Bad reviews are an inevitable fact of life, like death, taxes, and fruit-flavored beer. No matter how scrupulous you are when conducting your business, you’re going to eventually run into a disgruntled customer who takes to the internet to air his grievances. It can be alarming and a bit disheartening when one of these bad reviews crops up, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
Negative customer feedback can actually be good for your business’s online reputation.
I know. Crazy, right? No doubt you’re now scrambling to find the socks that just got blown the heck off your feet. So please, allow me to elaborate.
But first, this caveat: I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, suggesting that you encourage, solicit, or manufacture bad reviews for your business. That would be crazy. All I’m saying is that, rather than sweat the occasional negative comment, you should take advantage of it and use it as an opportunity to show your customers just how awesome your business can be.
A few negative reviews will lend credibility to the positive ones.
You know what looks really suspicious to the average online consumer? A business with absolutely no negative reviews. With 90 percent positive feedback, most folks will assume you’re a business that strives to make its customers happy and succeeds the vast majority of the time. With 100 percent positive feedback, most folks will assume you’re either writing your own reviews or filtering out the complaints. If something looks too good to be true, most people will assume it is.
As long as the negative reviews are aberrations, your online reputation should be able to weather them (and, indeed, even benefit from them). The idea is for consumers to see these bad experiences as isolated incidents that your business quickly and effectively addressed. Which brings me to my second point…
The way you respond to a negative review is more important than the review itself.
Pop quiz, hotshot. An unreasonable customer has just left a one-star review for your business, complaining about things that simply weren’t your fault. What do you do? What *do* you do?
a) Ignore it.
b) Delete it.
c) Post an angry, profanity-laden rebuttal threatening the customer with bodily harm and/or legal action.
d) Apologize sincerely to the customer and assure him that you’re taking the necessary steps to make things right.
As satisfying as c) might be, your best bet is to rise above those lizard brain urgings and take the high road. Apologize for any inconvenience the customer may have suffered, and explain to him the steps you’re taking to make sure something like that doesn’t happen again. Even if the problem was something beyond your control, you can turn this negative into a positive by assuring the customer that you’re working with him (rather than against him) and that his satisfaction is paramount. Even if the customer responds ungraciously, people reading the review will regard you favorably if you come across as reasonable and willing to help.
The important thing is to be sincere and above board here. Don’t offer a non-apology (“We deeply regret any hardships or inconveniences that may have been experienced by the customer(s) in question.”) and don’t offer excuses (“I’m sorry, but this is our busiest time of year and we’ve been under a lot of pressure.”) Instead, just get out in front of the issue, acknowledge the part (if any) your business played in it, and assure the customer (and anyone reading the review) that it won’t happen again.
So as long as you’re not being inundated with negative reviews, there’s no reason to fear the occasional public complaint. Just respond quickly and make every effort to turn that disgruntled customer around. Even if you’re not successful, a lot of your potential customers will be impressed that you made the effort. And that can only help your business’s online reputation.