after receiving a heartfelt apology and an offer to make things right from a company. According to BirdEye, a reputation monitoring company, 7 out of 10 customers said their opinion of a company improved if the company responded appropriately to a bad review.
This step will cost you a little money and effort, but it’s well worth it for the improvement in your customer relations.
5. View Negative Reviews as an Opportunity for Growth
A bad review doesn’t have to be a setback. If you learn to respond quickly and offer to resolve your customer’s complaints, you’ll keep your reputation in a good light. Negative reviews can highlight weaknesses that you might need to address. Are you really treating customers as well as you think you are?
If you employ other people, make sure they see every review. It’s important for them to know how your company is being rated and reviewed.
Take Action to Turn Negatives Into Positives
Owning a company means you have to handle your own marketing, public relations and customer service. Learning how to deal with negative ratings is part of the package. As with anything, practice makes perfect. Monitor your ratings, respond to customers and start turning negatives into positives.