August 21, 2019

When Customers Go Negative: How to Respond to Negative Reviews

Gone are the days where customers see an ad for something, feel like they have to have it, and then go buy it. According to studies, between 80% to 97% of consumers check out a product or service online before buying. Two out of every three customers form an opinion about a local business after reading 1-6 reviews.

Now consumers have a voice: the Internet. Sites such as Angie’s List and Yelp have given them a sounding board on which to praise the good companies and criticize the bad ones.

And those reviews turn into business. 42% of customers who have a good experience with a company will buy from it again, while 94% say an online review has convinced them not to use a business.

And it’s going to happen to you. Even companies known for stellar customer service such as Chick Fil-A, Trader Joe’s and Amazon have experienced bad reviews. So what do you do when you get one?

Be Prepared for Bad Reviews

Don’t let a customer or reporter tell you that you have bad reviews. Follow the following sites daily:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Angie’s List
  • Yelp
  • Google Business
  • Google Play Store (if you have an app)
  • Apple App Store (if you have an app)
  • Any industry-specific forums or marketplaces

Don’t get defensive

When you encounter a bad review, it’s easy to look at it from your end and justify why you or your team acted the way they did. And if the review is especially fierce, you may be tempted to shoot off a response.

But don’t type a reply immediately. Read the review objectively and look into the matter. When you have all the facts and have taken several deep breaths, you’re ready to reply.

Respond quickly

That being said, you don’t need to sit on it for a couple of days. The sooner you respond, the better off you’ll be.

According to ReviewTrackers research, more than half of customers who wrote online reviews expected a response in seven days or less. About 25% expected to hear back within three days. These people are usually not trying to embarrass you; they expect results.

During the 1992 election, President Bill Clinton’s campaign had a rapid response team in which staffers worked around the clock to respond to negative press, put out fires and keep the campaign on message. While we’re not advocating for a 24/7 review monitoring team, you need to act quickly and minimize the damage the review can do. These reviews are public and are being read by dozens, maybe even hundreds each day.

Empathize and Apologize

This person is frustrated. Recognize those feelings and apologize, even if you’re in the right. Don’t respond with platitudes such as “We apologize for the inconvenience.” Be genuine and show that you care and understand their problems. Almost half of all consumers say that they’re more likely to visit a business if it responds to negative reviews.

Offer to Take the Discussion Offline

If it’s a complicated issue, give them an email address or phone number to contact you so you can talk about it at length. You may want to offer the customer compensation such as a coupon or gift certificate for their troubles.

Kindly, Humbly Ask for Removal

If you feel that you’ve fixed the problem and the customer is happy, ask them if they will remove their bad review or write a follow-up review. This is what you want to achieve. Andrew Thomas, founder of Skybell Video Doorbell, estimates that it takes about 40 positive customer experiences to undo the damage of a single negative review. If you can erase that review from history, it’s equal to 40 positive reviews.

Fix the Problem, and Learn from It

Not only should you correct the problem, but tell the customer about how you fixed it and how you will make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Perhaps an employee needs better customer service training. Maybe there’s a flaw in your product, or a new skill your staff needs to learn. Make sure that the incident that created the bad review doesn’t happen again. Of course, you can never guarantee that, but you want to aim for 100% customer satisfaction.

And fix the ones that result in bad reviews.

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