5 Tips to Effectively Handle Negative Online Reviews

Online reviews are direct, blunt, and don’t reflect the common respect that we would use if we were talking with a person face-to-face.  That being said, they have a very real impact on your business, and should not be ignored.

The response presents challenges to many of us; since, as a small business owner, every complaint feels like a personal attack.

When people attack you, there are generally one of two choices:  fight or flight.

As a small business owner, how you react will impact your brand.  How it impacts your brand is up to you!

Although you are reacting to a complaint online, you are still responding to a real person.  Remember that you are a business.  A complaint is not personal (even when it is).

Others will judge you and your business on how you respond, so spending a little time to think about it is a good step.

Everyone goes through this cycle

I understand where you’re at, and where you’re coming from…

I have spent HOURS drafting the perfect response to a complaint that I received.  I obsessed over every line, ensured I had every fact right, and unleashed my response.  Frankly, really not as impactful as I had hoped!

I’m sure that you have done similar, or at least wanted to…

Here was my lesson:  Focusing on the negative was destructive to my attitude, and that cascaded over into my business and my family life.

The venom and vitriol is poison.  Don’t let it impact you, don’t let it drag you down.

As far as complaints go.  Own them, fix them (if required), and move on.

Here are 5 points to help you craft your response.

Acknowledge the Complaint

First and foremost, acknowledge that this person had a bad experience with your company.

Every owner wants to deliver a superior product or service, but nobody is perfect.  We are going to make mistakes.

Using the internet as one of your methods of building your business is extremely powerful, and you have customers who are fluent on these systems as well.  Some will use the social channels to voice frustration and complaints.  It’s part of our digital world.

Ignoring the issue makes you look disconnected or worse.  Definitely respond.  That you did respond is probably more important to your future customers than the one issuing a complaint.

Anger will hurt your business…even if you’re right. 

The most common reaction is anger.

In all probability, this is not the first issue you have had with this customer, and you worked with them to a great extent and feel that you provided them good service.

You cannot please everyone, and some customers take much more effort than they are worth to your business. If you are spending a large amount of time focused on dealing with this ONE customer, who are you neglecting?

Go for a walk, hit the gym, ride your bike, play with your children, etc.  Get away from your work for 15 minutes and allow your head to cool.

You’ll be better prepared mentally to address the issue without emotion driving the bus!

Take some time and formulate a polite reply. Acknowledge the person who’s complaining and let them know that you appreciate the input.

Is it legitimate?

A real question that you need to answer, is the complaint legitimate?  If it is, the quicker you respond the better.  Keep it simple:

  • Apologize
  • Take it offline – Provide a phone number to call, or tell them that you will contact them directly.

Back and forth in an online location looks unprofessional.  No matter what you say at this point to this customer, they are not happy.  A public tit-for-tat will tarnish your business and you personally much more than a simple reply.

You cannot win an argument online…ever!

Provide closure for those that will read it later, and they know that you acted on the issue and didn’t ignore it.

Is this a pattern?

Within your business, take a look at other complaints and issues.  Is is this a pattern?  Is there an area of repeat issue?

Here’s an expression that I personally find valuable here:  once is an accident, twice is a pattern, three times is a habit.

Where are you in this cycle?  If it’s a pattern or worse then some correction internally is likely necessary.  Take action, and you have provided a nice response that you can highlight.

Turn the issue to a positive

The upside to a negative comment (which you will eventually experience) is that it presents an opportunity to highlight the positive things your business delivers.

Avoid the corporate response, “We’ve been in business for xx years and have served 100,000 customers” …

This not a good approach.  It comes across as condescending, as though because you have a lot of customers somehow makes their issue less important.

A good response interacts at an individual level and shows a human response. The area to highlight is your customer service response, rather than a general corporate “prose”.

I’ve heard this many times, and it still resonates true:  Online, the customer is always right….even when they’re not.

Enjoy the journey!

[FREE DOWNLOAD] Customer Journey Excel Template

Use the same Excel template shown, and jumpstart your action!

CLICK HERE for Instant access

I would love to hear from you.  Please join me on Facebook, and sell hello!

Click To Share!