What is the best way to deal with negative business reviews online? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
Answer by Brian Greenberg, Owner of TrueBlueLifeInsurance.com, on Quora:
In the modern business world, word of mouth has transformed into the power of the online review.
Reviews left on Yelp or Google Plus can either boost your business or lead to your eventual downfall. Five positive reviews on Yelp have been shown to boost your business by up to 10%, whereas one really bad negative review can cost you tens of thousands of dollars in business.
Yes—they’re that crucial, which is why you have to know how to use them to your advantage.
Negative reviews can impact things like your social media or web traffic. And I’ve seen businesses change their name or even close down because of this. But before you go shelling out extra cash for someone to handle your online presence for you, remember the golden rule of business.
The customer is always right.
After several decades in business, I’ve learned to approach reviews with the goal of giving the best possible customer experience even when they’re angry. It keeps reviews from becoming the bane of your existence and shows how dedicated you are to delivering a consistent level of excellence.
It takes a level head and a lot of patience, but handling negative reviews will have positive results for your business if you follow a few simple steps.
Step 1: Apologize
You’re human just like anyone else, which means sometimes you’re going to mess up.
And unfortunately, missteps, mistakes, or mess-ups can lead to negative reviews. Take a deep breath, walk off any initial irritation you may have, and try to reach the consumer outside of the review platform. Whatever you do, don’t retaliate. Lashing out at customers is a sure-fire way to lose business and ruin your reputation.
If you can’t find a way to talk with them in the real world, respond to the review with your hat in your hand. Tell the consumer you’re sorry and that you want to ensure the best possible experience for them. Take the moment to reinforce your brand’s customer service values, then tell them how you’re going to correct the problem ASAP.
Humility and humanity are key here.
I’ve found reaching out to the customer and reminding them we’re real people is effective in not only correcting the problem with the individual, but in showing potential customers what to expect from our business.
One of the best practices I maintain at True Blue Life Insurance is sending a gift card in conjunction with our apology. I apologize upfront, promise to fix the mistake, and then send a $100 Amazon gift card with a note that says, “We appreciate your patience and value your business.” I always make sure it’s a physical card that comes in a little box—it’s a small touch that reminds people we aren’t just a faceless company on the internet.
Responding to negative reviews lets customers see how you handle a less-than-ideal situation. Statistically, people will read the negative reviews first. If things go wrong, they want to know what to plan for. Show you’re capable of continuing to deliver excellence even when things aren’t perfect.
But don’t just talk—do.
Step 2: Fix It
Once you’ve apologized to the customer, keep your word. Actually fix the issue.
Putting actions behind your words online helps the customer trust your company more. They’ll feel you’re being transparent in your solutions and general business accountability, which can only build positive things for your reputation.
One of the issues we’ve had to handle at True Blue is in billing. Sometimes customers will sign up for an insurance policy either right before or right after the 15th of the month. When the charge goes through, it causes their account to have non-sufficient funds (NSF). For most people, that means they get charged an overdraft fee.
While this isn’t necessarily our fault, it’s a very stressful mistake for a customer to deal with. So we make it right on our end, regardless. We always apologize for the mix up and then refund the NSF fee. This happens a couple times a year and we always fix it—even if it happens repeatedly with the same customer.
Knowing we’ll always fix something that’s gone wrong for our customers helps them to trust us and to know they can always contact us with problems. Building trust cuts down on the need for them to post reviews in the first place, because they know if they contact us directly they’ll be heard and their issue will be addressed.
Step 3: Follow Up and Ask for Removal
If you’ve apologized in earnest and corrected the issue, reach out to the customer to see if they will remove their review. In most cases, they’ll remove the negative review on their own.
Asking the customer to take down a negative review can also be a great moment for follow up. By checking in with the customer, you’ll nudge them toward removing the review from your site, and they’ll feel cared for. They may give you further feedback or even change the review to a positive one.
A few years ago, I had a 1 out of 5 stars, all-caps angry review left for one of my companies after his order arrived damaged. “DO NOT DO BUSINESS WITH THIS COMPANY,” it said. I reached out to the customer over the phone first, and offered to replace the damaged product he received. While he initially seemed pleased with this solution, he left a new angry review.
This time, I responded to the review online, fully apologizing and explaining the actions we had taken to correct this issue. I followed up with him later over the phone again to ensure I’d done everything I could to his satisfaction. After that conversation, I asked him to remove the review and he agreed.
I like to think about it this way: when I’m writing my own reviews, I have an expected outcome that I hope for. I want to see the business own their mistake and then correct the issue. If that happens, I’ll most likely take down the negative review. So when it’s time for me to be on the other side of the review process I try to remember what it’s like as the customer.
Now, this isn’t going to be the case for everyone, but that’s okay.
What matters is you’ve demonstrated to the customer, and to anyone else reading the reviews, that you’re apologetic and dedicated to resolving mistakes as quickly and professionally as possible. If you make one customer feel heard and valued in the review section, then other customers will trust you to do the same for them.
Going forward, potential customers will see your positive attitude and consider you trustworthy—even if they haven’t engaged with your business yet. That’s the power of a customer review. And that’s why it’s crucial that you stay on top of them. By thinking of the review process as an extension of the customer service experience, you’ll handle it like a pro and your customers will keep coming back—in real life and online.
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