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New year, new you: How to respond to negative reviews

Written by Bianca Collings
Posted on December 11, 2018

If you’re not already planning to improve your responses to reviews in the new year, I hope you’ll rethink that.

You’ve probably read a dozen articles on why you need positive reviews and how to get them. Who doesn’t love the warm fuzzies or attaboys you get from positive feedback?

That being said, someone who had a bad experience is up to three times more likely to leave a negative review than someone who had a good experience is to post a positive review.

Why? Probably because we love to complain and social media has made it easy to do so. Negative reviews are not an “if” but a “when” for a business.

And you should be responding to reviews of all kinds. About 50% of consumers expect businesses to respond to reviews within a week. However, only about 60% of consumers have actually heard back.

And when 45% of consumers say they’re more likely to visit businesses that respond to negative reviews, you could be missing out on a huge boost to your business and reputation.

So here’s how to tackle negative reviews.

Be ready to change direction

The actual complaint itself isn’t a huge problem. But ignoring it is. The very fact that a customer cared enough to voice a concern means that they actually care about you. They want to do business with you.

Dan Gingiss from Discover Card states that “in customer service, the complaint is typically the last call before they lose you.” They are basically giving you one more shot before they pull the plug. These complaints give you a roadmap of how to fix issues related to your business.

Whether or not you choose to listen and change your direction to correct the problem(s) is up to you. But if you truly want to win this customer back, their underlying issue must be corrected before they will likely engage in business with you again.

A traffic sign with an arrow pointing to the left and to the right.

Answer every complaint, every time

The knee jerk reaction to a negative review is to simply hit delete; however, with platforms like Facebook Reviews, Glassdoor, and Yelp, deleting is no longer an option.

Regardless of whether or not you can, deleting reviews may actually take away the legitimacy of all of your reviews — 30% of consumers assume reviews are fake if none of them are negative. Luckily, negative reviews can be used to your advantage.

Negative reviews are a spectator sport. This is your stadium and your time to shine and though the seats may appear empty now, they will be filled. We live in a spectacular age of technology where any and everything can be copied. Except love.

How do you beat your competition? You out-love your competition.

How do you out-love your competition? You embrace and respond to every single complaint or review.

You want people to know (and see) that you are listening, that you care, and that you do respond.

However, this sport can only stay public for so long. In “Hug Your Haters,” Jay Baer strongly advises responding one time where everyone can see and then redirecting the conversation to a private channel.

While it is important for the spectators to see that you respond, they do not need to know every little detail of your conversation. Consider every onlooker as a potential customer and provide a response to every single review.

An empty soccer stadium with blue seats.

Turn that frown upside down

One fall afternoon I was driving down the highway and my phone literally started blowing up with notifications from a Facebook business page I managed for a retail company. By the time I was able to pull over, I had one flaming negative review and more than 30 volatile comments. Gotta love social media.

I immediately reached out to our customer service manager to understand the history we had with this particular customer. Together we crafted a plan.

We replied publicly to the review and all comments. Within 10 minutes, we were able to de-escalate the situation and the customer voluntarily removed their own review. We not only kept the peace but also saved a customer.

Scott Wise from Scotty’s Brewhouse says, “You can take some of the worst complaints and most unpleasant experiences and you can make those people into your most raving fans if you handle them properly.”

If you’ve made a mistake, acknowledge it, apologize, and make it right. By doing so publicly, you take owning that review up a notch. Make responding to reviews an integral part of your business process.

If a business resolves its issues quickly and efficiently, 95% of unhappy customers return to your business. Most of the time (almost every time) the reason for the bad review is miscommunication or misrepresentation. Once clarity is provided, the customer is more likely to not only respond positively but also remove the negative review.

So every time you receive a negative review, embrace it, love it, use it to your advantage. If you do, you’ll be well on your way to making 2019 a great year with life-long customers.