Handling an online firestorm of negative reviews can seem like the last thing you want to do. Online business and reviews may not be your forte, especially if you are of the proponents of letting your great service/product/staff do the talking. The problem with this strategy? 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they do personal recommendations, and at least 66% of consumers check online reviews before trying out a business. The many ways you can handle things when the Proverbial s&%t hits the fan.
If things have gone astray online – whether it’s on one review forum, or multiple, here is what Not to Do.
Starting an internet argument with a reviewer is the equivalent of reputation suicide. While there are a small (very very small) percent of businesses that have fought back against what they think are completely false reviews, it’s a tactic that puts you at risk for looking like a thoughtless jerk. Who wants to do business with that type of business owner? Another reason to not argue is that your words – however angry or mean they are – are on the internet to stay. You’re not going to want to hear this: but even if the reviewer is wrong don’t take the “F-you” stance. It just makes you look like a big ol’ internet bully.
Another thing to SO not do is ignore your negative reviews and reviewers. We hope you don’t have so many bad reviews that they’re going to take a whole business day to reply to, but shoot if you do you should take as much time as necessary to reply to each and every one of them.
Lying about your online reputation could come in the form of paying someone to write ‘phony’ reviews (oh please please no!). Consumers’ these days have darn good BS radars.
So, What should you do?
Listen: Listening to your customers pays off. As Entrepreneur and Forbes contributor Alan Hall states, Many companies tend to focus too much on that product or service and forget to listen to what customers are telling them. In the case of customer feedback online this is two-fold – paying attention to what to feedback and what you can do better, as well as actually hearing what customers say review by review. So that you can…
Even if the reviewer takes a totally negative and scathing stance, you should reply. You know that whole ‘kill them with kindness’ thing? Online it works like a charm! If it’s obvious that the review is a phony or they are just being ridiculous, you should still reply and point out they have violated the review sites terms. We recommend quoting the site’s review guidelines. We’ve seen that to be the most successful way to get phony or inappropriate reviews taken down.
Take an objective look:
It’s easy to think your customers know nothing about your business, your struggle, your passion so how in the world could they have anything to contribute! This is a sure fire way to run your business right into the ground. Are customers kinda saying the same things over and over? Are you seeing a trend as to something you could improve to not only increase your review ratings but just be better overall? A cool way to get to the bottom of this is use a service like our monitoring tool that can not only help you track and respond but recognize these trends.
Be Genuine about it! Hey maybe you did screw up, and most likely there is a reason. Let the reviewer know.
Use the Opportunity:
The coolest thing a company can do, like Mind Blowing Cool, is to do all the above and then circle back with a consumer to let them know what they said drove you to make changes. What’s that? A company listened to my complaints and then improved their service accordingly? Cue the Doves and Harpe – The Online Review Gods have aligned!
Here’s what we mean. This totally made up Scenario is as follows: An angry Customer had an appointment that was confirmed over the phone, but when they arrived after driving a pretty long distance they had to wait an hour:
I’m sorry about your experience. We take so much pride in our service and I can assure you your experience was not the norm! That being said I’ve looked into the situation and found that yes, in fact, your appointment was delayed due to a scheduling error on my part. I feel awful! I think my time is pretty darn valuable and I know yours is too. Your experience actually motivated me to implement new scheduling software (just signed up yesterday) to make sure that problem doesn’t happen again. I’m going to make it up to you by refunding your service as well as offering you 25% off the next time you visit us. It’s important to me that every single one of our customers are satisfied, I hope you will give us another try!
The reviewer and (this is important) any other potential customer reading your response might then think:
*They genuinely sound sorry, wow.
*This customer-owner is genuine and definitely a thoughtful human.
*Holy Moly they owned up to their mistakes, impressive!
*They empathized with me – that feels really good.
*They didn’t try to buy me off but are just making up for the mistake in what I think is very fair. That’s cool.
*They actually fixed the problem. Also super cool.
*They were really calm. I kinda feel bad for yelling at them over the internet now…I think I’ll give em another try!
You are now ready to be a Customer Hero. No matter if your business is just getting off the ground or you’ve been an established service for years – there are going to be ‘oh crap’ days. So when the s@%t hits the fan don’t run and hide but breathe, listen and engage with your customers.