Surely you always strive to give your customers, clients and anyone who attempts to do business with you the utmost kindness, respect, and quality of service. But, there are times that despite your best efforts, someone may get upset with you or one of your employees. And, unfortunately, in this time, the preferred way for people to take out their frustrations with a business or its owner is by leaving negative online reviews. Negative online reviews can be detrimental to your business and have a big influence in a potential customers choice to do business with you or not. Don’t let angry customers get the best of you.
It goes like this: If a potential customer can see on Yelp that your restaurant’s food wasn’t delicious, they may try the deli across the block. When a Google review says that your law office never returns a voicemail, they may think you’re too unreliable for the case. And if TripAdvisor says the tour you guide is BOR-ING, then they probably won’t book with you.
If you client is doing any kind of research online, you don’t want negative things to show up about your business. After all, your competitor is only one click away. And, sorry to break it to you, but according to recent marketing statistics, it’s been found that 81% of shoppers research your business online before making big purchases. In addition, 51% of smartphone users have discovered a business through a search on their smartphone.
Removing a negative online review
There are very few reasons that review sites will allow you to delete negative online reviews. After all, if businesses could remove all negative opinions, the sites would be useless.
There are only three reasons that Yelp would be willing to remove a review, per their site:
- There is an apparent conflict of interest. If this reviewer has affiliation with your competitor, it isn’t going to be an unbiased review of their experience. Also, if they are receiving compensation from the business. That’s a big no-no.
- The review isn’t about their own personal consumer experience. Rather, it could be considered hearsay. “My sister said she hated this place!” Is not a helpful review.
- The review is inappropriate. If there is hate speech, or personal information about the employee, it can be removed.
Google has a long list of reasons that reviews can violate their terms of service. Generally, they are the same as Yalp’s, with the addition of disallowing impersonation, advertising, off-topic reviews, and sexually explicit material.
Don’t take it personally.
Great businesses get negative reviews. It happens. Our answering service received a negative online review before. This is what the correspondence looked like:
Tips for Responding to Negative Online Reviews
1. DON’T FREAK OUT.
There’s been several snafus over the years from business owners that think that fighting fire with fire online is the best way to deal with negative online reviews. Some are more notable than others. Amy’s Baking Company, a restaurant once featured on Kitchen Nightmares, made headlines after a negative online review spiraled into the ‘most epic brand meltdown.’ The Yelp review heard ’round the world is one that won’t be soon forgotten, even after the business failed.
What did they do wrong? The owner got upset and defensive. They went with their immediate response, which, unfortunately, was anger and accusations, and put it on the web, where everyone could see. It didn’t go well for them. That leads us to our next tip:
2. Don’t respond immediately.
Do some research. Don’t be hasty like the above-mentioned business owner. Take a walk, take a breather, and calm down. You’ve already seen an example of what could happen if you don’t take this route and you don’t want to be that person. That person went out of business.
3. Do some research about the negative online reviews.
Go to the source. If the qualm that they had was that you have a no good receptionist, ask your receptionist if, based on the information given in the review (and the name/photo of the reviewer, depending on the website) this person rings a bell. Find out if you can get the entire story if it wasn’t from a situation involving you.
If it did involve direct contact with you, try to remember that day and your take on the situation. Try and see things from the customer’s side.
4. Join the conversation.
Look, you have to respond. You can’t just stay in step 2. This is highly important, for a couple of reasons.
An angry customer wants to be heard.
Think about it. The customer didn’t feel like you fulfilled their needs, and they were so angry over it that they took to the internet to voice their displeasure. That’s some passion over an upset. If there was a confrontation prior to the negative review, they didn’t feel like it was handled well. If there wasn’t, the reviewer wants to vent. They wouldn’t be that upset had you resolved it prior, but you still have a chance to turn things around.
When you respond to a negative online review, you’re letting the person complaining know that you value them as a customer and a human being. Their displeasure is your displeasure. Addressing it head-on says a lot about you as a business owner.
It’ll be seen.
