Technology is certainly beneficial for reaching out to more customers online. At the same time, it’s not particularly fun to deal with unhappy customers who leave negative online reviews.
Acquiring reviews for your business is one of the best ways to establish credibility, trust and authority in your industry. The reviews you choose to put on your own website is the easy part. The challenge comes when customers post their negative reviews on other public platforms like review websites or social media. And of course, it’s unwise to ignore negative reviews, because doing so can lead to other significant problems. You should handle negative online reviews directly, while also being prompt, thorough and kind.
Let’s take a look at some suggestions:
Assess the Genuineness of the Review
One of the first things you should definitely do is to check the validity of the complaint.
Hopefully, you are able to easily go in and find details regarding the situation the negative review is referring to. This will help establish the facts and you can take the next steps in addressing the issue. This will also ensure you are dealing with an authentic customer and not just a jealous competitor trying to tarnish your brand and reputation.
Was the negative review authentic and deserved? If so, reach out to the customer personally and inform them of how the issues is being resolved. And speaking of talking to them personally, that leads us to the next point.
Try to Take the Conversation Offline
The temptation when you see a negative online review is to immediately reply to the person who left it. And while it’s good to promptly address the review, it’s not always the best idea to keep the entire ensuing conversation in a public forum.
In most legitimate situations, whether or not you actually made a mistake, be sure to have a meaningful and private conservation with the customer. If you don’t already have the customer’s contact information, send them a message and ask them for it. This may give the customer a sense of comfort because they can see you truly want to spend your time addressing the issue with them one-to-one.
Once you’ve confirmed that you did make a mistake, do everything in your power to correct it immediately. Then, when you speak to the customer, apologize for the mistake and tell them exactly what you’re doing to make it right. For example, offer a replacement if you sold a defective product. Apologize to the customer if they were given poor service or treated inappropriately. Then, let them know you will talk to the staff and train them so they don’t repeat the mistake. Alternatively, if a service you provided wasn’t completed properly, take the criticism constructively and inform them that you’ll resolve the issue.
If your business is viable and can afford it, offer a discount coupon for future transactions. This is a great way to show you care about the customer and diminish or completely remove the negative perception.
Customer Has to Go Back Online and Record the Resolution of the Issue
Ideally, after your conversation with the customer they will be much happier. Also, the situation should either be resolved or well on it’s way to being resolved. And fortunately, a genuinely happy customer will often volunteer to edit the review and post a comment that the issue was satisfactorily taken care of. There’s even a good chance they will specifically say how good and professional it is was for you to reach out to them personally. This gives you brownie points and will go a long way in winning the hearts of your other customers and future ones. But, don’t assume the customer will automatically edit their review. Make a point to ask them to revise their review, assuming you addressed their needs and everything has been satisfactorily resolved.
Fake Negative Reviews Do Exist
Handling negative online reviews is a must-have skill for every business owner. As mentioned, not every review posted online is factual or even true. There are plenty of companies or individuals who will intentionally write negative reviews for various reasons. In fact, some may even be getting paid by competitors for defaming your brand. As a responsible business owner, you shouldn’t ignore these reviews, but at the same time, you shouldn’t be expected to take them on and solve their fake issues.
Try to expose any fake reviews, but do it in a polite way. For example, if you know it’s fake, ask them to furnish proof of purchase or some other type of evidence about their unsatisfactory experience with your business. Always be polite and calm. Even though they’re the ones in the wrong, you still have your existing and future customer base watching you.
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You can even follow up with them again on the same platform, if they do not respond within a reasonable amount time. If this is the case, feel free to ask them to remove their negative review. This may work and it may not. But, at least you’re showing an effort to resolve the issue, and showing that the fake customer isn’t taking their own complaint seriously enough to communicate with you.
Some Basic Rules Do Apply
Taking all these aspects into consideration there are some fundamental things you will need to do, or not do, while handling negative online reviews. Here are some of them:
- The swiftness with which you respond to a negative post is critical. It immediately tells the customer you are present and paying attention to the situation.
- Avoid trying to refute the claim directly. Begin your conversation by politely expressing how you appreciate the customer sharing their views. Let them know you value their insight or feedback.
- Focus on getting more positive reviews. For every unhappy customer, there may be ten happy ones. Get them to post their positive experience online. Over time, as a result, the impact of the negative review will weaken.
- Get the objectionable reviews removed. There are times when an inappropriate review might be published unjustly. An example could include a previous employee who was recently fired from the company. You can sometimes have these removed. If possible, contact the person who owns the review website, and let them know the situation. They might remove the review for you, if you request this and show proof of the unjust review.
Handling negative reviews is extremely important. Keep your current customers happy, acquire new customers and continue to grow your business to be successful. We certainly hope you don’t have any negative reviews. But if you do, we hope these tips are beneficial to you, as you strive to manage your online reputation.
And of course, let us know through the contact form below if you need any assistance with your marketing!
As the founder of Joshua Lyons Marketing, Josh Lyons primarily focuses on business development. He has studied and practiced marketing since 2008 and launched his first company (a marketing agency in Pensacola, Florida) in 2015. When he's not writing blog posts, recording podcasts or consulting, he enjoys spending time with family and friends. He loves listening to audiobooks and checking out different coffee shops. He also enjoys fire juggling, amigurumi, travel and swing dancing; which is how he met his wife.