How NOT to handle negative customer reviews
Do not try to remove them
On receiving a poor review, some business owners will contact the review platform and try to get it removed, citing various reasons, e.g. offensive language, it not being factual, or disputing it is a genuine review from a customer, etc.
The truth is every business receives poor customer feedback at some time or another, and most people looking at a company’s customer reviews will probably start with the 1 star reviews. Why? Because people want to see how the company handled them: Did they use good levels of grace and diplomacy, and show empathy and understanding in their response, or were they defensive, dismissive or even confrontational?
Handling a poor review properly will always work to your advantage by showing that you care, have a good customer aftercare policy and a business improvement strategy.
So, don’t waste your time trying to remove negative customer reviews. Instead, show the customer and everyone else, that you are a caring company with the capacity and willingness to do the right thing.
Do not ignore them
It is vitally important that all customer reviews receive an online response to the customer. Yes, all reviews should receive a response – not just the negative ones.
If a customer takes the time to provide positive feedback – the business needs to show a good level of gratitude by acknowledging and thanking the customer.
By not posting an online response to a negative customer review, you are showing your customer and the world that you just do not care about customer service. Or, your business is in a very poor state where it simply does not get involved in resolving customer issues.
Similarly, a disappointed customer should receive an offline response from the business to try and resolve the situation to their satisfaction. Not trying to turn a bad experience around is a cardinal sin in the world of customer service excellence.
Do not argue with the customer
Any business owner knows that the customer is not always right, but they should always be allowed to feel they are. The golden rule of dealing with negative customer reviews is to never blame the customer.
You should accept they have had a bad experience, apologise, and strive to rectify the situation while ensuring it doesn’t happen again. Simple, right? You would think so, but some people tend to get very defensive when someone insults their business.
Earlier this year, a Glasgow hostel owner went viral after he did absolutely everything wrong when responding to a negative customer review posted on TripAdvisor. The owner of the Blue Sky Hostel made several spectacular errors of judgement, disputing almost every claim made in the review and labelling the author ‘a retard’.
Numerous stories detailing his horrific approach to customer service now populate the first page of search results for his company. Not so clever after all.
It is therefore important to always remain calm and in control of your emotions – no matter how badly your conversations with the customer go. Do not get sucked into an argument which can all too quickly turn into an ugly and irretrievable situation.
Now that we have had a look at some DO NOTs – let’s have a look at some DOs!
How to properly deal with negative customer reviews
As soon as you receive a negative review, publish an online holding response, letting the customer (and everyone else reading the review) know that you are very concerned with the poor level of service reported. Explain you will be conducting an investigation as soon as possible and you will report back to the customer directly by email to resolve the situation to their satisfaction.
Also, contact the customer by email to repeat this message and open up a line of communication, which you will need later in the process.
Carry out an investigation
Turning around a poor review is in many ways like solving a murder. if you don’t manage it within the first 24 hours – the chances are it will remain unresolved.
So it is really important to set the wheels of your investigation in motion as quickly as possible, before the customer loses patience and refuses to deal with you.
Take the matter offline
Carry through with your promise to contact the customer directly by email or telephone – immediately after concluding your investigation to resolve the matter.
If relevant, explain to the customer what went wrong within your organisation in this instance. Let him know what steps you are putting in place to make sure it does happen again, e.g. re-training a staff member or changing your order fulfilment process.
You will find most poor reviews are caused by misunderstandings or poor communications, and they can easily be turned around with personal contact. So, approach this task with a positive attitude and have faith in your customer’s ability to be reasonable and understanding – if treated properly.
Be polite at all times
It goes without saying, you should never become emotionally involved, no matter how testing the situation becomes. Always remember to thank the customer for choosing your business and apologise for any inconvenience caused by this poor experience.
Most importantly – remain calm, composed and in full control of your emotions. Once you allow yourself to be drawn into an argument, you will find the situation very difficult to retrieve.
Publish a final online response
After you have closed the matter with the customer, hopefully with a positive outcome – you should replace your temporary/holding response with a final response to the negative customer review.
This final online response should confirm:
- an investigation was carried out
- the customer was contacted promptly
- the company made every effort to resolve the situation to the customer’s satisfaction
- the outcome of the matter – whether it be positive or negative
- an apology for any inconvenience caused was made to the customer
Always remember, if the customer is at fault and the complaint is non-meritorious – never point the finger of blame at the customer – especially in the online response. Always be gracious and diplomatic. Most people reading the review and the company’s response will be able to discern what actually transpired, without you having to spell it out.
Set up customer review alerts or monitor your review platforms
Before you can respond to customers’ reviews, you first of all need to know when you are receiving them.
Many review platforms allow you to set up email or text alerts when a new review is posted. However, some platforms do not provide this functionality and so it is important that someone in your company is assigned the task of monitoring your review platforms and responding to all reviews in a punctual manner.
Your online reputation is critically important to your business. Therefore, you must be aware of all customer reviews, and publish an online response to each one.
See the value in the occasional negative customer review
Negative reviews add authenticity to your customer review profile.
If every review was a glowing 5 star recommendation of your services or products, your reviews would tend to look ‘fabricated’ and somewhat unbelievable. The irony is – negative customer reviews can help a company build trust by validating the positive reviews.
Also, as mentioned above, customers want to see how a company handles negative reviews. So, always remember to use them to your advantage.
Share all reviews with your staff
The final ‘must do’ action is to share all customer reviews with your team. Let them know how they are performing from a customer service point of view.
You will find that your team will usually respond in a constructive and helpful way if they are kept in the loop.
Taking this concept a step further, you can create a business improvement initiative by analysing the customer review data. This will identify trends and recurring causes of complaints in your business – giving you the opportunity to work on these areas.
How to make light of the occasional bad review
Some businesses take an alternative approach to negative customer reviews – by making light of them and using humour to generate entertainment value.
Please note, this tactic is not suited to all lines of business. Also, make sure your regular customers will appreciate the joke before choosing this path.
For example, some restaurants decide to display negative reviews on a board outside the front door, essentially challenging people to come in and try it out. Their good humour about the situation gets them plenty of attention online and is usually worth its weight in free marketing buzz.
Meanwhile, the Michelin starred Longman & Eagle restaurant in Chicago has even printed their favourite negative customer review quotes on stylish cards to raise a chuckle among customers. Again, it helped get them noticed online.
There is even a restaurant that received mountains of buzz online by actively striving to become the worst reviewed restaurant on Yelp. The owner of the Botto Bistro is so confident in the quality of his food that he thinks online reviews ultimately won’t damage his business. And so far, it seems to be working for him!
And that’s it!
Remember no company is perfect. Negative customer reviews are inevitable at some point – even if you do everything right.
Indeed, its important not to lose sight of the fact that there are ways of making those blots on your otherwise perfect review ratings work for you. As long as you are working hard on achieving customer service excellence and you have a good customer centric policy in place – you should be ok.
If you have any questions about what we’ve covered above, please ask in the comments section below and we’ll get straight back to you!