• The Dos and Don’ts of Handling Bad Online Reviews

handling bad reviews

Everyone struggles to respond to negative feedback, especially when it relates to maintaining your business’ reputation. How long should I wait to respond? What’s the appropriate language to use? What if I disagree with the reviewer? These are commonly asked questions that need answering if you want to maintain your company’s brand image and reputation. Luckily, we have some tips that will help answer all of your review board concerns.

Responding to the Bad Review

DO: Respond Promptly

People are on their phones and computers constantly. Gone are the days where you can get away with the “I haven’t checked my phone recently” excuse. If you take too long to respond, your unhappy customer (and the rest of the online community) may think you are negligent to your company, trying to kick the bad review under the rug by ignoring them, or both. Responding in a timely fashion that shows your business is responsible and attentive to its customers.

DON’T: Respond Hastily

While it’s important to respond to negative reviews promptly, this should not be confused with hastily. Haste often results in an emotional and/or an unprepared response. Before responding, take a second to consult your staff and obtain as many details as possible regarding what really happened. Once you have gathered all of the information you can on the situation, you can begin thinking about how to prepare your response. Collecting both sides’ account of what happened will help you cover all of your bases in the response.

It’s easy to take a bad review personally, so take a deep breath before responding defensively! Wait until your disposition is calm and your response well thought out. A well thought out response after 30 minutes to an hour is much better than a poorly thought out response after five minutes.

Preparing for Your Response

As mentioned above, it’s important to place some preparatory steps between the bad review and your response.

DO: Prepare

Plan out your response. Maybe even write out some key bullet points you don’t want to forget. Focus on apologizing for the experience and outlining how you plan to resolve it. If the cause of the issue was a breakdown on your company’s part, you may want to briefly explain what happened. However, be careful not to get into too many details. Only provide information that is relevant to the customer and to resolving the situation. The focus should be on validating the customer and rectifying the situation.

DON’T: Control

Even though you plan your response to the unhappy customer, be open to what the customer has to say. Don’t try and control the conversation. Preparing is different from planning. You can be prepared for various comments, questions, and “attacks” that may or may not happen. You can remain consistent in your responses without being a robot. Prepare general points of reference to help manage foreseeable circumstances, but leave some things variable. These responses are a time to use real language and get a little personal with your customers.Don’t let preparation and consistency veil your company’s authentic voice.

DO: Investigate the Root of the Problem

No matter how well you know your customers and employees, you must investigate the reason for the online review. Don’t immediately assume the customer is misinformed, or be quick to attribute the problem to your employees.

In most cases, a bad review comes from someone who genuinely believes their point has merit. Thoroughly looking into the issue allows for an appropriate and proportional response to the review. It may also result in finding a glitch in your services, which you can then fix to prevent the issue from arising again in the future.

DON’T: Discuss Next Steps Just Yet

Once you’ve gathered as much information about the bad review as possible, you may think you have a full understanding of the issue. However, before you take any steps with your employees—whether on fixing the current issue or preventing more of them in the future—you must talk to the reviewer first. It is not until you have that conversation that you will have all of the information you need to come up with the best way to proceed.
Engaging With the Reviewer

DO: Show Compassion

This is when it’s important to remember that the customer is always right. Validate their feelings in a professional, sympathetic, and nonconfrontational manner. No matter what your take is on the situation, be sure to acknowledge the customer’s concerns and respect the experience that the customer had. Apologize for their bad experience, emphasize that this was not intentional, and reassure them that resolving the issue and restoring their satisfaction is your top priority.

DON’T: Be Emotional

It’s important to be compassionate, but this must not be confused with being emotional. This is your business and you work tirelessly to maintain it, so a bad review and someone speaking negatively about something so close to you is likely to stir up emotions. Don’t take it personally, and certainly do not let your emotions show in your response. If someone is rude to you, the last thing you want to do is be curt with them in response. Remember, this is a reputation building experience.You don’t want to do something that could result in a loss of customers or something that would damage your brand image.

To help leave unnecessary emotions out of the equation, develop a consistent “response formula”. This does not mean you should copy and paste the exact same formatted response to every bad review. However, you may create a set of guidelines to help you stay on track with a professional response. For example,

  1. Recognize the review
  2. Sympathize with the customer
  3. Briefly explain what happened
  4. Offer an offline contact

handing bad reviews

Resolving the Problem

DO: Accept the Feedback

There may be some valuable feedback in what the customer has to say. Even if it’s a misunderstanding, you can learn how to recognize and prevent future misunderstandings.

DON’T: Accept or Point Blame

If the bad review resulted from an internal problem, mistake, or error, do not look to place blame. Speak with the person or team responsible for the problem and talk about how to resolve it and prevent it in the future.

DON’T: Blame Yourself

Don’t blame yourself! If it’s a mistake you made, you should own up to it, but accountability is different from blaming yourself. Accountability is professional. Blame is emotional.

Protecting Your Reputation

DO: Respond to the Bad Review Publicly

If you can, respond publicly to show that you care about your customers’ opinions. Don’t just say “I am sorry, give me a call and we can resolve the situation.” The public would like some sort of prism into the resolution before you take it completely offline.

A review board is a perfect medium to show potential customers that your company is attentive and conscientious to the market. View responding as an opportunity to show your company’s personal side, and to present it as sympathetic and transparent to the public.

DON’T: Hash it Out Publicly

Although you should respond publicly, you should not hash it out publicly. You should have a clean response on the public-facing platform that includes an offer to the customer to discuss in more detail through direct messaging or another form of one-to-one communication.

The process of responding to bad reviews isn’t all that different from handling other conflicts in business, the only difference is everyone can see these conflicts. Be prepared, prompt, professional, and of course, be yourself.

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