Whether its your own business or you’re the marketer and appointed guardian of the brand – finding yourself on the receiving end of negative reviews can sting. You work tirelessly to keep customers feeling warm and fuzzy towards your brand and, with just a few taps, some keyboard warrior slaps it all down for everyone to see. It can be hard not to take that to heart.
In recent years, panicked calls from clients who have just received a notification of a new Google or Facebook review that outwardly criticises their brand have become more and more common.
Before jumping straight on the defensive though, take a minute to read and understand what the reviewer is saying. Is there actually some truth in it? Is there something the company needs to respond to, rectify and/or learn from? This should be your first port of call. Often reviews like this are left when the customer feels unheard and has already tried to manage an issue with customer service – if this has happened then this needs to be addressed.
Next, put it into perspective. Even if you know that the negative feedback is unjustified, remember that, for the MOST part, other people will take these reviews with a grain of salt.
As a customer, I personally DO read reviews of different types of businesses. I also keep in mind the ‘reasonable majority’ and completely get that: 1. Things happen and nobody is perfect; and 2. There will always be complaining customers – no matter how customer focused the company is.
More often than not, those reviewing are motivated to do so by something very specific that happened to them – a delivery lost in transit, a single interaction with a cranky staff member.
Where I DO pay attention to negative reviews is where there are several of them with similar bad experiences and very little positivity to balance it out. I have personally done a U-Turn on a purchase decision based on this in the past and chances are that you have too.
So, if you are on the receiving end of a not so flattering review, here’s some simple dos and don’ts for dealing with a negative review.
- Encourage loyal or happy customers to leave a positive review. Sadly people are less motivated to share their positive review online (although they are likely to share via word of mouth) so simply ask them to! These positive reviews help to lift your rating and provide a more accurate reflection of your business.
- Be helpful. Respond publicly to acknowledge the customer’s experience and offer to assist offline / via phone-call or DM if relevant.
- If the review is factually incorrect state this calmly in your response – avoid an argumentative or dismissive tone.
- If the review is false, not from a real customer or has offensive language, you can appeal to Google/Facebook to have it removed (note that the criteria for this is strict)
- Panic and respond in a hurry – follow the steps outlined above and reach out for help in responding if you need it. Often we become emotionally attached to the brands we work on every day so having an external perspective can help with taking a rational approach.
- Run and hide. The ‘no comment’ approach can be indicative of a company that doesn’t listen to or care about its customers (at least from their perspective). Even if the customer has left 1 star and no comment, consider asking if they would like to be contacted to discuss their experience.
- Engage in a public battle. Arguing with customers – however unreasonable they are – will do nothing positive for your brand. One measured response that shows you are listening and a promise to follow up with the individual offline (which you must then keep!) is a better response.
- As above, don’t get drawn into arguing out the details in public. Where there is key information to address, go for it, but aim to keep it short and simple
- Ignore regular negative reviews with similar feedback – this is a red flag that there IS an issue that needs to be addressed.
Public reviews can actually be a great opportunity for your brand and are helpful for customers – but with that opportunity does come risk of criticism and the airing of dirty laundry. Keeping things in perspective when addressing the negative feedback is the key to navigating your way through.