The majority of your audience – around 67%, to be exact – will only need to see three bad reviews to decide against using your products or services. 94% of people have said that an online review has dissuaded them from using a particular company in the past. These statistics alone show how potent negative reviews can be, and what a huge impact they are likely to have on your business.
So what do you do when you come up against an unsatisfied customer intent on broadcasting news of their displeasure online?
Steps to Handling Negative Reviews
There are a number of steps you can take after getting a bad review – some of which can completely turn the situation around. It’s important to play your cards right to ensure the best outcome, so take a look below to see what to do, one step at a time. This process is known as ORM or “Online Reputation Management”.
1. The nature of the review should inform the nature of the response
Your first step should be to acknowledge the problem and verify that the complaint is valid. If the individual is making serious accusations, it may be worth reviewing CCTV footage to find out exactly what happened. If the customer claims it took too long to serve them, you can also examine this claim in real time this way. You should be retaining receipts, so if a customer claims that they have been overcharged, you can check what they say against the existing paperwork.
You should also talk to all members of staff who dealt with the individual in question and check their statements against each other to put together a clear picture of what happened from your side. The research you do should reveal whether it’s best to present a polite counter-argument to the review, or simply to accept that something went wrong and try to rectify it. Owning up, if a genuine mistake has been made, can make you appear trustworthy and human.
53% of customers expect that a review they have left will receive a response within a week. This seems like a relatively generous amount of time. Depending on the size and nature of your business and the time of day during which the review was posted, you really should be aiming to get back to the reviewer within a matter of hours – two days at the most.
Amazingly, 63% of reviewers have said that their criticisms have gone entirely unanswered. You need to be polite, positive and offer a solution. It may be worth giving them an email address to respond to so that you can continue the conversation in private.
3. How to challenge unfair negative reviews
On rare occasions, false or inappropriate Google reviews or comments on Yelp or TripAdvisor are posted with a view to their author receiving free items or other forms of compensation – effectively holding the company’s reputation ransom until their desires are met. You should always assume that the reviewer is telling the truth, but if you’ve undertaken all the investigations in step one and can conclusively see that what has been said is untrue, don’t be afraid to (gently) call them out on it using the proof that you have collected.
Pushing back against a negative review can have very positive effects if this choice is warranted, particularly if the reviewer comes across as overtly demanding or bullying.
For example, if a reviewer has used insulting language against an employee, being seen to defend that employee against verbal attack will reveal your nature as a kind and accepting employer. Successfully fending off unwarranted negative comments often serves to advertise your company well, and there have been numerous past examples of negative reviews being expertly “shot down” that have subsequently gone viral and improved the credibility of the business in question.
Once you have totally disproven their version of events, some reviewers are likely to take their comments down for fear of being ridiculed.
4. Rethink your processes and change things if necessary
Of course, taking criticism and acting on it will also make you look good. If you respond to a genuine review with a sincere apology, underlining the steps you will be taking to improve your service, you will come out looking far better than if you’d ignored the comments or replied rudely or dismissively.
Remember, reviews are not only there to provide guidance for consumers, they can also be used to help improve your company’s processes and attitudes. Take advantage of the free advice the review has offered you and take a look at how you can change things for the better.
5. Ask for a change to the review
If you’re confident that you’ve done everything in your power to fix the problem, and you’re under the impression that the reviewer is satisfied with what you’ve done, there’s no harm in asking them to change their review or take it down.
You can also appeal a negative Google review if the comments made are untrue or unfair. To do this, simply log into your Google My Business account, click the small grey icon bearing an exclamation mark in the bottom left corner, then fill out the form that pops up in as much detail as you can – including the name of the reviewer, the date, the business they reviewed and the exact reason why you think the review is unfair, misleading or incorrect.
6. Bury a bad review under good ones with the help of TRUSTist
Bad reviews are scary, but it’s possible to turn things around and make each one a thing of the past by delivering excellent service and actively asking happy customers to post positive comments if they’ve enjoyed dealing with you. You can utilise software such as TRUSTist to encourage a flurry of good reviews and collate them together to improve your performance on Google search results.
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