A negative review is every marketer and business owner’s worst nightmare but, they are almost impossible to avoid. Simply holding off on reputation marketing isn’t the answer, as today’s consumers will share their opinions and experiences with their peers online whether you reach out directly or not. In fact, avoiding your reviews can do more harm than good, as it means you aren’t able to take control and limit reputational damage when complaints do come to light.
Research shows that while one or two bad reviews won’t cause long term harm, 92% of consumers are less likely to use your business as a result of negative reviews so it’s important that you have a plan in place to mitigate their impact.
Reviews can appear anywhere, from specialist sites such as TrustPilot, TripAdvisor and Google to social media. In fact, Facebook is one of the fastest growing review sites with significant numbers of new reviews generated each quarter. Thanks to new advances such as Instagram Shops, social media is increasingly a starting point on the decision making journey, with 42% of consumers using social media to perform product research in 2020. Search behaviours are changing and social media platforms like Facebook are integral to the consumer journey.
With that in mind, developing a strategy for dealing with negative reviews ensures you retain control of your brand image, can quickly identify troublesome reviews and take prompt action to remedy potentially damaging trends.
1. Treat negative comments as valuable customer feedback and a chance to do better next time.
Negative comments are inevitable but, they don’t need to be all bad news. Whatever the context, a negative message about your brand is effectively a review of your company. Consider it to be a piece of market research. Effectively this comment tells you how your brand is doing and where there are chances to improve. Approach your response from that mindset.
As a first action, acknowledge the comment and thank the customer concerned for bringing their issue to your intention. This shows those following the exchange that you value customers who take the time to share their experience and welcome the opportunity to resolve the issue.
From there, take the conversation away from the public comments. Follow up with a private message or an email. Express your thanks for the feedback, confirm that you’d like to resolve the issue and suggest a way forwards. Most consumers, even after a poor experience, welcome the chance to speak to someone with a genuine offer to correct the mistake.
2. Avoid being drawn into public arguments.
No matter how unfair the comment may seem, a public argument where you exchange comment after comment can only end badly for your brand. It paints a defensive picture, and suggests that you don’t value customer opinions, no matter how unfair you consider them to be.
This is especially true if the comment is purposefully vague but makes serious allegations against your business, is downright rude or you can’t find any record of that customer. The good news here is that if the review is malicious, not everyone will fall for it. Today’s consumers and social media users know that fake reviews exist. 80% say they have seen at least one fake review in the last year, with a third saying they’ve seen multiple.
Rather than a very public disagreement, you can request that the review be removed if you can show that it is fake.
3. Offer up a fair resolution.
If a negative review is grounded in a disappointing experience, you’ll want to do what you can to repair that customer’s impression of your brand and put things right. While you don’t want to over deliver, you do need to offer a fair and appropriate resolution and share that with the user to show that their concerns have been addressed and that you are sorry for their inconvenience or disappointment.
In the event your service has fallen below expectations, own it and suggest how you plan to remedy that. Refunding shipping costs if something arrived late and offering a discount off a new order could be an appropriate course of action.
If the problem is more complicated and can’t be quickly solved, be proactive, open and honest in your communications. Outline the steps you are taking to work towards a fair resolution and be realistic about timeframes.
4. Don’t write off all negative reviews as underhand competitors.
With the best will in the world, no business gets it right every time. Some negative experiences – though hopefully in the minority – are to be expected. Being proactive about your reputation management on social media means you’ll be able to quickly spot any recurring complaints or negative reviews. Multiple reviews mentioning slow shipping or damaged goods is a clear indication that there is a problem with your logistics operations.
Complaints about rude staff members or slow service are an indication that more training or increased man power is needed.
It’s easy to be defensive when these comments flood in but take a step back. These insights tell you what customers expect from you and highlight where you can better deliver on those expectations. Doing this means you’re less likely to lose customers to competitors.
- Request the customer update their comment if the issue is resolved.
If all goes well and you’re able to resolve the complaint and turn the negative into a positive, request that the customer concerned updates their review to reflect the fact that you’ve addressed their concerns.
- Encourage new reviews.
As with other platforms, you’ll need to be proactive and encourage a steady flow of new reviews as part of your reputation management efforts. A consistent influx of new reviews not only pushes negative feedback out of site. With research confirming that consumers researching businesses online only pay attention to reviews written within the last month, you’ll need fresh new feedback to act as social proof and help those at the decision making stage to choose your business.