Reputation Management: How to Handle Negative Reviews

Reputation Management: How to Handle Negative Reviews

Getting some negative reviews is unavoidable, regardless of the quality of your services. If your business is experiencing growth, and you’re building an online presence, you’ll get a negative review sooner or later. 

Unfortunately, negative reviews may have more of an impact on your sales than you think. Ninety-two percent of consumers say that negative reviews make them less likely to use a business. 

Despite that, if you know how to handle negative reviews, you’ll be able to mitigate the damage and repair your online reputation. It’s critical to have a reputation management strategy, even if you didn’t get any negative reviews yet. That way, you’ll be poised to act quickly when they do crop up. Here are six steps for handling negative reviews. 

1. Look Out for False and Inaccurate Reviews

The first step is to watch out for reviews that are blatantly false or inaccurate. People leave fake reviews for a variety of reasons. 

Sometimes, it may be personal, political, or out of spite. Perhaps they felt slighted somehow by a member of your staff, or perhaps they didn’t feel like they got the attention they deserved. Competitors can set up malicious campaigns to try to ruin your business, making it seem like real customers left those reviews. 

It may not be malicious – it could also be a mistake. A customer may have misunderstood the situation. At times, customers get confused between two businesses that are nearby or have similar names and leave a review on one profile that was meant for the other. There are also a lot of people on the internet, and some go around leaving fake reviews for no particular reason. 

Regardless of why someone left a fake review, however, it’s your job to correct the problem. On platforms like Google My Business and Yelp, you can report or flag fake reviews for deletion. Google, Yelp, and other major platforms typically do a good job of evaluating flagged reviews and deleting fake ones. 

2. Try to See the Review in the Customer’s Perspective

It’s critical to put yourself in the customer’s shoes and try to see things from their perspective. As a business owner, you may have a certain idea of the way things work. However, the customer’s perception of how things are meant to be may differ from your own. 

Only by understanding where the customer is coming from will you be able to respond appropriately and rectify the issue. Sometimes, it’s a cultural issue. However, chances are that if one customer had certain expectations that caused them to feel unsatisfied with your services, others may think the same way. 

3. Understand if There Really Is a Problem

As a business owner, your small business is a source of great pride. You’ve invested a lot of money, time, and effort into growing your company and offering the best services possible. All that blood, sweat, and tears can make you react a certain way when you see a negative review, especially when you feel that it was unwarranted. 

However, before getting all worked up and responding a certain way, it’s important to figure out if there really is a problem. Perhaps the customer is right, and there is an issue you need to address. 

If you respond to the review without fixing your mistake, other customers will also leave reviews and report their bad experiences regarding the same issue in the future. At that point, damage control will become a lot harder. 

Furthermore, having a negative review isn’t always a big deal. For example, if someone left you a 4-star review that included both positive and negative points, it likely won’t do any significant damage. You may be getting more worked up than you should be. 

4. Appreciate the Feedback and Respond Promptly

Constructive criticism will help your business grow. Unless a review is malicious and outright false, start looking at negative reviews as a blessing and a way to improve. At the end of the day, it’s direct feedback from your customers, and it is usually based on their real experiences while dealing with your employees or yourself. 

Don’t take it personally; appreciate the feedback instead. It’s an opportunity for you to improve your services and satisfy even more customers, including a small minority who may have certain expectations. Some reviewers may truly want to help out and point out ways to better your services. 

Additionally, it’s crucial to respond as quickly as possible to negative reviews (though you may want to take some time to think of an appropriate response). People may be researching your business all the time, so the less time the review stays up without a response, the better. 

5. Respond Politely and Explain Your Side

Be polite when you respond. It’s such a critical point, yet many business owners respond harshly to negative reviews. Attacking the reviewer might make you feel better in the short run. However, while it might allow you to let out your rage and frustration, it will hurt you in the long run and is terrible for your online reputation. 

Be friendly and show that you understand the customer’s point of view. At the same time, explain your side of the story. If a customer has unreasonable expectations, feel free to mention that, but don’t make that the main focus of your response. 

If unexpected circumstances came up that caused things to happen the way they did, and they are extremely unlikely to happen again, mention that. Sometimes, Google or Yelp may not remove fake reviews, so mention that it is fake in your response if that is the case. For example, say that you have no record of the reviewer ever being your customer – but stay professional. 

Be as brief or as lengthy as necessary. However, be aware that if your response is too lengthy, people might not take the time to read through it all. Furthermore, you may be mentioning more details than necessary. 

Often, it’s a good idea to be brief in your response and take the rest of the interaction off the platform. Give the reviewer a contact, such as an email or phone number, and encourage them to reach out to you so you can give them a refund or help them get a resolution some other way. If possible, be proactive and reach out to them first, and mention that you did so in your response. 

It’s important not to copy and paste responses to negative reviews. Some businesses do that, but consumers will notice. They’ll be browsing through the reviews and your responses. If they see copy-and-paste, generic, or cold responses to negative reviews, you will come across as uncaring and undedicated, even if you apologize and provide contact information in the response. 

6. Avoid Negative Reviews by Improving Your Products and Services

Finally, be proactive and avoid negative reviews in the first place by improving your products and services. Again, it’s expected to get a negative review here and there – that’s the nature of doing business. At the same time, you can drastically decrease the number of negative reviews you get by listening to feedback and improving your services. 

It’s a good idea to be proactive about requesting feedback. For example, you can send customers an automated email after their purchase asking for their thoughts. Consider including a short survey that customers can fill out quickly, without wasting too much of their time. 

That way, customers will feel encouraged to reach out to you directly when they had a bad experience. Similarly, the very fact that you are being proactive about getting feedback will make customers feel more respected and cared about, and they’ll be less likely to share their negative thoughts on a public forum. 

Let’s finish with a note about reputation management vs. reputation marketing. Despite people confusing them, they’re not the same thing. Reputation management is after the fact. It involves responding to negative reviews as they are posted and removing fake reviews. 

Reputation marketing, on the other hand, involves being proactive about your online reputation. That starts with building local citations and encouraging customers to leave positive reviews. It can also involve working with bloggers and influencers to get the word out about your company and even distributing press releases. 

By being proactive and building a great online reputation, the few negative reviews and blog posts that pop up won’t have such a great effect. When people search for your business on Google, they’ll see a well-established brand with plenty of blogs and reviews recommending it. They may not even notice the negative reviews, and if they do, they won’t pay as much attention to them. 

Final Thoughts

If this is your first time receiving a negative review, don’t be discouraged. It happens to most businesses. Take it as a sign of growth and a chance to improve your products and services. Consumers expect to see the occasional negative review, and their takeaway will depend entirely on how you handle and respond to it.

Author:  Andrew Scherer

President, www.hsbo.com