As a business owner you can do everything in your power to ensure that your customers have a great experience but sooner or later it will happen… you WILL eventually receive a negative review posted online about our business. So when thinking about handling negative reviews of your business the question you have to answer is not “What if I get a bad review?”, it is “How do I handle things WHEN I get a bad review?”
What are you going to do when you get that first 1-star review? Negative reviews don’t only hurt emotionally. They have a direct impact on the trust consumers have in your business. It is essential that you have a system in place to handle negative customer reviews in a professional manner. Even one bad review on a popular review site can have a negative effect on your business, but an appropriate and timely response can lead to positive results.
Your 4-Step Guide to Creating a Process for Handling Negative Reviews
Before you tackle the sensitive subject of someone bad-mouthing your business online, there is one very important thing you have to do: Keep your personal emotions and feelings separate from the business of handling business. Whether right or wrong, a jerk or a great person who came by your business on their worst day, you can’t treat a negative review like a personal attack. You will not be able to respond appropriately. You have to set your mind to see the good in bad reviews and tackle this problem like any other business hurdle.
Step 1: Designate a person responsible for monitoring and responding to negative reviews
If not you, who can you trust to watch your online reviews and provide a prompt and empathetic response online and (if given the opportunity) directly to dissatisfied customers. This person needs to be able to present a sincere apology for the customer’s less-than-stellar experience without being aggressive or combative. Additionally, they must know enough about your business to be able to address the complaint and explain what has been done to correct the problem or how customer’s experience could have been better. To monitor online reviews businesses can use Review and Reputation Management software such as Reputation Loop to intercept unsatisfied customers before they post online and receive notifications when new reviews for their business show up online.
Step 2: Know the rules for responding to negative reviews for the review sites that matter most
Depending on your industry, there are going to be review sites that your customers use the most to find businesses like yours. You’ve already claimed your business page and filled out your profile in its entirety (and if you haven’t – do it now!) so read their guidelines on how you can be notified of reviews and how you can respond to customers as part of those reviews. For example, Yelp allows private messaging and public responses on review posts.
Google allows you to respond to reviews from your Google My Business account with just a few clicks. Your response will be posted publicly as a comment from your business.
Step 3: Compose a standard response that can be filled in to customize for handling negative reviews
You want to create a response with future customers in mind. Taking ownership of the issue and letting prospects know that your customers are important to you can turn a bad review into a good thing for your business. Writing a fill-the-blank response now, before you get a negative review, lets you create a professional and business-like response before your emotions are involved. Plus, it ensures that the most important things you need to say (the apology, how much you care about the customer experience, and how you can make it right) aren’t forgotten.
An apology and appreciation for their time in visiting your business and posting the review can go a long way in restoring any trust that has been lost. Remember that a bad review is an opportunity to post a response that will positively influence future customers towards trusting your business.
Step 4: Respond promptly to negative reviews and watch for reviews referring to the post
Removing negative reviews can be extremely difficult, if not impossible. But you aren’t helpless! There are two things you can do to lessen the impact of a negative review:
- Respond quickly in a way that lets readers know what to expect from your business.
- Gather more positive reviews to drown out the one negative review.
Knowing the importance online reviews to your business, the person responsible for monitoring and responding to reviews should waste no time in posting a response to a fresh negative review sitting at the top of your review page. When the next person looks at your business on the review site make sure they are more influenced by your response than the negative review. A lot of times a negative review will prompt loyal customers to leave a review stating how awesome their experience was in contrast. But if you see a pattern of dissatisfaction then know there are issues that need to be addressed.
NOT Having a Review Response Plan is a Mistake
When negative reviews show up online you have an urgent opportunity to reverse the impact of the review. A sincere and empathetic response, coupled with an honest effort to “make it right”, can positively influence future customers by showing your honest human interest in providing an exceptional customer experience. Having a process in place to handle negative reviews lessens the impact of a negative review on you and your business.