Negative online reviews could likely be a potential customer’s first impression of your business. Don’t let it be the last. You can’t ignore a negative online review or wish it away. You should give your side of the story of the incident. Do so in a professional and appropriate way, so that when people learn of the incident, they will have the whole story. Give them the opportunity to see the story from both biased angles.
You see, not answering the review is, in a way, a form of a response. It says to whomever reads the poor review that your customers’ negative opinions don’t merit a response. Responding helps increase customer advocacy.
5. Fix it and mention it.
Look at the problems that they experienced and use it as constructive criticism. How can you use this information to improve your business? Fix this one person’s problem and improve your overall customer experience.
Look at the different pieces of the review. What was on their list of complaints? Poor customer service? The product they wanted was unavailable? Slow shipping? All issues should be addressed. Someone who’s seeking others’ opinions of your business would like to see that you’ve solved any issue that another person had at your business. That, and the person who left the negative review is unlikely to ever use your business or service again if you don’t.
6. Keep your tone in mind, and have someone look over your response.
It’s easy to take things personally when someone is being critical of your small business. Even if you’re trying to remain impartial in a written response, you can still come off as rude or defensive. So, have a friend or colleague read it over. A third party can give you an unbiased opinion on your tone of voice. And hey, even the best writers need a good editor.
7. Ask the customer for an update.
The goal of responding to a negative online review is to create a dialog with the unsatisfied customer. A dialog can allow for a second chance. This is gold. You know why? It can take up to 12 positive experiences to outweigh one negative. But you often don’t get that many chances.
Ask if they would mind updating the review to reflect how satisfied they are with your business now. If you’ve worked closely with them to fix the issue, they likely have a different opinion of your business.
What’s the cost of a bad online review?
Moz did a study not too long ago about consumer opinions based on online reviews. This study group of 1,000 Google Consumer Surveys found that 67% of consumers’ purchasing decisions are influenced by online reviews. Through their research, they learned that half of consumers don’t go through to the second page on google. Their search is limited to the first page. What is at the top and sidebar when someone does a search of your business’ name? Yep, the reviews.
Your potential customer is seeing your reviews. How much of an effect is that having on your business? This study found that businesses risk losing up to 22% of customers over only one negative article written about their product or service. And if there was three negative articles? Potential for lost customers increases to 59.2%. Four or more negative articles? You’re likely to lose 70% of potential customers. Yikes.
Inc.com did the math:
It could end up costing you more than that.
A slow but steady decrease in revenue is a scary thing, especially for a small business owner. If your business has a lot of overhead and profit is dwindling, a loss in potential customers could be devastating. Negative online review could kill your business.
Apply this to your small business…
Use the above list as a guideline for what to do when you’ve got negative online reviews to handle and share it with your team.
Now try this: be prepared.
Hopefully there won’t be a ‘next time’ when it comes to negative online reviews, but you should still take some time to have preparations in place.
Negative online review templates
It helps to have a set of pre-written responses that you can use as a template to respond to the customer. By no means are we advising that you repeat the same response again and again. That would look a lot like automated customer service. And, if you’re a longtime reader, you know how we feel about that.
But, ReviewTrackers has a great resource of templates to create conversations with complainers. Use these as a guide rather than copying and pasting the text and hoping for the best. Each one comes off professional and has the right tone in dealing with someone who has been displeased.
Have standard procedures in place
Decide a time frame for answering negative online reviews. It should be done quickly. The reviewer will still be engaged in 24-48 hours, but maybe not next week. You’ve likely already lost business by that point.
Decide also who on your team should be responsible for responding to negative online reviews. Who is a good employee for this task? Document the incident to help aid in training new employees. And remember to use procedures for internet safety.
Encourage positive reviews
Create a campaign to encourage positive reviews from your customers and clients. You can create signage in your storefront requesting reviews on select sites. Also, you can send out an email blast requesting reviews. But, check the policy of the review site first. While Yelp allows you to encourage your customers to leave you a review, they disallow giving compensation for reviews. Tread lightly!