If criticism hurts, then a negative online review can feel like a double-punch. It's upsetting enough to read a complaint about your business, but knowing your current and potential customers can read it too can make you feel utterly helpless.
Your gut reaction is rooted in reality: reviews matter. A large BrightLocal study of nearly 5,000 consumers found nearly 92 percent of consumers read online reviews and 88 percent put as much stock in reviews as personal recommendations. Before that double-punch starts to trigger a wave of nausea, find hope in the finding that 85 percent of consumers read as many as 10 online reviews to vet a business. This means in addition to reading a negative review, your current and potential customers will probably read your response to it, too. Put another way, you are not helpless after all.
Responding to a negative review is a form of reputation management and no one can manage your reputation better than you. You can turn a negative review to your advantage in three sensible steps:
Step 1: Let a calmer head prevail
Depending on how you're hard-wired, your temptation may be to sulk or strike back with a tongue-lashing of your own. Better to do the former than the latter, but not for long. Give yourself time – a day, no more than two – to shake off any residue of anger or self-pity so you can competently move on to the next step in a positive, proactive manner.
Step 2: Search for truth in the negative review
Your goal is to find the validity in the negative review. It may be scant, but unless the reviewer is a genuine malcontent whose only agenda is to make your life miserable, most negatives reviews contain at least a germ of truth. And you want to uncover this germ so you can address it internally (meaning, fix the problem) before responding publicly to the review with diplomacy and style. So even if you've discerned the reviewer is making a “federal case” out of a minor infraction – say, the perceived negative tone of one of your customer service reps – you will have discovered the basis for your response.
Step 3: Write an upbeat response to the review
You may not be able to strike an empathetic, diplomatic tone in one draft, but your response should:
Validate the customer's feelings (since even only grumpy customers want to be heard).
Apologize for the circumstance (whether or not you disagree or have to steel yourself to use kind language).
Explain how you appreciate the criticism, have taken it to heart and have used it to make improvements at your business.
Ask (without pleading) how you can “make things right” with the customer (effectively giving the customer the upper hand – a shrewd move).
Underscore (without overtly boasting) that this situation underscores how your business remains responsive to its customers, values their business and always strives to improve.
With your reasoned and positive response posted for “the world” to see, you will have achieved what what marketing professors Michael McCollough and Sundar Bharadwaj call a “service recovery.” This is a level of customer satisfaction that surpasses what would have been possible without a “service failure” – in this case, the original complaint.
To keep the positive momentum going with your customers and their reviews, download the Defining: Digital Marketing guide from ADTACK. Then call us for a consultation so we can help you convert any other double-punches into positive outcomes for your business.