Nothing speaks louder to potential customers than the words of existing customers. And, unfortunately, it only takes a handful of negative reviews to outweigh dozens or even hundreds of positive ones. Discerning shoppers are going to take the time to find and read the negative reviews, even when the average rating remains very high. And while this may be considered a problem or at least a cause for concern initially, it’s the negative customer reviews that offer savvy marketers and business owners the best opportunity to demonstrate just how serious your company is about offering real value and customer service.
Breathe First, Then Respond
The worst thing you can do with a negative review is ignore it, and only slightly behind that approach is confronting the customer in a public response that is intended to defend your company’s practices or demean the customer. Instead, the measured approach is always best and the nature of the negative review is key to determining the correct course of action. It’s hard to ignore the urge to fire back at an irate customer who is clearly misinterpreting your company’s policies; simply being unreasonable about expectations; or blaming you for circumstances beyond your control. And these descriptions cover the vast majority of negative customer reviews for otherwise solid companies.
Of course, there are well-earned negative reviews too. Even the best-run businesses drop the ball from time to time and customers endure miserable experiences as a result. Some negative reviewers may point out where staff or management tried to remedy the situation, but were unable to do so for one reason or another. These types of reviews still warrant a response, even though there may have been some acknowledgement that your company handled everything appropriately.
Mea Culpas Sell
The first item to cover in your response to a negative review is the apology for the bad experience, even if your company legitimately did nothing wrong. “I’m sorry that it rained on your wedding day and we were unable to hold your event in the outdoor garden you had initially reserved…”
It’s always nice to follow that up with an explanation of how you attempted to resolve the initial problem, if in fact that was the case. If not, simply pick up the dialogue where it stands and let the customer know in your response that you’d like to make it up to them in some way with future free or discounted services or perhaps with a small refund for a portion of their bill. Potential customers like the warm and fuzzy feeling of knowing that, even if things go poorly, you’ll go the extra mile to try to make things right. If you’re doing it for seemingly unreasonable or overly agitated customers, of course you’ll do it for the well-meaning and level-headed customers reading your thoughtful and considerate response to a negative review. Right? For many, that is far more powerful than an endless stream of 5-star, glowing reviews that tell the same story over and over again.
Still Worth the Effort
Customer reviews have come under some fire recently because of various tactics used by unscrupulous players to game a system that was designed to give consumers an objective look into the performance of potential vendors and service providers. But the big players have committed some resources to weeding out the review farm tactics and “most” online shoppers still assume the reviews they find on reputable platforms are credible.
Obviously, it’s best to avoid getting negative reviews in general. But most businesses dealing with the general public are going to get some because…people. The key is to take the time and make the effort to treat each negative review as an opportunity to make a very favorable impression on potential future customers. The results will speak for themselves.