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The Trick to Combating Negative Reviews

Connor W, Director of Growth at NiceJob

Apr 3, 2018 @ 4:00PM 4 minute read

Building a business can be nerve-wracking for many reasons. Often, it feels like you’re putting yourself out there and building a great business, brand and online reputation, which really takes a lot out of you. So when you receive a bad or negative review, it often feels personal.

While great reviews offer an amazing opportunity to grow your presence online, leading to more website visitors, leads and customers, negative reviews can be disastrous if not dealt with properly. As much as 54% of Americans who read online reviews indicate that they pay more attention to extremely negative reviews when trying to make decisions.

How to respond to negative reviews

At some point though, there is going to be someone who is unhappy enough to leave a less than stellar review. It’s not even because you necessarily did a bad job either, they could just be having a bad day and decide to unfortunately take that anger out on you. It doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Done right, responding to a negative review can turn a bad situation into one that can actually boost your reputation even more.

People aren’t looking for perfection, they’re looking for confirmation that you’re a real, genuine and authentic business. Showing your future prospects how you deal with both the positives and negatives of doing business gives them more confidence that you’re the right person for the job. In fact, as much as 30% of people think online reviews are fake if there are no negative reviews.

Here’s how to take advantage of the opportunity and respond to negative reviews:

1. Almost always respond.

It’s only on very rare occasions that no response is the best response. For the majority of less than perfect reviews submitted online, the default should be to respond. That being said, not every negative review is going to be something you can fix. Sometimes, you could be putting yourself in the line of fire for more negative attention. Determine if engagement is the right course of action. Was it a genuine mistake on your end or the rants of someone angry at life. Or worse yet, the ramblings of trolls? If it was a mistake, it’s usually best to simply own up to it, apologize, and try to remedy the situation, and, if appropriate, perhaps with a discount or some other value added onto your service. If it’s trolls, it’s often best to ignore the situation. (Pro-tip: On Facebook, you can ban trolls from your business page.)

2. Be Concise

When providing a response to a negative review, be brief, apologize, and get to the point. Steer the customer towards having a conversation and take it offline briefly. Once resolved, return to the original online conversation and thank them for the chance to fix the issue, and their business. This allows you to deal with what should be a private matter privately, while being publicly recognized for having resolved it.  

3. Don’t act impulsively.

Negative reviews can often feel personal but responding to reviews when angry or tempers are running high is the worst thing you can do. Take some time to simmer down if needed before tackling that review. The last thing you want to do is to get personal and blast off an angry rant to a negative review, even if the customer did. How you respond matters. You’re not just replying to an individual, but to everyone that might see your response in the future. For many consumers, how you respond to an angry or dissatisfied customer can influence their decision to choose your business too.

4. Don’t wait too long.

The sooner you tackle that negative review and respond, the sooner you can turn things around. Having a system to help manage your reviews in one place helps you stay on top of them all. The NiceJob dashboard is perfect for this. It’s best to not put it off. In fact, most consumers expect a reply within the same day. Be quick about responding to negative reviews, it can help to resolve the issue when you’re able to address the situation in a timely manner. To be able to do so, you need to monitor reviews often so that you’re aware of any situations where an unhappy customer has left a negative review.

5. Think ahead.

Have a plan on how to deal with negative reviews before they ever make it to Google or Facebook. This way you’re ready to get to work to make things right the minute that review pops up and aren’t left scrambling. It also removes a lot of the emotion from your response, see above. Think about having a script that fits with your brand and style and takes into account how your future prospects will view it. At least have the following components but keep it short and sweet too:

  • An apology for the situation. You might not be in the wrong but this isn’t about assigning blame, it’s about protecting your reputation. Apologise for the situation at hand and having missed the mark with your customer.

  • Include contact information for the customer to reach out to you and offer to make things right. This also has the added benefit of taking the conversation offline.

Crisis Management

There are times when a negative sentiment can cause others to jump on the bandwagon and a bad situation gets worse. Staying silent can be a bad idea, but every situation is different and can require an intervention. Avoid being confrontational or overly excuse laden and tackle the issue head on. Situations like these are usually best to take the conversation offline, or at least private.

6. Be genuine.

Customer feedback is crucial to any business, and since most business revolves around building relationships with people, negative reviews give you a chance to learn, grow and even strengthen your relationship with your customers. They’re often opportunities in disguise. Start by addressing the individual by their name. Be apologetic, address the situation, and offer to take care of the customer’s concerns.

