Online reviews represent a significant part of a business ‘reputation management online. Managing them can be tricky, and opinions shared by the public online require constant attention, but paying attention to them and handling them in the right way is definitely something that is worth your time. It’s worth noting that both positive and negative comments about your business can work to be an advantage or a disadvantage to your brand, depending on how you deal with them. However, in this article, we will focus on negative online reviews and how to manage them most effectively.
You Can’t Stop Negative Reviews
Google’s retail industry director John McAteer once said: “No one trusts all positive reviews”. Everybody knows that no product can be perfect. In fact, the absence of negative comments about a business online can appear, or nothing but glowing praise can appear as something that has been staged, making customers suspicious of a brand, and feeling like they can’t be trusted. Negative comments, meanwhile, provide people with hints about what problems do crop up during any given business operation… If a customer can’t find any information about the possible pitfalls of spending their money with a business, they can’t compare them to the good sides of your product/brand.
Negative comments usually surface from a feeling of anger, and communicating with angry consumers can be challenging. Most consumers write negative comments to express their overwhelming emotion about an experience with a business. Often, they do it as a way to, spread awareness to other consumers, or as a way to get the attention of a business and ask for help or an explanation. When you do reply, the one thing that a customer is not looking for is a defensive attitude. When you reply to a negative comment, you have to be understanding and create empathy with the customer. Your positive attitude will also set the general tone of the conversation and create healthier communication between you and the disgruntled patron. This, ultimately, helps to lead to a more satisfying solution to your customer’s grievances.
If there is a problem stated in a comment, you should always start by researching the incident. Offer the customer’s take on events to your employees and understand why the problem occurred. This is important to create long-term solutions to your customer’s complaints and the problems that underpin them.
Best Practices for Replying
Your replies should provide sympathy for the customer’s poor experience, and be personalised to each individual complaint. Customers can see right through “copy and paste” responses that fail to address the specific issue at hand, which can make them feel even angrier. If you are able to explain the causes for an issue and resolve it within your reply, leaving the customer feeling more positive about the situation (satisfied that their opinion has been read, understood, and any problems addressed as best as can be), then your brand image may not only be rescued in the eyes of that customer, but may also receive a boost when they and others see that you care enough to realise that a problem has occurred, are not too proud to own up to it, and are determined to make things right in future.
On certain websites, the very act of a business replying to negative comments can shift such interactions further to the top of the list of reviews, and make your heartfelt effort at finding a resolution more visible. This is just one reason why choosing never to respond to negative online reviews is a bad idea, and can actually create more problems. What’s better? A brand who is seen to take responsibility for the upset felt by its customers (however much justified or not), or one that decides to pretend that the online opinions don’t matter, or that customers’ negative views aren’t valid, and to simply ignore what they say. It’s pretty obvious: attempting to sensitively explain why an issue occurred and what you want to do to try and make it right — whether that be inviting the customer to contact you directly to find out more information and discuss the issue personally, offering a freebie next time they visit, etc., is always the best option. Once an issue has been resolved, writing a follow-up reply underneath the original complaint stating how you solved the problem (and how happy you are that the customer is feeling positive again) can be very effective.
Get Clued Up on Review Site Guidelines
Keep in mind that different review sites have specific rules, many of which are important to consider in the context of replying to negative comments. For example, restrictions around sharing private information, a comment that has been posted by a competitor, etc. Being aware of these rules can save you a lot of time, not to mention trouble, if things were ever to get out of hand. Lastly, if you believe that a review is genuinely malicious, or breaks a site’s rules, you can contact the site and ask for it to be removed.