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How to respond to negative reviews

When marketing to and running an online business, your goal is success. But with that success comes critics. And successful business people must be prepared for both. If you have an online presence, be prepared to receive compliments and complaints on websites like Yelp, Google Reviews, the Better Business Bureau, Consumer Reports and more. 

Veteran professionals are usually prepared for (constructive) criticism, but for startups and new entrepreneurs, this can be especially frustrating. Maybe both groups go through the “7 Stages of Grief.” Others always react with sorrow or anger, especially if they know that their product or service is good quality.

But instead of becoming defensive from another person’s opinion—because every customer and client are entitled to their opinions—make long-term goals the priority.

Keep Future Clients in Mind for Reviews

Let’s say you see a review that is clearly dishonest or appears to be trying to dodge paying for services. It would be far easier to just call someone out for trying to hustle you. And you may not be wrong.

However, future clients have no idea whether you’re right or wrong, only that you’re being combative on reviews and not able to constructively respond. Even if your negative reviews are proportionately lower than your positive reviews, consistently arguing with past customers stands out even more than the complainers. So should you avoid engaging at all? Not necessarily.

Instead of telling clients, “You’re wrong,” try explaining the actual services that were provided and apologizing for not meeting the customer’s expectations. Your apology is not for saying your business failed to do the job, only that you didn’t satisfy the customer. This technique balances honesty with professionalism. By showing that you empathize with the customer’s needs, and even by pointing out that you understand the frustration or stress they’re going through to get those results, you may help disarm the customer enough to reconsider that negative review, too.

Moving an Online Conversation Offline

A negative review does not have to be permanent. And a professional has at least a handful of opportunities to fix the problem before more negative reviewers join in.

So what should be done next?

●     After the apology, leave business contact information so the customer can call or email the owner (or customer service team) personally—and privately.

●     Once the customer agrees to be contacted, relay the message to confirm that all concerns are understood.

●     Avoid being combative with the customer or immediately defending your team. Nothing good comes from apologizing for the issues in the bad review to then emphasize why the company is not wrong.

●     Consider the fact that the customer may be right. Even if the majority of users like a company’s product or service, there is always room for improvement. Try to look at the feedback from a customer’s perspective. Is it possible that taking these complaints into consideration improves business goals in the long run? Maybe, maybe not.

●     Ask the customer what a desired resolution would be, or suggest one.

●     If the customer takes the company up on a resolution and it’s implemented successfully, then the company can inquire about whether that review can be changed. Avoid asking for an edited or removed negative review before resolving the concerns though. By focusing on the review instead of the service, it will appear that the company is more concerned about its reputation rather than sufficient results.

Companies have a right to be concerned with their reputation. But for a paying client who wants results, and as someone who can then use word of mouth to get that same company more funds and feedback, professionals should try to keep their emotions in check at all times. Both parties being aggressive with each other will only result in a potentially angrier review.

Know the Rules of Review Removal

While there are customers who do have valid points and have legitimately used a company’s services, some reviewers are just trolling. And trolls are everywhere, from review sites to social media. Their whole goal is to cause controversy.

Do not let trolls get in the way of advertising and marketing your quality products on all avenues. If it comes down to turning off comments on YouTube to focus on the promotional videos, so be it. Don’t be afraid to block comments that go against community guidelines either.

All it takes is one customer posting a negative (or dishonest) review for Cancel Culture to do what it does best: attack. One review can become hundreds, from people who were never customers in the first place. This is when knowing a review site’s policies and guidelines come in handy. Just as social media users can report each other for violations, companies can, too.

But what if the review site refuses to take the negative review down? Follow the same steps above. Apologize. Offer to speak with the trolling account offline. And make sure to point out in your own reply that your products or services are usually a hit. Explain tips to create a better experience. Even if the trolling account won’t take it seriously and continues to be combative, remember that public responses are available to the public. Savvy users (and more potential customers) will be able to tell the difference between someone arguing for the sake of arguing versus a legitimate complaint. 

By taking these steps above to resolve company issues instead of just shrugging them off, your company will show maturity, professionalism and be able to better maintain a reputation for efficiency. Never let negativity get the upper-hand when efficiency is always the better business play.

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