How to handle negative online reviews
Online customer reviews can be a powerful thing. In fact, 85 percent of North Americans read them. Approximately 50 percent of consumers say they are more likely to visit a business after reading a positive review about them online and almost 70 percent say they trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations.So, what happens when your well-intentioned small business, despite its valiant customer satisfaction efforts, receives a negative review? First, sit back, take a deep breath and relax—it happens. Then refer to these five simple steps on responding to a negative review in order to turn your customer’s bad experience into a good one.

  • Step 1—Keep calm: Receiving a negative review can cause any passionate business owner to be concerned. However, keep in mind that any feedback truly is fortunate, even if it is negative. After all, for every one customer who will tell you about a negative experience they had with your establishment, there are ten who won’t take the time to share. Consider yourself lucky; negative feedback presents an opportunity to fix a problem you may have never known existed.
  • Step 2—Address the complaint: You never want to ignore a negative review. Your timely response and effort towards a resolution shows customers you care and that any concerns or issues they have are taken seriously. Apologize for the negative experience, find out the exact cause and work toward making amends. A gift certificate to your establishment provides the opportunity to deliver a better experience the second time around. Include a handwritten note of thanks for the feedback and a token of apology appropriate for your business—a pizzeria may choose a gourmet pizza cutter or an auto repair shop could include a tire gauge.
  • Step 3—Get the facts: Before you begin your reply, gather the facts. Perhaps the statement is factually incorrect; and, if the statement is truly disparaging in its inaccuracy, you have the right to ask for the comment to be removed or retracted by offering the facts. If the review site won’t remove it, address the commenter politely by posting the facts in the comments section. Remember, it is possible to turn every negative post to a positive one with the facts worded with empathy and respect.
  • Step 4—Move conversations offline when appropriate: If a simple response won’t do, or worse yet, risks back and forth banter from others, it may be best to reply offline. A straightforward comment explaining to the reviewer that someone from your company would appreciate direct contact with them, followed by an in-box message and phone call if possible may be best. When a resolution is made, it would be appropriate to ask the customer to write a follow-up post. Once they do, send a small thank you gift, like a logo’d travel mug or BBQ set, to show appreciation and goodwill.
  • Step 5—Be proactive: Perhaps the most effective way of dealing with negative reviews is to avoid them being posted online in the first place. Comment cards or email surveys are great ways to garner and address feedback before it is shared publicly.  Encourage your customers to share their comments by holding monthly drawings for a picnic cooler or tool bag set just for participating. And remember, if there’s negative feedback, start the process over again: keep calm, gather the facts and quickly address any complaints.

With negative reviews, it’s not a matter of if, but when. A simple plan for how your small business will address a bad review when it happens can help turn a poor experience into a positive one.

Egan, John. “How Much Attention Are You Paying to Online Reviews?” Self Storage Blog The Storage Facilitator RSS. N.p., 27 March 2014. Web. Retrieved 21 Apr. 2014.

Moore, Rody. “How Small Businesses Can Manage Negative Online Reviews.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 15 May 2012. Web. Retrieved 21 Apr. 2014.

Alsever, Jennifer. “How Do You Handle Bad Online Reviews?” CNNMoney. Cable News Network, 04 Nov. 2013. Web. Retrieved 21 Apr. 2014.

Ristic, Ivan. “How to Handle Negative Online Reviews.” Entrepreneur. N.p., 13 Nov. 2013. Web. Retrieved 21 Apr. 2014.

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