Just the other day, my husband and I were checking out some new places in our area to eat. Since we just moved here a few months ago, we weren’t quite sure which restaurants would be able to turn us into lifelong customers and which ones would be the subject of a horror story we couldn’t wait to share with people back home. So, we did what millions of others do, we went online to see which ones had the best reviews.
Now, I have to admit that, as a writer, I’m pretty skeptical about what I read online. I’ve seen way too many job postings where some businesses are looking to pay professional writers to go to their sites and leave favorable reviews.
However, I also know that “real” people do leave reviews as well. So, I tend to avoid all businesses that have nothing but glowing 5-star reviews, as they’re potentially fake. I also eliminate the ones that are 1-stars across the board (pretty self-explanatory), gravitating to the ones that are somewhere in between. I look specifically for ones that have some dissatisfied customers, but the majority appears to be happy ones.
And when I get to a bad review, I always read through it to look for two things. One, I want to know what it is they are complaining about. For instance, is it a product issue (something that suggests a quality concern) or a service issue (a sign that the company and/or its employees doesn’t care about their customers)?
The second thing I look for is how the business handled the review. The way they chose to respond certainly says a lot about them and often determines whether I want to give the company and chance and make my own decision, or if I choose to trust what I’m reading online and go with someone else instead.
With that thought in mind, here are some positive ways you can handle negative reviews, potentially increasing the likelihood that people like me will become long and loyal customers:
Respond to the Review
If I notice that the company responded to the less-than-stellar review, that tells me that they are concerned with public perception and, perhaps more importantly, want to make their customers happy. For instance, if you go to the Yelp page for Les Deux Gamins in Montreal, Canada, you’ll see that they respond to all of their Yelp reviews, both good and bad.
The fact that the business would take the time to let each and every customer who left a review know that it was read is amazing. Especially in this day and age when life often gets so busy that it’s often the little things like this that tend to not get done. Plus, if I were to leave a negative review, I would want to know it had been heard by the company that I left it about.
Respond Right Away
Letting a bad review sit unanswered is like leaving a splinter in your finger. Pretty soon it’s going to fester and you’re going to end up with more pain than if you had removed it right away.
Web Marketing Today says that issuing a prompt response “shows the customer that you care and value their opinion.” And if you think about it, that’s true. If you are dissatisfied with a company and they step up to the plate immediately to see what they can do to make it better, you do feel more positive about the whole exchange. It kind of lessens the bad feelings the initial situation created and makes you more likely to want to give them a second chance.
That being said, if you’re angered by the review, then don’t hesitate to give it 24 hours before responding. Allow yourself some time to cool down so you don’t put something online that you’ll later regret.
Really Listen to What the Reviewer Said
Sometimes you can tell based on the business’ response that they were really paying attention to the complaint being made by the person who left the not-quite-glowing review. They do this by making specific statements to speak to the actual complaint (like the long service wait time or overdone appetizers) so you know that the reviewer was heard loud and clear.
And sometimes the customer just wants to know that they were heard and this is good enough to get them back in the door to give your business another shot. But usually for that to happen, they also like to feel validated, which is what we will talk about next.
Validate the Reviewer
One of the quickest ways to upset a customer is to tell them that they are wrong (even if they are). However, if you can validate his or her feelings instead, this often goes a long way.
Certainly, if you’ve done nothing wrong, you don’t have to say you did just to save face, nor should you. But, you can at least say something along the lines of, “I would have been upset if that happened to me too.” In that way, you’re neither accepting nor denying blame, but you are still able to validate that the reviewer had every right to feel the way he or she did.
Finally, a little bit of politeness goes an awful long way, so simply using well-mannered language in your response definitely helps. All it takes is a few well-placed pleases or thank yous to show that, even when confronted with a bad review, you can still remain professional and courteous.
While you can’t make all of your customers happy all of the time, you can do damage control for the ones who felt that they weren’t treated as well as they’d like by responding to their negative reviews using these five guidelines.
What are some of the positive ways that you’ve handled negative reviews? Feel free to share them below so that other small business owners can use them too!
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