Guilty Of A Gut Reaction To A Negative Review?

I’m going out on a ledge here, even willing to stand on the edge on one foot to say; every business makes a mistake once in a while. From minor to major offense, from customers to ex-friends and family, you might have some bad reviews out there.  The point is, like it or not, either you have them or you will.

Once you accept that, as I’d hope once you decided to hang out the shingle you knew you would, you can move on from worrying less about how  receiving a negative review  and focus on how to minimize the chances of getting on and to how to deal with a negative review when it happens.  It’s all about brand reputation management (related article: The Brand Reputation Discreditation).

The Negative Review Reaction: How to handle a negative review and protect your brand's reputation, Brand Reputation Management

Handling The Negative Review – The Wrong Way

The usual responses I’ve heard from business owners (not to mention countless blog posts) on how to deal with negative reviews (including posts and comments) are either to bury it or to delete it.  The idea being that apparently if they’re not seen, they’re not really there.  Neither is a professional approach to managing your reputation.

Bury It

Reviews left on Google, Yelp, Angie’s List (and no, I am NOT a fan of Angie’s List) as well as other sites there leave no option to remove the post, The ‘Bury It’ approach seems sound.  You usually don’t want that negative review at the top when potential clients are looking for your product or services.  While it may be one in a handful of good reviews, if it’s the most recent, it could mean trouble.

When looking at a restaurant last week to grab a bite for dinner I didn’t focus on the rating but rather the reviews.  A 4-5 star rating means nothing if all of the positive reviews are years old and the few bad ones are weeks old, the rating is somewhat pointless.  I can expect to experience the service pointed out in the recent ratings more than those older ones. – Robert Nissenbaum, Tactical Social Media

The idea then, that having a number of positive reviews posted to ‘combat’ a negative review would seem to be a good idea.  Not so; I’m smart.  If all of the reviews are staggered in terms of when they are posted and suddenly after a few negative reviews there are several positive in quick succession (while it’s possible that it is a coincidence) it’s not what I’ll be thinking.  Now I see the bad reviews and a desperate attempt to deceive me.

In the case of Yelp, those ‘positive’ reviews can and do get filtered.  Other sites are employing software to catch these as well, especially if they truly are false positive reviews.  The end result is far worse than a few complaints.

#BeTactical: Don’t bury a negative review with fake positive ones.

Delete It

On one level, it works.  If there are no poor reviews – all is good.  Quite honestly there are plenty of businesses with nothing but stellar reviews and ratings. Not having a negative review isn’t bad – unless someone saw it BEFORE you had a chance to delete it!  The same goes for a post on your page and especially a comment in a thread with others (those who previously commented have definitely been notified).  Again, you are faced with trying to cover it up.

Handling a negative review; online reputation management, monitoring and response; The cover up is usually worse than the crime. image credit: http://www.shelburnenovascotia.com/CARTOONS/Worse yet, if the reviewer sees the post removed, there’s a good chance it will be reposted and probably with the added admonishment of having it removed.  Users are also more likely to post the new review in more locations including private profiles on social networks where the visibility will be greater with no chance to respond.

#BeTactical: Don’t delete a negative review. The cover up is usually worse than the crime itself.

Handling The Negative Review – The Right Way

Be Proactive

Sometimes the best defense is a good offense.  Since we know, at some time, you will get a poor review, it’s a well-known fact people are more apt to report the negative than to heap on the praise, ASK FOR GOOD REVIEWS.  This is the positive and ethical way to Bury It.

It’s also a great opportunity to follow-up with your customers.  I love this postcard I recently received from South Tacoma Honda after we had the airbag recall performed.  They not only followed up but asked for a review AND gave us directions to make it easy! (And yes, we did return for additional services.)

