Turn Lemons Into Lemonade: How To Handle Negative Customer Reviews

Posted by Leah DeMasters on Apr 5th, 2017 in Marketing & Design

A good reputation is critical for any business. Consumers are constantly doing research, now more than ever, about businesses and their products online before they decide where to invest their money. Whether it's checking out a new place to eat or inquiring about a home builder's reputation, online reviews influence people to spend money in every industry. Good reviews not only entice consumers to check-out a business, they help influence search engine rankings, and improve conversions. Negative or unfavorable reviews/comments on Google, Facebook, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie's List, Foursquare, and other social media platforms, can do serious PR damage to an existing brand or product. Any company, no matter how large or small can feel the painful impact, both emotionally and financially of bad reviews.

Unfortunately, receiving a bad review is inevitable in a world full of critics, so it is important to manage positive and negative reviews effectively. If your business does get hit with negative feedback; fairly or unfairly, you must respond. A bad review is not the issue, it is the result of a problem within your business or a consumer's misperception. The real issue is whatever happened between your customer and your business that created a negative result. When a reviewer says something negative about your business, you have the opportunity to excel at customer service and turn a negative experience into a positive one with the evidence online for all to see. Here's how to deal with negative reviews in positive ways:

  1. Have A System In Place. The best way to respond to a good/bad review is to be prepared, organized, and have a system in place on how your company will respond to reviews before they come in. Create a target response time (preferably less than 24 hours), decide which employee(s) should be in charge of writing responses, determine steps to follow for resolving issues, and always make sure you have a way of documenting the situation (to have for records and for future staff training examples).
  2. Own It And Wear It. Accidentally double-booked appointments? Just own it and apologize for your wrongdoing. The key is to let the customer know that you want to improve their experience for the better. Also invite the reviewer to connect with a supervisor directly, to encourage more questions and comments.
  3. Show The Customer You Care. Your company should be serious about compensating customers who have had genuinely bad experiences. It's not just about admitting a mistake, but correcting it. Address the specific issue and work toward resolving the issue. Show empathy, compassion and a real commitment to making things right. If you recover from the mistake well, you can potentially build a stronger relationship with the customer than you had beforehand.
  4. Promote Customer Reviews. Encourage customers to leave reviews. Send a personal email, include a note on invoices and receipts, or create signage in your place of business to promote review sites where your customers can find you. These are a few subtle ways to encourage reviews that may encourage the customer to respond.
  5. Lighten-Up and Add Some Humor. At the end of the day, the success of your business depends not on what one customer says. In the real world, customers aren't always right. But if they don't think they did anything wrong and if they use a digital platform for making personal attacks, always stay calm and never let your emotions get the best of you. Depending on the negative response, putting some humor into a response to a bad review can show a lighter side of your business to other customers and also show you have taken the high-road to an obvious disgruntled person.

Positive reviews help keep existing consumers as well as attract new customers. Negative reviews can turn people away and create a negative reputation for your business that could spread unfavorably to other potential customers by word-of-mouth. By not responding to online reviews, potential consumers may be deterred in doing business with you. Reviews are influencing the opinions of potential customers, but they do not have to permanently reflect who you are as a brand negatively in the digital world. In short, people are forming opinions about your business based on what other people are saying, long before you even get the chance to meet them. It is important that you continue to create a positive online presence for your customers and turn those sour reviews into some sweet lemonade.