Negative Reviews Don't Have to Hurt (Your Business)Oct 14, 2021
If you know the right way to deal with them
We've all been there. You're scrolling through your reviews, reading all the nice things people have to say about your business when you see it—a review with a single skimpy star and searing words of discontent.
Maybe someone is blowing a minor mistake out of proportion, or perhaps there was some miscommunication between you and your client.
Or maybe this person is making the whole thing up (ugh, unfortunately, this really does happen).
Either way, it's a negative review and you need to respond fast. Unlike a phone call or email, reviews are out there for everyone to see. And until you reply, the digital onlookers will only see one side of the story.
The 'when' and 'how' of your reply makes all the difference. Follow our five-step system to not only contain the fallout of a negative review but also showcase your values and build your brand.
Step 1: Don't hedge. Just apologize
The best way to begin your response is to simply apologize.
It doesn't matter whether the person is right or wrong. The last thing you want is to get into a public argument.
Instead, just take the high road and offer an apology. Empathize with the reviewer and make it clear that you're just as upset about their poor experience as they are.
While you may not agree on the supposed offence or the degree of damage, you can agree on the fact that you hate to have not met his/her expectations. Use that angle as a way into your apology.
Step 2: Own your mistakes
It's always hard to admit you messed up. However, if you legitimately made a mistake (no matter how small) own up to it.
When people post reviews like this, they expect you to get defensive. That's when they'll come back and say you're just making excuses, which is a bad look for your business.
But when you respond with "you're right, I messed up, I'm sorry" there's really nothing else they can say to you. It also conveys honesty and a willingness to admit when you're wrong.
Step 3: Make things right (and then some)
Next, you need to do everything in your power to both rectify the issue and over-deliver.
If the situation warrants it, offer a refund or a free product/service to make up for their negative experience. But don't stop there.
Take it to the next level. Give them the refund they're asking for AND let them know their next purchase is on you. This is how you not only neutralize a detractor but also win a brand advocate.
And if there's no way to undo the damage, detail all the steps you're taking to ensure this problem never occurs again.
Step 4: Take the conversation offline
Because the internet is a spectator sport, it's best to move tricky customer service conversations to a private/offline channel as quickly as possible.
Publicly acknowledge the grievance, and then invite the customer to contact you directly via a phone number or email address so that you can learn more about their complaint and work on a resolution.
Just remember, even if you move to a private channel you still have an audience. After you've agreed upon a resolution in private, come back to the public review and respond so that the anonymous watchers know how things ended up.
Step 5: Learn from it
Lastly, use every negative review as a learning experience. Has the reviewer brought to light an issue that needs to be resolved? What can you do to ensure you don't receive this type of complaint again?
Sure, positive feedback makes you feel warm and fuzzy and confirms how brilliant you are. But being open to negative feedback, and learning from it, is one of the best ways to grow your business.
Can negative reviews really be used to grow your brand?
Absolutely. If you respond to the reviewer in a respectful way and do everything you can to fix their problem, they may end up taking down their negative review.
In fact, it's not unheard of for people to actually post a positive review after a company helps them resolve their issue.
And even if neither of those things happens, other potential buyers will still see how well you listen to your customers, handle criticism, and address shortcomings.
Oh, and one more thing, try (really, try) not to take negative reviews personally. They aren't a reflection on you—but on an expectation and an experience. Focus on what you can learn and let the rest go.
Ok—but what if that reviewer was a big liar?
Of course, all of the above advice assumes the customer has a valid complaint.
However, sometimes people write these reviews because, well, they don't have anything better to do with their time.
Now, you might fantasize about writing a 17-page manifesto to exonerate your good name and dismantle their argument against you. And while this might be extremely satisfying, it could provoke the reviewer to post even more negative comments about your business.
Admittedly, writing the self-righteous manifesto is mucho more fun, but you really should keep it to yourself. Instead, be polite, apologize, correct any facts they may have gotten wrong, and ask them to contact you offline.
There you have it—the five-step process to reverse a negative review by flexing your customer service skills and behaving as a value-driven brand.
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