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If you are a business with customers, you are bound to get negative reviews. Indeed, no matter how attentive, how well trained your staff are, and how great your product is, inevitably you will have a few unhappy customers from time to time. The question is what you do with their critical feedback. Negative reviews can either be an opportunity to address shortcomings, make changes, to learn about your customers and business  - or not. But you can bank on one thing: how you handle a bad review, will be noted. Indeed, 45% of consumers say they’re more likely to visit a business that responds to them. So, as a business owner, it is wise to see criticism as an opportunity to actually improve your business by creating a considered response. 

Moreover, you should be incentivized by that fact that your response will affect other customers. According to business.com, 80% of consumers changed their minds before purchasing a product due to having seen a bad review from someone else, thereby costing businesses their reputation. Know that that bad review won’t go away on the internet, ever, so it is in your best interest to deal with it. 

With all this in mind, here’s what to do when you get negative feedback and how to turn it into something positive: 

  1. Don’t take it personally

First off, remember that the customer is always right. Not necessarily factually, but definitely in the sense that you want them to have a good experience and to come back. You work hard and the most difficult part when being criticized is not taking it personally, but it is a necessary first step. Start by hearing them out. Stop yourself from coming off as sensitive or defensive, and remember that they were looking to spend money in your business. They are your bread and butter. 

In fact, a customer has no idea what effort, decisions or goings-on happen behind closed doors and it’s not for them to care about, they are just reacting to what they experienced in the moment. While you, no doubt, don’t want to take on negative reviews every day, remember the value of developing thick skin. This is your chance to be the one who looks classy, professional and on the ball. So, take it as one. 

  1. Know the impact

Recognize and respect the power of a bad review. Long gone are the days when an unhappy customer would just storm out and maybe share it with a few friends. The fact that businesses are reviewed openly online (on Twitter, Facebook, Trip advisor, Yelp... etc.) means that within seconds, millions of potential and existing customers can know about your shortcomings. Given the lasting record and legacy this leaves on your business, treat unhappy customers with kit gloves. 

According to Vendasta, negative reviews “spreads faster than a wildfire” meaning just one unattended negative review can set off a tweet-storm or slew of comments on your Facebook page. Why? Because people have a tendency to bond over negative experiences on social media. In fact, according to a Zendesk study, it seems misery loves company; 54% of customers share bad experiences with five or more people, while only 33% share their good experiences. So, what does this all mean? Look to address whatever you can. If it took too long for someone to get served, if there was a lack of choice, or a member of staff apparently wasn’t very attentive, well, that’s all worth investigating for the one customer that you may have just lost, but also for future ones. 

  1. Be responsive

Criticism is instant and you should make your very best effort to make your response be too. 53% of customers expect businesses to respond to negative reviews within a week. And yes, for some online reviewers it is even sooner. Over 40% want an answer within an hour! Be responsive. But also, take the time to process the criticism, as you don’t want to be too hasty and whatever  language you use should be on point. Indeed, a poorly worded reply will get seen by 89% of customers, many of whom will use that information to judge whether or not they ought to do business with you.

But if you deem the complaint as serious enough, do respond immediately and then come back with the full explanation of what you have done to fix it. In these scenarios, calling or emailing the customer directly can be highly effective and sometimes, this makes more sense than responding publicly with all the details. Just be sure that your customer feels they are listened to. If the review platform they used gives them the option to take their review down, know that they might want to, which is also in your favor.

So stick to the advice of the experts, when it comes to responding to critical reviews and follow the best practices for addressing a complaint: 

  • Acknowledge and admit mistakes as appropriate
  • Apologize
  • Add a touch of specificity, and if possible contrast the reviewer’s bad experience with your company policy or what customers usually experience when they visit your business.
  • Address the reviewer’s concern, providing restitution as appropriate
  • Engage in further contact (offline) 
  • Keep it short, sweet and sincere 

And remember this: being responsive is good for business. A Harvard Business Review study found that when businesses respond to customer reviews, whether good or bad, notice their ratings subsequently increase. This means that whatever response you offer is, in fact, for the next consumer much more than just the individual you’re responding to. Moreover, your short, polite response shows that you take your feedback seriously and reminds the customer that there are human beings behind your company and not canned messages from robots. 

  1. Focus on generating good reviews

While you can’t control all the negative comments, one thing you can do is focus on generating the good ones. Start by asking happy customers or consumers with positive experiences to review your business or products. You can do this easily via a one-off email or even in person. You might look to invest in a good review management software that will allow you to direct your customers via email to the review platform(s) of your choice. Only a percentage of your customers will review, but know that the more you ask, the more you get. Often these software platforms can triage reviews, which is also helpful (i.e. positive reviews are posted on online platforms, meanwhile negative ones go to an internal feedback form where grievances are aired there and then managed separately.)

Lastly, as you look to obtain positive reviews, know that customers are more likely to leave reviews directly after visiting a business. You might want to further incentivize them by offering rewards for every bit of feedback they give. Maybe you offer your customers a coupon for writing a review  and another for sharing it? Or maybe you start some kind of raffle or competition where customers have a chance to win as long as they give you a review? Either way, it is important to remember each person leaving feedback. If someone actually took the time to write a rave review about your company, personally thank them any way you can. Chances are they will be even more encouraged to remember your business and promote it. 

 

We hope these top tips help you see bad reviews in a new light. Know that they are your chance to get better at your business and to earn more every time. 

Jessica Brown
Jessica is a globally renowned writer specializing in International Relations, Economics and Political Affairs. A graduate from Brown and Cambridge Universities she now focuses on helping small to medium businesses grow their bottom line.
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