The Negative Review Reaction: Avoiding a negative review: Brand Reputation Management: I love this postcard I recently received from South Tacoma Honda after we had the airbag recall performed. They not only followed up but asked for a review AND gave us directions to make it easy! #BeTactical

The value in asking for positive reviews – when you do get that pummeling, it will be one in a bunch of positive remarks.  They’ll also be staggered so they won’t look contrived (not to mention the posts themselves will read well.  Hastily posted ones in an effort to bury negative ones will almost always sound rushed and lack authenticity).

#BeTactical: Ask for positive reviews. When there is a negative one, the impact will be minimized.

Helpful Tip: One great idea is to get the review BEFORE your customer leaves.  Technology is your friend.  Add a QR code to the bottom of the receipt or have them login to any social site on their phone, offering a cookie or coupon for their next visit when they do.

Respond 

If (when) bad reviews appear, they need to be dealt with immediately and professionally.

  • Make a mistake? Acknowledge it!  

Own up to it and work out the most courteous solution possible, PUBLICLY.  Sending a personal response is still recommended where possible but while handled offline, not doing so publicly means others do not see how you handled it.

Since I know there is a chance something can go wrong in the sales process as a customer, knowing it will be handled professionally, fairly and in a timely manner is a big plus. It provides me insight into how your business operates and adds an element of trust and respect.  – MJ Jensen, IdeaMagic Visionary Marketing

Consider the case of Amy’s Baking Company in Scottsdale, AZ.  A proper reply to the negative review on Yelp (in 2010) could have been leveraged to create a positive spin helping her business.  Instead Amy’s rant turned into a complete meltdown.  While the business is still open, their reputation will always precede them.

We can garner much more about a business based on the way they handle a negative comment, post or review than we can from a positive one.

Excellent advice on handling a negative review from @Kim Garst: Own your mistakes and your community will LOVE you for it! #BeYou http://bit.ly/realyoubook

Amazing advice from Kim Garst

 

  • The Unfounded Rant

So, what if the post is just a rant?  You handle it the same way – with class and professionalism.

While class and professionalism are a must, keep in mind, not every complaint, negative review or rant is valid or worthy of amends.  Plenty of people will use the threat of a bad review to get something free or give a bad review when a business owner doesn’t play their game. It’s common practice amongst a certain demographic. I consider them a low-grade reputation terrorist.

“While looking at my reviews on Facebook I noticed a one star review. It was from a person who continually sent me things to review and respond with suggestions. He wasn’t a client and never was a client. When not getting free services, there was a temper tantrum and this person was removed from contacting me again, then the bad review. I have worse stories of angry leeches and reputation terrorists, but I’ll save those for another time.” – Tamara Lee Taylor, Show Up Strong & The Restless Successful 

As business owners, we cannot be distracted by the reputation terrorist.  While a response is still required, a simple “Thank you for your feedback.” Is sufficient.  Experience has taught me customers will see past the unfounded rant (especially if you were proactive in acquiring positive reviews).

The Advice

As a business owner and consumer, I highly recommend doing your very best to deliver the highest quality product/service possible. Never over promise and under deliver; if you do, your customer/client deserves a humble and gracious remedy in a timely manner.

Hire quality people and train them well.  The best way to handle bad reviews is to not get them.

A Final Thought

The mark of a good business is one that responds to ALL reviews, not just the negative ones.  #BeTactical: If someone takes the time to write a review, the least you can do is take the time to acknowledge it.

Your Turn

As a consumer, how much value do you place on a negative review or testimonial?

You can comment below or you can find The Negative Review Reaction on Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Facebook or simply Tweet your thoughts!  

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Do you need help with your brand’s reputation management or monitoring?  Do you even know if you do?  If you’re not sure, you do!  Contact us today to see how we can help.  If you’re in the Greater Seattle or South Sound Area, we’d love to buy you a good cup of coffee.

I like LinkedIn messaging.  It’s a great networking tool and can be every bit as powerful as face to face networking opportunities both in group and one on one meetings.  LinkedIn offers the ability to showcase one’s expertise, create authority and build great business and personal relationships.

