Dealing with negative customer reviews

Like it or not, what other people are saying affects your website

Customer reviews online have become a big part of how we shop online, and affect our decisions on who we want to do business with. Your company web presence should acknowledge this. It has become almost impossible to ignore these reviews.

Unfortunately you don’t just have to worry about the words on your own website anymore, you have to be aware of the words on other sites as well.

The way you deal with bad reviews and control the conversation will show a lot about your company’s customer service.

Knowing what’s out there

Simply knowing what the conversation is out there on the web is something that you need to watch. You should sign up with review sites and claim your listing in order to be alerted when new reviews are posted. You want to know when they come in, and if you need to take action right away. If you can’t get an account with a website that posts public reviews, you should have a recurring checklist item on your calendar where you go and check them manually.

Responding to bad reviews

Some websites such as tripadvisor.com allow the owner of a business to publicly respond to reviews posted on the site, once you create an account and verify that you are the owner of the business. This can be a good place for you to apologize, give your opinion or clarify your company policies that are related to the review. If you can – do this whenever you can.

The outcome may surprise you – if you show everyone you are respectful to customers even if they are pissed off – others will notice. It looks good for you even if you messed up and they are in the right.

Even if the person doesn’t change their attitude, it will still show you tried to make it right.

Don’t argue on the internet

Sometimes people are just "Trolls" and will say negative things to try to get a reaction, or in an attempt to get free stuff. If this is the case, ignore them. You should never engage in any combative dialogue with any customer in a public forum, as you will almost always regret it and it will reflect poorly on your company image.

Making things right

Not all review sites allow you to respond as the business. If you are unable to publicly respond to a bad review, you can try to contact the reviewer and try to make the situation right.

If that doesn’t work, you’ll have to do your best to encourage people who you know are satisfied customers to write honest reviews of your business.

Hopefully a number of positive reviews can help to bury negative ones, or at least dull their effects.

But then How do I get good reviews?

Happy customers tell a few people, angry customers tell everyone. That aint changing anytime soon either.

Someone who is angry or feels let down by your company is more motivated to write a review than a satisfied customer. This is why it is important to nicely ask that your best, satisfied customers create accounts on review sites and write positive reviews for you. Most often they will be happy to oblige. The trick is to build it into your customer touch points – tell them that you’d appreciate their help and don’t be afraid to give discounts as you would to someone who refers new business to you.

Get ’em off the Soap Box

While there might be some value in publicly apologizing to someone through an online review site, it does bring more attention to the matter in some ways. If possible, you should attempt to contact the reviewer privately and try to resolve the situation.

I have seen the results of both approaches with some of my clients. If someone complains about a negative experience they had with one of your policies, it can be helpful to publicly explain to them why things were handled a certain way. As long as you are not argumentative or trying to make them look stupid, then you can come out ahead.

Contacting them privately has advantages too, in that you have the chance to diffuse the situation before it turns into something ugly.

Fake reviews

It can be tempting to compensate the effects of bad reviews by writing good reviews for your business under a fake name. This is actually illegal in some places and if you are ever exposed of doing so – there could be a negative backlash from your existing customers and you will most certainly lose their trust which is an important form of currency.

Don’t Suck / Look like you Care

Not always, but sometimes a bad review is actually stemming from someone having a bad experience with one of your processes that you really should fix. If someone sees multiple reviews that address the same problem, their opinion of your company will be negative if they see that you are not fixing it and they might have the same experience.

Conversely, if they see a pattern that looks like you fixed the problem, it looks like you actually care. People are more likely to buy something or do business with people who care about providing exceptional customer service.

Outside Resources

About Grady McNeill

Grady McNeill builds websites, writes content, and does SEO for many clients in North America. He runs Increase Interactive and splits his time between Las Vegas, NV and Calgary, AB.

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