There’s an old saying, “The pen is mightier than the sword,” which suggests that it’s more effective to fight with words than with weapons. In our digital age, that adage has never been more true. Anyone with a computer or smart phone has the ability to make their opinion heard.
Online review sites transform what was once word-of-mouth communication in to a world-wide interaction. A single opinion can bring customers flocking to your business. Or convince them, in the words of Hollywood executive Samuel Goldwyn, to “stay away in droves.” In a survey conducted by Zendesk, 86% of participants said that their decisions are influenced by negative reviews. If your business hasn’t been hit with a bad review, brace yourself. Few businesses escape online wrath. How you react can make a big difference to your public perception and your bottom line.
Investigate and Validate
You may be tempted to respond to a negative review right away. Resist that urge. It’s natural to feel hurt and angry, but that’s not a productive frame of mind when you respond. First, put on your detective hat. Re-read the complaint to see if there are any clues. When did the event occur, what sort of contact did the complainant have with your business? Was it in person, online, or over the phone?
Next, communicate with employees who may have had contact with the writer. They may provide additional details about the encounter. Keep in mind, your mission is not to build a case against either the reviewer or an employee. Your goal is resolution. If you discover things that could have been done better on your end, it’s a good idea to begin corrective action before the next crucial step.
Suppose you visit an online review site to check out a restaurant and you see a negative review without a response. What goes through your mind? You probably think that the proprietor doesn’t care about providing quality food or service. With that in mind, how likely are you to take a take a chance on that restaurant?
Every review, good or bad deserves a response. Responding to a positive review is easy. How you reply to a bad review is a little more difficult.
First, reply to the reviewer’s comment. Keep it brief. Acknowledge the person who posted the negative review and thank them for their input. If you made a mistake, admit it and apologize. A short apology can go a long way to soothe hurt feelings. If you’ve begun steps to resolve the issue on your end, be sure to mention the actions you’re taking in your reply. How you respond is important to the reviewer, but it also shows visitors to the site that you care. Next, take the conversation offline. Ask the writer to send a private message, an email, or to call you directly.
Avoid “Going Corporate”
Some articles suggest spinning a negative review to draw attention to your business’ positive qualities.
However it’s a strategy that could backfire. It takes time and effort to write a review, either positive or negative. People who take the time to write a review want to know that their voice is heard. Your response should make it clear that you are listening. Avoid stuffy corporate language in your response to help the reviewer realize they’re communicating with a real person, not a robot that spits out canned answers. Bragging about the number of satisfied customers you serve every day or other positive qualities of your business may only serve to imply to the writer that their feelings aren’t valid.
People who have a complaint want to be heard, they need to have their concerns acknowledged. They’re likely in no mood to hear how much everyone else adores you. There are plenty of opportunities to promote your business. Responding to a bad review shouldn’t be one of them.
You Don’t Have to Win in Order to Win
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you won’t be able to placate a reviewer. Unfortunately, there is limited recourse in the world of online reviews. For example, on Facebook, you can request that a review be removed if you feel that it doesn’t follow the Facebook Community Standards or if it doesn’t focus on the product or service offered by your page. In that case, Facebook will review your report and may remove the review if it doesn’t follow their guidelines. Even if you can’t delete a negative review, take heart. When you handle yourself with tact, understanding, and a desire to resolve the issue, you can take satisfaction in the knowledge you did everything in your power to make good on a bad review.
Remember to keep in mind the big picture. Even if you don’t sway the opinion of one person, the online universe will see that you’re involved, engaged and caring.
Have you ever received a negative review? How did you respond? Tell us in the comments section.