Customers love reviews.
They love to leave them - and even more, to read them when looking to make a purchase.
Some of these are constructive, cheerful and positive, and an effective organisation views these as a fantastic form of free publicity.
However, not everyone is nice online and negative reviews are something every business will face at some point.
So as a business, how do you manage these well?
In a digital world where everything is shared and spread online via every portal and social media site in existence, reviews and feedback are floating around everywhere, at every minute, at almost every location.
Positive reviews are fantastic! It means that someone has taken the time to provide feedback
But not all are positive.
Sometimes, businesses get negative reviews because a customer has a bad experience, or the person is just a bit of a hater (or both!).
It’s quite a harsh world, especially in the digital space where, most of the time, the people leaving comments don’t even have to identify themselves, thus removing the risk and fear of repercussion when posting. And with social media now a staple in society, more emotionally charged customers are taking to these platforms to let companies know exactly what they think, whether it’s justified or not.
Of course - a negative review is a good opportunity for a business to take the feedback on board and learn from the experience. This is invaluable. However, the business is still left to manage how to respond.
Regardless of our opinions about negative feedback and reviews, especially within the business world, they are there none-the-less. Learning to deal with them in the best way will ensure that the feedback is acted upon in a professional way while keeping them from spreading the wrong message to your potential customers.
After all, people trust another person’s review on a product or website far more than they do any other form of marketing. This is the power of word-of-mouth.
So here are a few tips on how to deal with negative online reviews.
1. If you can take a negative comment down, do it.
While some may disagree, often it’s best to delete the comment and address the person privately.
This way, you avoid a horrible comment right in the middle of a page where your business is expecting a high amount of traffic, and you can assess the legitimacy of the comment. After all, you don’t want potential customers dwelling on it, especially if it’s not fair or it's a half-truth.
2. Respond to every complaint and negative feedback
Regardless of whether you delete the comment or choose to keep the complaint public, or you have no way of removing it, it must be responded to.
Most of these sites allow for a right of reply, so spend time crafting a personal, positive response to address the issue and tackle it head-on.
Something like: "We're very sorry to hear that you've had this experience and we would like the opportunity to speak to you about how we can discuss your concerns."
It’s very important that, regardless of how nasty the post is, you do not meet fire with fire! Remain professional and show other customers that you are addressing whatever the concern of the poster is. Usually, you’ll find that the writer was just venting and has calmed down by the time you reply (and may even apologise or remove the comment themselves), or are happy just to be noticed and respected.
It may even be appropriate to thank them for the feedback, should it make you aware of a weakness in your organisation.
3. Keep your eye on other external websites
There are many external websites, like Trip Advisor, True Local, Rate My Agent, Google Business and Yelp that are portals facilitating reviews by the public for everyone to see.
Even though a business generally has limited control over these review site, it’s still best to keep an eye out for negative comments on them so you are addressing concerns from customers, beyond your own websites.
Then, if there is a right of reply (which there usually is), craft a response and deal with the issue.
4. Don’t take comments personally
In a business world, things must remain professional, even if the person leaving feedback is making their comment a personal attack.
Often, you will not know the real reason behind their comment and so, again, address the post positively and open up a dialogue so that you can be seen to be correcting the problem and at the same time, taking it on board.
Offer your customer a public apology for their negative experience, or you may even believe that compensation may be justified in certain cases.
It’s best to use your own careful judgement. Don’t admit fault unless you really are at fault - but always suggest a course of action you can both take to find a solution.
5. Not all negativity is bad
If you are continually receiving the same complaint, or some of the feedback is ringing true, perhaps it’s time to review that part of your business to work out why.
Sometimes, the negative feedback isn’t just people being petty- there may be a legitimate concern that you should be addressing in the way you do business. Keep tabs on the legitimate cases and perhaps seek to improve or act upon the feedback to stem the tide and bring things back to a positive for your customers.
Dealing with online negativity and customer complaints is never a simple task.
However, instead of viewing them all as an intimidating and daunting inevitability, instead, try seeing it as an opportunity for improvement. Acting in a calm and professional way will see your organisation shine, no matter the type of review you’re receiving - and let’s hope that the positive ones continue to outweigh the negatives!
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