Every small business owner needs to understand the importance of protecting their online reputations. A study from Bright Local found that nearly three quarters of customers trust online reviews. The same study found that over half of customers are more likely to purchase from a company with positive reviews. Unfortunately, online reviews are also a double-edged sword. Negative reviews can damage their business, so companies need to know how to respond. Here are some things that you will want to keep in mind.
Most people are sensitive to criticism, but you need to resist the temptation to get defensive. Some companies have overreacted to negative reviews and damaged their reputation in the process. Amy’s Baking Company is probably the most classic example of a company that had a meltdown on Facebook. The incident went viral on Reddit, Facebook and other social media sites. The company lost many of its customers as a result.
You don’t want to stay calm when responding to these comments. A negative review may not be true, but customers will be more likely to believe it if you come across as a jerk.
You are working very hard to offer every customer the quality service they deserve. Unfortunately, you are bound to miss the mark once in a while.
Receiving negative feedback never feels good, but it can still be a blessing in disguise. You may not have been aware that you let a customer down. Now you know, and can take the necessary steps to set things right.
Your customers understand that mistakes happen, but they don’t want to see those problems become a habit. They will be more forgiving if you take the steps to address them. Here are some steps that you will need to take:
Neg Norton, the president of the Local Search Association, said that most customers try to address their problems with the company before writing a negative review. They are more likely to complain on the Internet when they feel they have been ignored. You will want to prove to them and other customers that you want to hear them out.
Understand the problem
You may assume that you know what the customer’s concerns are. However, you may not necessarily be on the same page. Engage with the customer and make sure that you understand their problem. You won’t be able to come up with a solution if you don’t know what the issue was.
Be Transparent and Take Accountability
As I said, mistakes happen and customers can understand that. However, they have little tolerance for people that don’t take accountability. You will want to be transparent about the problem, accept accountability and state why it won’t happen again. The “why” part is crucial. Customers don’t just want to hear that something won’t happen again. You need to prove it to them by outlining steps to deal with the situation.
Outline specific steps to address it
Never tell your customers that you “are looking into the problem” or “will make sure that it will never happen again.” These are cliche responses that tell the customer that you are just trying to deflect the problem.
Outline specific steps to deal with the issue. Make sure to get feedback from the customer and change the solution if it isn’t acceptable to them.
Most of the steps outlined above assume that the customer had a legitimate reason to be upset. The solution is pretty straightforward in these instances: resolve the problem to make them happy. However, the solution is less obvious when the negative review isn’t accurate.
There are a couple of options that you can consider:
Have the review removed
Online review sites like Yelp want to make sure their information is as accurate as possible. Their reputation hinges on having valuable reviews. They also want to avoid the risk of a lawsuit. You can ask the review site to take down disparaging reviews that are factually incorrect.
The editors at the review site can’t take you at your word. You will need to present clear proof that the comment was inaccurate before they can take action.
Dispute the review
Unfortunately, the site may not remove the comment even if you show clear proof that the comment was inaccurate. You will need to defend your company professionally and tactfully. Here are some things that you will need to do:
Nobody wants to have inaccurate comments made against them. However, you still need to maintain composure to deal with the problem in a way that doesn’t reflect negatively on your company.
Lawsuits Should Only Be a Last Resort
I have read of several companies filing defamation lawsuits against customers that left negative reviews. Some of these companies have won these lawsuits, but that doesn’t mean that it was a wise idea.
You can legally sue a customer that leaves a libelous review. However, you should always try to pursue another recourse first. Filing a lawsuit could easily alienate you from other customers.
It can look even worse if you lose your case. Other people will assume that you lost the case because the review was true. You can even receive negative publicity after winning your case. Many customers may still believe that the original claim was accurate.