 

To help you start thinking about how to incorporate each of these pieces into your response, here is are two sample scripts to work from:  

  • Thanks [their name] for taking the time to leave a review. I am so sorry to hear that you had a bad experience. My name is [name] and I am the [Owner / Manager]. If you’d like to discuss this further, please contact me at [phone number / email].

 

  • Hi there [their name], thanks for taking the time to give us feedback. We’re usually known for our customer service, so I am sorry to hear we missed the mark here. My name is [name] and I am the [Owner / Manager]. If you’d like to discuss this further, please contact me at [phone number / email].

 

You should not use canned responses for negative or positive reviews. Take the time to personalize each and avoid using a review response template. However, having a guideline is always helpful, and we’ve provided an overview on the method you might use, along with examples for negative review responses.

About 78% of consumers say that seeing management respond to online reviews makes them believe that the business cares more about them. Also consider that when trying to resolve a situation, it’s probably better to have management involved as they’re in more of a position to make decisions on the spot when communicating with a customer. The last thing you would want to do is have a long drawn out process when trying to make a dissatisfied customer happy.

It was found in one study (Harris Interactive) that when a company replied to negative reviews on social media and online ratings sites, about a third of customers either deleted their original negative review or replaced it with a positive review. Additionally, about a fifth went on to become loyal customers and made another purchase.

Keep in mind that less than five percent of dissatisfied customers ever take the time to mention why they’re unhappy, they simply disappear. So the ones that are sharing are actually doing you a favor, so you can fix things, avoid future issues and potentially even keep their business.

 

A couple extra points to keep in mind when responding to negative reviews:

Don’t mention your business name or location in your reply. This helps keep the review out of search engine results as much as possible, and follow up with the customer as much as possible and once the situation is resolved, politely ask them to update their review. Then be sure to respond to that too.

Benefits of Negative Reviews

The optimal rating is between 4.2 stars and 4.5 stars. As the rating gets closer to 5 stars, the likelihood of purchase often declines.

Bad reviews are a part of life, since you can’t please all of them all of the time. But these are opportunities when you think about it. You won’t build loyalty with point-based programs or discounts, but you do through treating customers with respect and solving their problems. How you go about responding to negative reviews is also a way to demonstrate that you want to earn the business of your customers.

If there aren’t any rating less than 5 stars, it leads many consumers to be suspicious you’re either suppressing feedback, or no one’s bought anything.

Preventing Negative Reviews

While having a small fraction of your reviews being bad can be a good thing for your business, having too many bad reviews can seriously hurt it. The best way to prevent negative reviews is obviously to simply provide a great customer experience, but even when you do this you’ll still occasionally get a bad review. It would be better to deal with complaints privately, rather than in a public review that everyone and their friends can see, but how can you direct people who wish to leave you angry or negative feedback privately?

 

You can use software like NiceJob to send customers a link that is pressed when they get a review invite via NiceJob that sends them to a page where they are asked if they would recommend you. If they say no, these are typically the people who intend to leave you a negative review. These people are then directed to a private feedback form for you to deal with them privately. If they say yes they are directed to leaving a positive and public review on any of the important review sites.



Why You Should Ask Everyone for a Review

Even if you don’t have an effective system in place to help prevent negative reviews, it’s still a best practice to ask everyone you serve for a review. The benefits are clear for asking someone who is happy with your service for a review, but why would you ask someone who was unhappy? The answer is that not only you may never know what you did wrong, and may make the same mistake (if you did make one) in the future, but you won’t be able to address the issue with the customer and try and remedy the situation for them.

 

Both positive and negative reviews provide a constant feedback loop for your team that enables you to learn and grow as a business. Being fearful of asking for reviews because you might get a negative review will only make you learn less, respond to customers worse, and be more deserving of negative reviews.

Why you Should also Respond to Positive Reviews

Here’s why you should think about replying to every glowing five star review, too.

1. Reviews are so public that it’s important to treat them as if everyone is watching! So thank your customer for taking the time. It’s the polite thing to do, and it helps more people see them.

2. It gives you a chance to include your location and business name in the reply to help boost that particular review in the search rankings.

3. This is the perfect chance to introduce your latest service offering or mention an upcoming promo but depending on your business, keep the tone conversational and informal, as if you’re replying to a friend.

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