How to Handle Negative Reviews

Many businesses will eventually realize that their online reputation is at stake when a disgruntled customer takes their complaints to the web. Choosing the best response for your critics is just as important as listening to them. I want to share a few examples that you can use to deflect criticism made against your business.

Listening Posts
The first step to handling negative reviews is to setup your listening posts. I recommend monitoring these on a daily, if not, weekly basis. You don’t need anything too complex – just a little time to track down where people mention you and a few minutes to setup a Google Alert for your brand.

I’ll assume at this point, you’ve encountered a negative review or a passionate customer who has taken their concerns to the court of public opinion on the web.

Reviewing Critical Content
With social media, there are such things called “feelings.” Yes, they really matter. When reviewing a piece of content try to read between the lines and form a conclusion based on their perspective. Having empathy while reading a hate-filled post about your business can be challenging, but it can be done. Often, you don’t have all the facts and neither does the customer. It’s your job to step up and serve them the best way possible, not to win an argument. (Here’s a gem from last year showing what you should not do on the local review site, Yelp.)

Consider the other person’s point of view – it doesn’t mean you’re right or wrong. A majority of critical posts are intended to improve your brand. It’s tough love at its finest.

How to Respond
We know that the speed of response is highly sought after, but equally as such is the quality and the thoroughness of the response itself. Here are some quick tips to help you with your response:

  • Acknowledge. First, acknowledge the other person’s concerns. Restate the core causes of their concerns.
  • Show empathy. Show that you care by identifying with their experience.
  • Demonstrate a commitment. Take their feedback and do something with it. It doesn’t have to be huge, but it has to be meaningful.
  • Reinforce that commitment. Show some action that you have taken to remedy their concern. (Often this happens later, to show that you delivered on your commitment.)
  • Thank them. Gathering feedback from customers isn’t always easy – thank them for sharing their concerns. The fact they shared their views shows they care enough about your brand to talk about it.
  • Emotion never solves a business problem. Save your short-tempered remarks and snide replies for another time. This isn’t a sports message board. This is the time to be professional, thoughtful and caring with your responses knowing that others are also fully capable of forming their own opinions. People who view a brand’s response frequently look at the demeanor, style and spirit of their reply.

How and When to Reply

It always depends on the circumstance – every person and situation is unique and should be treated as such. With that said, I’ve found the following practices work successfully when resolving disputes. The name of the game is to provide personalized service and responses while minimizing exposure.

  • Phone – I find this is the best means of quickly talking to a customer who needs help. This also allows you the liberty to have some unwritten dialog to build rapport.
  • Email – This is a little less personal than phone, but is documented and should be used following a phone call recapping your conversation.
  • Facebook Message— If and only if you can’t reach contact any other way, stalk find them on Facebook and shoot them a message. Often this leaves you in a vulnerable position, but that’s good to put their mind at ease to be communicating on a platform where they feel comfortable.
  • Twitter DM— If a complaint originated from Twitter, it’s reasonable to take the discussion to Direct Messages (DM), provided both of you are following each other.
  • Blog Comment Reply—If a blog post is critical of your brand, consider replying publicly as well as privately. Expect the author may moderate your comments especially if they don’t like what you have to say.

Some might feel these tips can be overkill – and sometimes they can be. People respect your brand when you have a backbone to respectfully acknowledge someone’s feedback but explain why something is the way it is. That is, you don’t have to acquiesce to every concern someone says about you – but you should respond to them appropriately.

Underscoring all of this is the on-going need to encourage your customers to trust you. Trust is earned, not given. If there’s a systemic issue that’s wrong with your service or product, you will hear about it.

I hope this guide is helpful for you as you respond to critics and customer complaints on the web. Let me know if you want to know more or have questions.

[Image credit: findyoursearch]

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  • http://stevesagjournal.com Stephen Eugene Adams

    And sometimes all they want is for someone to apologize.

  • Critical

    Haha.. Great advice from a guy with tons of experience dealing with negative reviews!