Before someone purchases a product online, what do they do? Most consumers flip through the available pictures, check the price, and read the reviews. While many products have a string of glowing reviews, there are always those scathing bad reviews. The one stars, the thumbs down, the unsatisfactory customers that keep business owners awake at night.
The internet presents a unique challenge to business owners. Anybody can publish anything with almost zero repercussions. If they weren’t 100% satisfied, there is a risk they will blow a gasket and write a hurtful review of your business. 9 out of 10 people read reviews to assess a local business and how you handle negative responses has a direct correlation to future customers. Here is some advice to handle unhappy customers and their dangerous reviews.
1. Have Control of the Site
Before you can start replying, your first have to have the right accounts. Varying on your industry, the most popular review sites are Google+, Facebook, Yelp, Angie’s List, Trip Advisor, and Amazon. Business owners need to have access and control of their accounts on all of these sites.
Next, make sure all of the information on these sites are correct. Most pull from a business’s Google+ page, so start there, but make edits as needed. That way, consumers have the correct information and won’t leave a nasty review about driving to the wrong location.
Having access to these sites usually lets you respond to different reviews and even control how they are displayed.
2. Responding to Negative Reviews
Now before you start going on a rant against that ignorant consumer who is ruining your sterling reputation, take a breath. Read what they said and then walk away for a little bit.
It’s completely understandable to be angry. Every critique of your business is something you take personally because, you are your business. In your eyes, they aren’t attacking a soulless company, they are attacking you.
So take a walk, grab a drink of water, and calm down.
Now, take a hard look at your business. Did you, or your employee, actually mess up? Is it a single event they are angry about, a string of mistakes, or does it revolve around how you do business? It usually takes a lot of frustration for somebody to go online and write a bad review, so they might be identifying a serious problem you were unaware of.
If you come to the conclusion that it was your fault, then fix the problem immediately. Leave a comment to their review addressing their complaint, explaining that the mistake has been fixed, and offer to contact them through email. If they do email you, respond quickly, apologize for the mistake, explain how it’s been fixed, and offer reasonable compensation. After you’ve made them happy again, ask them to add a comment or change their review to reflect what you did.
This approach works great for mistakes your business made, but what if the review is about how you do business? If your business model is working, you can’t change it all for a single upset customer.
Once again, after you’ve calmed down, address the review. Explain in a comment why you do business a certain way and apologize if that is frustrating to the consumer. Give your side of the story and offer to talk more in email. Make sure that your writing style comes off as warm and professional, not sarcastic or angry. If done properly, you may even come off as more professional to a potential customer than before.
3. Leveraging Good Experiences
Did you get a glowing review from a customer? Wonderful! It shows you’re doing something really great. It takes an amazing experience for a customer to hit the web and write out a review.
Shortly thank them for their business and state how you enjoy serving them. Include that you look forward to their continued business, if it’s appropriate to your business.
Be careful not to go too long in your responses to good reviews. It comes off a braggy and self serving to other consumers. Your response should be about three sentences long and focus on the customer’s positive experience, not you.
4. Ignoring Reviews and the Twitter Experience
The worst thing you can do is not respond to a review, good or bad. Every time somebody sees a negative review without a response, it hurts your credibility. Potential customers will view you as the evil, faceless corporation that screwed over an innocent person. Be active on important review sites and set up Google Alerts for your business name.
Twitter can be a dangerous beast. It moves quickly and a certain “injustice” can be spread within minutes and become a globally trending subject. For example, social media tools like Twitter have been used to plan and create riots. Now, you won’t get a riot on your business, but a bad review can get picked up and retweeted at any time.
So what does that mean? Small business owners need to be active on Twitter. Being active isn’t just checking once a day, it requires checking it once an hour. Not only will it allow you to check for bad reviews, but will encourage you to stay informed on current events and capitalize on conversations relevant to your business.
Do you have a review horror story? How do you handle those scathing reviews? Let us know in the comments below.
Ben Allen is a freelance writer and marketer. He believes in helping small businesses create great content so the internet is a more interesting place. Follow him on twitter @allen24ben.
Sawaram Suthar is head of marketing at Acquire, and also a founder of Jagat Media, a digital marketing agency. A digital marketing consultant, he has experience in things including branding, promotions and page optimization, along with research and strategy. He has an MBA from the University of Pune. Anyone can find him on @sawarams.