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8 Ways To Handle Negative Online Reviews

No matter how well you run your business, you always run the risk of having an unsatisfied customer post a negative online review (hey, nobody’s perfect; it happens). Some business owners are unsure of how to handle poor reviews because they fear opening Pandora’s box and making an unfortunate situation even worse.

The right approach is to look at that customer’s downvote as a way for you to enhance your brand image and customer experience. For those tough moments, just grit your teeth, dive in and handle those thumbs-down notices constructively with these tips.

1. Be Swift and Prompt to Respond

Research shows that 80% of customers believe a business demonstrates that it cares by responding to reviews. Similarly, more than half of all customers expect you to respond to a poor review within a week. Any time you notice a bad online review, don’t bury your head in the sand — respond immediately.

Dilly-dallying or not responding to a poor review might escalate the situation, since other customers may notice your lack of response more than the review itself. They may also assume that the lack of response is the response. Keep in mind, 45% of customers and potential customers are likely to come back to your business if you respond to poor online reviews.

2. Tailor Each Response Individually

You may receive multiple reviews from customers regarding a similar product or service. Remember, each review is unique and individual, and so should be your response. Instead of having one general copy-paste response for similar reviews, take the time to respond to each one of the reviews personally, in a professional manner. Remember the rule above and do it quickly. 

3. Remember, It’s Not Personal

Don’t take poor online reviews personally. The customer is unhappy with one of your products or service, not you personally. It’s easy to let emotions creep into it when the reputation of your business is at stake. But take a deep breath, consider the factors that warranted the poor review, and then calmly and respectfully respond accordingly.

4. Let the Review Remain Public

Resist the urge to hide the review and respond to it behind the scenes. While also reaching out to the customer away from the limelight is wise, the first course of action is to respond on the same platform on which the dissatisfied customer posted the review. Handling the review publicly shows existing and potential customers that you’re sensitive to their needs and complaints.

Similarly, you might be tempted to contact the review platform to have a poor review taken down. Believe it or not, negative reviews can actually have a positive impact on sales. They can boost sales by 85% and serve as a great lead-generation tool; when customers see your interaction with a dissatisfied buyer, they not only feel assured by how you handle a bad situation, but the interaction may give your brand a greater sense of authenticity.

5. If All Else Fails, Try to Take It Offline

The first response to a poor online review greatly determines the course of the conversation. However, your public response might not have the expected outcome, and the situation can escalate, even pulling in other customers. In this worst-case scenario, the best course of action is to reach out to the dissatisfied customer and respectfully ask for a private avenue of communication. Be sure not to overstep their boundaries. Find out what the problem is, commit yourself to handling it, genuinely apologize to the customer, and make things right.

6. Be Empathetic and Transparent

Though they may be buying the same product or service, each of your customers has unique tastes and needs. It’s impossible to satisfy them all equally. If one posts a poor review about a product or service, don’t shut them down. Instead, be empathetic, put yourself in their shoes, and look at things from their perspective, even when you do not agree.

Investigate the problem that caused the issue. Armed with a solution, reach out to the customer and offer a genuine response. Keep in mind that you should be transparent from the start, or you risk losing your customers. Customer loyalty is built on transparency and trust; demonstrate those attributes and 85% of your customers will stick with you in times of crisis.

7. Learn and Improve

It’s not enough to simply respond to a poor review. You may avert an immediate crisis, but if you don’t take care of the problem at the source, your efforts are futile. For example, if you delivered the wrong product or sent an order to the wrong address, look at ways to improve your logistics and delivery. Heed your customers’ complaints and reviews, learn from the mistake, and improve your products and services.

8. Follow Up and Be Creative

After the dust has settled and you’ve responded to the reviews, follow up with the customers. Ask whether they’re happy with how their issue was handled and resolved. If they’re satisfied, you might consider politely asking them to take down or update the poor review.

Be creative in your follow-ups. Accompany the follow-up with a gift in the form of compensation, gift cards, coupons, or discounts on their next purchase. A kind gesture shows you care and lets them know you appreciate the opportunity they gave you to improve your company’s customer experience.

It Matters to Your Customers

A poor online review is a sign that there’s a problem with your product or service. It matters to your existing and potential customers how you handle a poor review. While a single bad review doesn’t foretell the end of your business, failing to properly handle online criticism as a course of action could have consequences. Follow the guidance above and open up an authentic, appreciative conversation with your toughest critics; it’s a sure route to improving your business and how your customers see your brand.

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