The most natural thing any serious customer can do before deciding to fully commit to a purchase is scour the internet for some reviews. Which is to say you have the sole responsibility of managing your online reputation.
A great of majority of the customers you get will go ahead and check out your business on Yelp, Google Reviews, Angie’s List and Yahoo’s Local Listing. If you’ve been careful with how you attend to your customers’ needs, then rest assured a good number of the customers you serve will put out a positive word for your business.
But once in a while, a dissatisfied customer, armed with anonymity, will rush to these review sites and leave behind a negative review. Such reviews sting. It doesn’t matter if it’s one amongst thousands of positive reviews, the feeling is always personal — imagine pouring all your energy into something, making sure you’re doing everything right, but then someone comes along and trashes all that effort.
They’re quick to conclude and leave a stain on your reputation without considering the harm.
No matter how careful you try to be that’s bound to happen at some point. But no need to panic — you can’t please anyone. Better, an occasional negative review makes you look more genuine.
And there’s a silver lining to it — every time an online customer takes their sweet time to draft a not-so-flattering review for your business or product, that comes as an opportunity for you to do the following list of things:
The first mistake most marketers and web owners do is only comment on positive reviews and leave the rest. As a matter of fact, it’s recommended that you comment on both. But that’s NOT where it ends.
Make a point to reach out to the customer directly and dig out for more information as to what brought about the negative comment. Go ahead and ask them about what didn’t satisfy them and if there’s any way to fix it.
Offer a discount, free coupon, or free service
After reaching out to the customer and finding out what pushed them to comment negatively about your business or product, the next thing you do is offer to fix the problem. If they weren’t satisfied with the quality of service they received, you can offer them a free one on condition that they go back and post a second review about how you responded to their concerns.
In whatever you do, don’t push them to remove the first review, but post a second one detailing how their issues were addressed and if they were satisfied the second time they got to work with you.
Redouble Your Efforts
The point is to get as many positive reviews as it’s humanly possible to bury the negative ones. You want to reach out to every happy customer you get and ask them to consider leaving behind a review. While you wouldn’t have previously bothered to ask anyone to review your services, you might want to do it this time to crank up the number of positive reviews you have on site.
Allow them to Review you Directly on Your Site
Some customers just want a room to vent. Meaning, if you can allow them to review your products or services from your site instead, what you’ll be doing is holding them back from running to any of these big review sites to drop a negative comment.
This is important as you have total control over the reviews you have on your site, but little to none over those on a third party site.
Maintain a Good Reputation
The only surefire way to avoid attracting negative reviews for some of the products or services you offer on your site is to work on maintaining a good online reputation. Not an easy task, but it’s totally worth it when majority of the customers you serve have a positive word to throw in for your business and products.
90 percent of all marketers and web owners have admitted to handling their own reputation, according a recent survey conducted by Referral Rock. From this, a good number of them admit to using a review software, with Trust Pilot being the most common option out there.
Essentially, lots of them prefer using a reputation management software because it allows them to handle the negative comments that some of their customers leave behind.
Be Strategic on How to Get the Results You Want
The strategy you employ to attract positive reviews matters a whole lot, considering things aren’t going to magically work on their own.
Starts with planning beforehand on how you’ll be handling negative reviews should one of your customers decides to trash talk your business. In whatever you do, you certainly don’t want to be caught off guard. You have to be creative enough to figure out something way before one of your customers decides to do the expected.
That’s where SEO comes in. When customers search for your business, odds are most of them won’t have the time to scroll past the tenth page trying to dig out for more information about your business or line of products or services.
One good example is Google itself. One thing you can be sure is that the platform receives a lot of flak online. But if you try to search the word Google, that’s NOT the first thing that pops up, because the platform has invested a great deal in ranking informational content about itself.
You could take a cue from them. Instead of waiting for your site’s reviews to dominate, get to work on SEO instead by feeding search engines with lots of valuable content. This is meant to push negative comment further down the SERPs, thus reducing the chances of someone accidentally bumping across one of them online.
Shift Your Focus to Brand Reputation
One of your customers may decide to negatively review one of your products or services, but if you managed to establish a strong brand reputation, then it’s safe to assume the negative review won’t have much impact on your performance as a business.
Start by developing a working relationship with community leaders, press outlets, and other organisations. Make sure they trust your business well enough that they can put forward a positive recommendation for it. This often works if your brand is trustworthy and reliable in terms of quality.
As you’re soon to find out, third party endorsements have a way of lending credibility to both your brand and products — better than you can even achieve through ads.
Brand reputation comes in various forms. First it’s through how you publicly respond to customers’ concerns online. If you’re rude, often sarcastic, potential customers will be quick to peg your business as unprofessional and NOT serious with how it handles its operation. One form is through brand endorsement. If an authority figure can trust your business enough to endorse it to potential customers and clients, then rest assured a great majority of them will take that as a reason enough to trust you.
Lastly, what is published around your brand? Start by checking out with online review sites. What do they have to say about your products or brand in general?
Be Careful With Your Tone and Voice
If you’ve ever met a gracious person who knows how to weigh their words. They know what ought to be said and the kind of things that are better off swept under the rag.
