how to respond to negative reviews

How To Deal With Bad Reviews Of Your Business Online

Bad feedback can be painful, both emotionally and financially. Here's how to respond to negative reviews of your business.

tNegative reviews of your business can be painful, both emotionally and financially. Here’s what to do about them.

There’s no way around it: bad reviews happen.

And seeing a customer say bad – often hurtful – things about your business on Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, blogs or just about anywhere else? Well, it sucks.

We all work hard to make our customers happy, so the idea that some are so upset with us that they chose to speak out to the world about it can be painful to deal with.

But today, I’m going to show you why bad reviews aren’t so bad after all.

And yes, there is something you can do about them (but it might not be what you think).

First Things First: Bad Reviews Don’t Mean That You’re Bad

The first rule of dealing with negative reviews is to not take them personally.

That’s because as your business grows, you’re going to see more and more of them.

If you have 100 reviews, and five of them are bad, and you let those five get to you, then how are you going to deal with 50 bad reviews out of 1,000, or 500 bad reviews out of 10,000?

There are five important things to understand that can help to reframe our thinking about bad reviews:

1) Your Business Might Just Not Be a Good Fit for the Customer (And That’s a Good Thing).

Your business isn’t right for everyone.

And that’s a great thing, because you can’t be great for everyone.

In order to be the best solution for someone, your product must be the wrong solution for someone else.

Often, a bad review simply comes from a customer discovering that your product is not the right fit for them.

And that’s okay.

2) If Your Business Is a Good Fit for the Customer, Then Their Review Is a Gift.

According to a study by Lee Resource Int’l, for every customer who complains, 26 others remain silent.

That means that a bad review from a good customer is a generous gift that can help you make great changes, and ultimately make a lot more customers happy.

3) A Bad Review Is an Opportunity to Shine.

Businesses screw up. It happens.

But when it happens, an interesting opportunity opens up: if you recover from the mistake well, you can actually build a stronger relationship with the customer than you had before.

Marketing professors Michael McCollough and Sundar Bharadwaj call this the service recovery paradox:

The service recovery paradox is the result of a very positive service recovery, causing a level of customer satisfaction and/or customer loyalty even greater than that expected if no service failure had happened.

Good customer service isn’t about completely eliminating mistakes — an impossible task — but about leveraging the opportunity created by a mistake to build a deeper relationship with your customer.

4) The Customer Might Just Be Having a Bad Day.

We all have bad days.

And on those days, we’re far more likely to lash out at others; Roger Gil, MAMFT, a behavioral scientist, suggests that one of the most common ways that stress manifests itself is displaced anger.

On our bad days, we’ve probably all been that bad customer.

I know I have.

In any situation where you’re feeling attacked or offended, it’s helpful to take a step back and put yourself into your customer’s shoes; much of the time, their behavior has nothing to do with you.

5) The Customer Might Just Be a Jerk.

Some people—very, very few—are, quite frankly, jerks.

These are the customers who:

  • Make personal attacks on people not problems. This can include attacks on your support team, your customers or prospective customers
  • Are prone to non-constructive feedback, including excessive use of profanity. >
  • Have spiteful outbursts.

These are the customers you fire immediately, and move on.

How To Respond to Negative Reviews

When a lot of businesses get negative reviews, their first course of action is to try and get the review removed.

This is a terrible approach.

A bad review isn’t the problem. A bad review is the result of a problem. The real problem is whatever happened between your customer and your businesses that created that result.

For real customer service wins, don’t focus on the result; focus on the problem.

Treat the upset customer just as you would an upset customer who hadn’t spoken up online: with empathy, compassion and a genuine commitment to making things right.

My favorite way to do this is with the technique pioneered by the Walt Disney Company, a business that hosts 135 million people in their parks each year, many of them angry parents that have to answer to even angrier five-year-olds.

  • Hear: let the customer tell their entire story without interruption. Sometimes, we just want someone to listen.
  • Empathize: Convey that you deeply understand how the customer feels. Use phrases like “I’d be frustrated, too.”
  • Apologize: As long as it’s sincere, you can’t apologize enough. Even if you didn’t do whatever made them upset, you can still genuinely be apologetic for the way your customer feels (e.g., I’m always sorry that a customer feels upset).
  • Resolve: Resolve the issue quickly, or make sure that your employees are empowered to do so. Don’t be afraid to ask the customer: “what can I do to make this right?”
  • Diagnose: Get to the bottom of why the mistake occurred, without blaming anyone; focus on fixing the process so that it doesn’t happen again.

Now, the technique was originally designed to be utilized with customers who approach an employee to have a conversation.

That conversation is the critical element missing from a one-sided online review. So the key to applying the H.E.A.R.D. Technique to customers who leave bad online reviews is that you need to create that conversation.

Yes, You Should Respond Publicly. But Not To Defend Yourself.

If you’re considering doing business with a company, and you see a negative review, which approach from the business would make you more confident in becoming a customer?

  1. Getting defensive and listing all of the reasons why the upset customer is wrong.
  2. Being human, empathetic, apologetic and demonstrating that they genuinely want to make the upset customer happy.

The answer might seem obvious when we look at it from that perspective, which is what makes it amazing to see how many businesses will lash out at seemingly reasonable customers on review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor.

So yes, you should respond publicly, whether on the review platform where your customer posted, or in a comment on their blog, or in response to their social media post.

But that response should be an apology for how they feel, and a request for an opportunity to make things right.

One of my favorite examples of this is the way that Gary Vaynerchuk responds to nearly every negative review of his books on Amazon.

Here’s a one-star review from a customer clearly unhappy about his purchase:

And here’s Gary’s response (note the complete lack of defending himself or his book):

The level of empathy makes it easy to see why he has so many adoring fans (and happy customers).

Instead Of Trying To Get Bad Reviews Removed, Drown Them Out

What we’ve found at Groove is that the more we apply this approach – solving the underlying problem rather than focusing on getting the review removed or amended – the more customers who do leave bad reviews end up going back and taking them down, or editing them to include how happy they were with our response.

And treating those underlying problems, especially in the early days, helped us to build a much stronger, more useful product that our customers love.

One thing that any business – especially one that gets customers from review-driven marketplaces like App Stores, Amazon or Yelp – would be wise to do is to focus on getting more positive reviews.

After all, every positive review takes the sting out of a negative one that you might have. Ten positive reviews and one negative review might give a customer pause; but 100 positive reviews and ten negative reviews isn’t such a big deal.

Next week, we’ll cover how to get customers to say great things about your business, both online and off.

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