How to Prevent Negative Online Reviews from Damaging Your Business

I’m no different than the more than 80% of consumers who now research online before making a purchasing decision. Whether it’s reviews on Amazon, Google Places, Facebook, Trip Advisor or elsewhere, I pay close attention to what other buyers have said about the product or service I’m looking to buy.

One business in particular stood out for me during some research I did recently. They had about 20 Google reviews, which would have been fantastic, except that 10 of them (yes, 10…I counted) were negative comments about how the company’s receptionists treated customers. Now this alone would be a great concern, especially given that the comments are so public. But we know that most dissatisfied customers don’t bother to say anything, except to their friends and family. If someone takes the time to post an online review, you know they’re unhappy. It doesn’t matter if you think they’re right or not. What matters is that the review is doing damage to your business… 24/7/365.

What was an even greater concern, from the perspective of an online marketer like me, is that the business hadn’t bothered to address any of the negative comments. So there they sat, like a blinking neon light, discouraging new customers from doing business with the company.

Every business is likely to be subject to a negative review now and again. So what’s a business to do when they get one, especially online? Below are my tips on how to handle negative reviews and how to turn them around in your favour so they serve your business in the long run.

1 – Monitor online reviews about your business

If you have accounts with online directories and review websites, you should receive an email notifying you when someone has provided a review. But it’s a good practice to have a staff person monitor your review sites just in case. It will also reveal whether you’re getting enough reviews in the first place.

2 – Acknowledge that the complaint may have some validity

Hey, we all have customers from hell. And the complaining customer may be on your “pending customer divorces” list anyway. But even if you get a review that you feel is unjustified, there may be some grain of truth in it that needs to be paid attention to. As difficult as it is to get negative feedback, if you can muster the strength to face it head on with an open mind, it can be an eye-opener for your business. Which leads to tip #3…

3 – Let the complaint open your eyes to something in your business that needs fixing

Even if you feel the customer is overreacting, is there something about their feedback that can be an opportunity for improvement in your business? Do procedures need more standardization? Is your front line staff giving quality customer service each and every time?* Improving even one thing about your business based on negative feedback can make you feel grateful for it instead of resentful.

4 – Don’t ignore the complaint

Write a professional, non-emotional response online. And then mail a copy to the customer (believe me, they won’t be expecting it!). The response should do the following: Acknowledge and thank the customer; explain what you did to provide the best possible service; acknowledge where you may have dropped the ball; identify what you have done in your business to correct the situation. This online response, if done properly, will be public relations gold for your business.

5 – Defend Yourself Only When Truly Warranted

If you’ve done some honest soul searching and truly believe that the customer is way out of line, impossible to please, or is simply lying, write a professional, non-emotional response indicating so. Don’t be defensive! Explain how you did everything possible to satisfy the customer, if that’s truly the case. This is more to appease new customers reading the reviews than the unhappy customer.

6 – Don’t hire someone to create fake reviews

This is a dishonest business practice that will eventually come back to bite you. Fewer genuine reviews and the occasional bad review will do more to help your business than a bunch of fake reviews. Customers can smell bullshit a mile away, so don’t shovel it in front of them with fake reviews.

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* P.S. The front line people in your business are so critical to your company’s success.  Are you giving them the tools they need to deliver exceptional customer service and increase revenues? I created a customer service training system to help businesses improve their front line service delivery.  (That’s an article for another day, but you can check it out here in the meantime – FrontLine Pro).

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