I have to admit that even recently, I have threatened people. There wasn’t any talk of placing their prized stallion’s severed head next to them while they slept or anything. I didn’t grab them by the lapels and slam them into metallic lockers like a high school bully. No, I threatened to leave a bad review for their business online. I know, I know, I’m not always a shining example of a composed consumer when I feel like I’ve been wronged by a company.
In the world we live in, sometimes this threat is all the buying public has in order to get a business to take them seriously. Bad reviews are also a tool we can use to let others know about our perceived mistreatment. Savvy business owners are aware of how much damage these reviews can do. 86% of consumers will hesitate to do business with companies that have negative reviews. I know that personally, I don’t do business with companies that have less than a four-star rating.
Most of the time, these threats are not idle. Many reviewers, including myself, actually go the extra step and write the negative review. Equip yourself to handle this threat in the best way possible using the tips below:
- Stay calm and be tactful. If you can’t stay calm and be tactful, don’t respond! We get that your business is your baby and sometimes when people insult your baby, it’s easy to respond hastily. If your response comes across as being rude or mean-spirited, you can alienate your clientele and everyone else that reads your reviews. No one prefers to do business with a hot head, so watch what you say.
- Acknowledge the review and rebut. Acknowledge what the negative reviewer said and then politely state your side of the story. Use as many facts as is necessary to bolster and strengthen the argument you are making. Again, be nice but matter of fact.
- Don’t get into a protracted he-said-she-said argument online. After you have briefly and calmly stated your case and the facts associated with it, invite the reviewer to contact you offline. Express a desire to find a mutually acceptable solution and state that you look forward to speaking with them.
- Even if you didn't do anything wrong, tactfully apologize for any perceived wrongdoing on the part of your company. You aren’t necessarily admitting guilt here, but you are saying that you’re sorry they didn’t feel like you lived up to your side of the bargain.
- Offer to make amends. If you can turn that frown upside down, great! If that is impossible, at least potential customers can see that you are really trying to make this unsatisfied customer happy.
- No one is perfect and mistakes happen. If you dropped the ball be honest about that. Approaching customers with a humble heart can oftentimes quench the fire that burns inside them. Acknowledge the mistake and offer to make it right with your customers. Be generous.
So what should you do if a customer only threatens to damage your online reputation with a bad review but doesn’t actually post anything? Most of the tips above still apply but make sure you document as much as you can about that particular customer’s experience with your company. As was mentioned earlier, these facts can help you later on if they do in fact give you a bad review or worse, try to involve lawyers or take legal action.
If the threat is face to face, that’s your opportunity to try harder to make them happy. If doing so is impossible, and sometimes it is, make sure you have systems in place to vigorously monitor your reviews so that you’ll be aware if and when they post something that can harm your online reputation. Responding sooner rather than later has been statistically viewed by the public as being more transparent and honest, but again, if you can’t respond using the rules above, take some time to cool off or hire a reputation management company like WebPunch to respond for you.
Your responses are mostly for the potential customers who are going to read how your brand interacts with reviews that are good, bad, and ugly. Let them see that you are aware of what your customers are saying and that if there is a problem, you’ll work hard to try and solve it. Responding also demonstrates that you are a diligent manager and that you strive to protect your brand’s promise to deliver what you say you’ll deliver.
If you have received a lot of negative reviews, it’s not them, it’s you and your process. Look at negative trends and implement strategies to fix and enhance the customer experience. Establish a customer feedback system that allows upset customers to complain to you before they post a bad review online. Reach out to these customers! Let them know what steps you have taken that will ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated.
In the world of reviews and reputation, kindness and understanding both go a long way. There are those though who are like the Joker of Gotham City and just want to cause chaos and negativity. Such individuals can be impossible to please. In any case, follow the tips, take a deep breath and drown the negative reviews with as many positive reviews as you can generate. Put systems in place that make it easy for your happy customers to post their reviews and positive experiences with your brand. Having a lot of happy reviews can make the bad ones appear to be outliers. The public will be more likely to take these bad reviews with a grain of salt.
Knowing that you have a strong reputation can give you confidence when faced with the threat of negative reviews. Having a stellar online reputation and systems in place to keep it that way will help keep your blood pressure normalized despite any threats ticked off customers throw your way.
Matt Jones is a co-founder of WebPunch. When he's not WebPunching, he is exploring the world, taking photos, creating edible art or making gains in the gym. The main love and joy of his life though, is his little boy Mac, who is his best friend.