I have 4 dos + 3 don’ts to share on managing online reviews. Have you ever read something like this, “Absolutely terrible.” “Not at all what I expected.” “Worst company ever!” If you’ve ever looked up a business on Yelp, Facebook, Google My Business, or another review site, you’ve no doubt come across sentiments like these. Maybe you’ve laughed or gasped at a couple. Perhaps you’ve even doled out a one-star review yourself after an exceptionally bad experience. (Don’t get me started on a certain local pizza place.)
But while critical reviews can be fun to read—and cathartic to write—they feel different on the receiving end. They hurt. They can feel like personal attacks, like someone is trying to embarrass you or sabotage your business. And thus, your first instinct after getting a negative review may be to ignore it or find a way to have it taken down… which is exactly the opposite of what you should do.
Hear me out: receiving a negative review can be a good thing. Honest feedback is a gift. It provides a window into how to improve your products, services, or experiences for the people you serve. Plus, if you make the right moves, you can transform that impassioned hater into a passionate advocate for your business.
The key to turning single stars into double-digit business growth is to respond to reviews promptly, kindly, and authentically. It’s all about providing exceptional customer service. So the next time you receive negative criticism online, keep the following considerations in mind:
Do: Take a deep breath.
Negative reviews are alarming, not only because they uncover unhappy people in your existing customer or client base, but because they can scare away potential buyers. Seeing a critical review can feel like watching money leave your bank account. As a result, you may want to drop everything and type out a long response that proves the reviewer wrong or “fixes” the problem.
Responding from a place of fear, anger, or desperation, however, can reflect poorly on your business and make things worse. Instead, take a breath and remain calm. Try to assess the situation objectively. Think like a journalist, and ask yourself:
- Who left the review?
- What does the reviewer claim happened?
- When and where did the negative experience occur?
- Why is the reviewer upset?
- How can I use this as an opportunity to improve my business offering?
- How can I take control of the narrative and drive awareness for future and current customers?
Don’t: Wait too long to respond.
Once you’ve taken a moment to breathe, gather your thoughts, and understand the basic facts of the review, it’s time to get to work crafting a response. Try to respond to every new review—not just negative reviews, but all reviews—within a business day. You’ll have the greatest success turning detractors around when their experiences are still fresh and before their emotions and memories become fixed. Moreover, the longer you wait, the more people may find the review and make up their minds without reading your response.
Do: Focus on the human behind the review.
Behind every review is a person, typically a person expressing an extreme emotion (extraordinary happiness or extraordinary frustration, depending on the review). Unfortunately, the fact is most people don’t share their opinions online. Writing a review, after all, requires time and effort—it’s just not worth it for most people.
This is to say that when people do share their opinions, they usually do so because they want something. And so, when determining how to respond, think about what that person wants: Attention? A sympathetic ear? An apology, a resolution, amends?
Believe it or not, many reviewers—even highly critical reviewers—share their opinions because they care about your success. They’re providing feedback to help you improve. Take their feedback honestly and incorporate it into your business, and you’ll show them they matter.
Don’t: Get defensive.
Regardless of what the reviewer has said about your business—or what they’re hoping for in terms of your response—it’s important to respond from a place of compassion rather than opposition.
Help the other person feel like they’re being heard. Many negative reviews result from misunderstandings or misaligned expectations. Sometimes, a critic might be looking for an acknowledgment of fault from your business. In other cases, they may simply want to vent. In any case, act with good faith; assume that the person who left the review did so for a legitimate reason.
Do: Take responsibility.
“Sorry” is one of the most powerful words in business. Many of us could stand to hear and say it more often.
Don’t be afraid of apologizing when the situation calls for it. Mistakes happen. Even the most customer-centric companies can screw up. Apologizing shows you’re human and committed to doing right by everyone who does business with you.
Acknowledge the reviewer’s feelings and perspective. Express gratitude by thanking them for sharing their thoughts and informing you about their experience. Sympathize with them, apologize if necessary, and then—only if you truly feel the reviewer is confused or in the wrong—offer an explanation. Keep it clear, specific, and brief. A template or two can help you craft responses quickly, without allowing your own feelings to get the better of you.
Don’t: Air everything out in public.
Keep in mind online reviews are public. Everything you write in response to a review on Yelp, for example, can be searched, read, saved, and shared. Sometimes, people can unearth your initial responses even after you’ve edited or deleted them—or the review has been removed. What’s more, private communication can be shared publicly—through screenshots of DMs and emails, for instance, or recordings of phone calls.
With that in mind, be careful about what you say and the tone you use, and think about the channel you’re communicating on.
If you’re offering someone a refund, a replacement, or credit, don’t mention it in a public forum unless you’re willing to offer the same to other unhappy customers or clients.
If you’re dealing with a false or misleading review, try to resolve the situation privately with the reviewer first, then contact a site administrator if that party doesn’t cooperate.
All that being said, it is sometimes necessary to make a public comment, particularly when the review is false, offensive, or incendiary. However, only consider making a statement in response to an inflammatory review when you have no other course of action.
Do: Follow up and follow through.
Actions speak louder than Yelp. Or Facebook. Or Angie’s List. Or—you get the idea. The point is that you’ll win back positive sentiment and turn critics into fans by not just promising to make things right, but by delivering on that promise.
Remember: feedback is a gift. It’s someone’s way of helping you improve your business. So, take it to heart and grow from it. Then, when the time is right, re-engage with the people who offered you critical feedback and show them what they’ve been missing.
At the end of the day, the most important variable in whether your customers leave reviews or not—and what kinds of reviews they leave—is the quality of your business. People want to recommend products and services they appreciate and professionals who take care of their needs. Provide that, and they’ll be happy to leave you positive feedback.
It starts with excellent customer service: everything that happens when people pick up the phone or begin chatting with you through your website. Those first moments are often the deciding factor in winning positive sentiment from the people you serve.
At Ruby, we know this through experience. Every day—24 hours a day, 7 days a week—Ruby’s team of customer experience professionals represents small businesses throughout the United States, forging connections, earning positive reviews, and generating word-of-mouth awareness.
See how it works. Next time you see a negative review, you will react fast, learn the lesson and hopefully turn the customer into a long-time advocate for your brand.
Note: This is a sponsored post with an affiliate link.
About the sponsor: Over 13,000 businesses across the United States trust Ruby to connect with their customers and clients, online and over the phone. Supported by proprietary technology, Ruby’s US-based, live virtual receptionists and chat specialists create meaningful human connections that build loyalty and win new business 24/7, 365 days a year. Ruby has helped companies of all kinds grow since 2003, gaining national acclaim, including recognition as Fortune magazine Best Small Company to Work for in the U.S. For more information: www.ruby.com