Through their words and how they conduct themselves, it’s easy to conclude that they’re indeed kind, truthful, and worth of your respect and kindness. You can easily tell the person is considerate enough to care for other people. They’re empathetic, and know how to shift their angle and consider looking at things from other people’s perspective.
That’s the personality you should adopt when holding an online discussion or responding to raised concerns on behalf of your business. You have to fit in your customer’s shoe and address things from their angle. You want to be empathetic enough to feel their pain and sympathise with them, offering to fix the problem for them with the first chance you get.
Your primary focus isn’t on the customer, but all those that will be reading through the discussion. While you’re doing this to also get the customer to soften up, you also want the potential customers lurking around to look at you as someone concerned — and that the negative comment thrown about was due to a misunderstanding that you’re working to fixing. In which case, you have to be warm and very appreciative of the fact that the customer even considered airing it out. Thank them and make them feel like they’ve done something positive, one that will be helping you prevent the problem from ever happening again.
Avoid Using Canned Messages
You’re better off NOT responding than copy-pasting some of the responses you make in response to other customers’ concerns. You can’t be that lazy, and NO matter the number of responses you get, you don’t want to be that lazy crook that doesn’t find it necessary to take a few minutes of their precious time to read through a customer’s concern and respond accordingly.
Customers read through comments and reviews — and nothing is likely to leave a bad taste in their mouth than a lazy, copy-pasted response. Whether it’s on a positive comment or a negative one, customers want to feel valued. They want to feel that you took some time off your busy schedule to listen to them, and address their issues on a one-on-one basis — and NOT via a loudspeaker or a lazy boilerplate.
Some of the responses you get will be similar. But even with this, it’s still crucial that you respond to each one of them differently, in a customised and more unique manner that’s targeted in a way.
Look for the Silver Lining
With a negative review, it’s never with what’s written in the review, but how you react to it. Worse is when you decide to ignore it completely. While this may NOT seem like something NOT worth sweating over, a good number of customers will simply think you don’t actually care.
Come to think of it, the kind of customers who whine about your business or some of the services they’ve received tend to be the most vocal and determined. They’re determined to spread the word the furthest, if NOT to get your attention, then it’s to get more people to chime in and support them.
So it’s important that the first thing you do is find a way to cool them. Find a way to make their anger dissipate and get to a point that you can actually reason together and reach an amicable solution.
You’re like a fire-fighter looking to put out fire. The customer is boiling, and so are a hundred more with pent-up anger. They’re looking for someone to set the pace so they can join in and lash out as well.
Start by considering the fact that any dissatisfied customer has the right to vent out. And your only role in this is to find what’s eating them up and fix it.
Handled correctly, then you stand a chance of retaining the customer for more business in future. That’s the silver lining. Odd are good that there are other dissatisfied customer that might also have a change of heart after reading the thread and may be consider reacting differently.
This isn’t how things will be playing out all the time. There are customers who are so rigid and extremely hard to satisfy. There’s literally nothing you can do to get them to change their mind. But maintaining a respective tone and being careful with how you respond to them can go a long way into making you look better, and more often than NOT, making it pretty obvious that the problem lies with the reviewer and NOT you.
Take Your Critics Offline if Possible
If it gets to a point where responding to some of your critics claims means getting yourself dirty, then simple logic dictates that you refrain from doing so. You don’t want to air out some of your dirty laundry for the sake of wanting to prove something. If anything, it’s important that you keep your responses short and straight to the point. Where you’re required to get into the specifics of what you do, brush it over by inviting the customer to your office so you can talk it out and fix it in person.
You start by offering a sincere apology and then promise to reach back via phone or email. It could be something like:
“We’re glad to learn of your bad experience with our establishment. We’d like to discuss further about it and reach an amicable solution. Kindly reach us via email or phone. Here are our contact details.”
It’s important that you also remember to include your contact info. Failure of which your response may come off as unauthentic.
Apologise Where Necessary
Mistakes happen, and there’s NO harm in owning in it up by acknowledging you made a wrong turn somewhere. Works even better when responding to an online review someone wrote about your product or business. Just start a thread beneath it and apologise.
You don’t have to get into the detail of it. Instead acknowledge that the mistake happened and that you’re extremely remorseful about it. This will help you save, and even go ahead to show that you handled the situation accordingly.
You’re also allowed to act on the mistake and afterwards reach out to the reviewer informing them that you fixed the problem and that your services or products are NOW improved for the better.
Accepting a wrong is the first step to accepting responsibility and owning it up. It’s the first step to figuring out the best way forward and a working solution that would benefit both parties involved.
In A Nutshell…
Here is a nice infographic on what to do and what not to do when handling negative reviews. You might want to incorporate it in your corporate PR and communications policy, print out and stick it on your customer service desks as a constant reminder:
It’s a Wrap
Dealing with negative reviews is NOT something you wing. A good strategy can save you a whole lot of stress and hassle.
This guide is meant to walk you through some of the things to do. But even with doing everything on the list, it’s important to keep in mind that some people are just hard to please. Nothing you do can make them put a positive word for your business or product out there for you.
If you suspect the comment harbours a malicious intend, you may want to delete the comment or even ban the customer in question if the situation calls for it.
For help in handling negative reviews or further clarification on any of the points we’ve made, kindly consider contacting MediaOne today for a free consultation.