Sadly, I’ve seen a shift over the past few years to more sales pitches in the form of status updates and messages, connections being made for that sole purpose and more bulk messages.  While bulk messages in themselves aren’t always a negative, when you’re looking to strengthen the relationships you have already established, lumping me in with 20+ other ‘Robert’s in your contacts is certainly not a positive way to connect with me.

The LinkedIn Messaging Protocol: While bulk LinkedIn messaging isn't always a negative, when you’re looking to strengthen the relationships you have already established, lumping me in with 20+ other ‘Robert’s in your contacts is certainly not a positive way to connect with me.

LinkedIn Messaging Etiquette

I received a LinkedIn message from an individual connection recently.  It was a Season’s Greetings eCard with a clickable link.  From a professional perspective, LinkedIn is about connecting and building relationships.  I think sending a Christmas message, and any personal message for that matter, is a great idea.  Connecting personally develops stronger professional relationships.  What bothers me in this case – not only wasn’t the post personalized, but it was sent, as I reference above, clearly from a block of the sender’s contacts as the majority of the names where ‘Robert’ or alphabetically close.  There was no attempt to even filter who received the message.

Regardless if the intent of the message, it came across as merely an attempt to keep the sender’s name top of mind.  Personally, I see this as spam.  Since every relationship I have on LinkedIn is considered before simply accepting, I’m hesitant to just remove someone from my list so I sent a simple message:

While I appreciate the card, I find being included on bulk messages like this to be spam. 

I would prefer to be left off such messages and those other than of a personal nature.

Thank you.

Robert

I expected a short apology and in the end, no true harm done and as they say, no foul.  What I received back, however, surprised me:

This is LinkedIn!! I prefer to only do or discuss business matters that are not of personal nature on the Professional Business Entrepreneur LinkedIn website. 

Just simply wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays hope the rest of the season warms you up from being so suspicious and you actually enjoy yourself!!

Not only did I not receive an apology, I was accused of being suspicious and not enjoying myself or the holidays.  What struck a chord with me more – this individual prefers not to use LinkedIn for business matters (when LinkedIn is a professional oriented networking site) and the sender wasn’t actually wishing ME anything.  It was a wish to a collective.  At least make it personal to me so I know you care about me as a connection.

I normally would have let it drop at this point but as a social media and marketing consultant I felt it was a good teaching opportunity.  My reply:

It’s not about being suspicious.  Your initial message was not personalized (something I teach being critical for developing relationships) and that message was only a link to an eCard. 

I have used LinkedIn messaging successfully to grow my businesses and consult with others to do the same. I regularly send greetings and other personal messages as well as those for business but I do so with each tailored to the recipient. If I include you as part of a bulk mailing it, to me it (and it should to you) shows I don’t value you personally. How does one grow a relationship if nothing is personalized and the recipient is just part of a collective?

Even the vast majority of my connection requests are personalized with how we know each other or why I want to connect if we do not.

Since this is a network to build relationships, I simply asked to be left off bulk messages as I find them to be spam. I would have openly welcomed a personalized greeting sent only to me.

Case in point, I did recently receive a similar message, replied with a thank you, spent some time on their profile and found they could be a valuable resource for a colleague whom I then referred. Why? They took the time to build that relationship with me.

Robert

…..to which I received no further replies.

So how do you send that ‘message’ to all of your connections?  A status update like Maria Orth’s may not be seen by everyone, but it is the right way to do it.

The LinkedIn Messaging Protocol: So how do you send that ‘message’ to all of your #LinkedIn connections? A status update like Maria Orth’s may not be seen by everyone, but it is the right way to do it.

Update:  Shortly after publishing this post I received another message, that while personally addressed, clearly falls into my ‘spam’ category:

I’m reaching out to you since to see if you might be interested in a ground floor opportunity, or know anyone who might be. I’m wanting to make you aware of this tremendous opportunity and would like to ask you an eye-opening question…

As an Entrepreneur, If you had the chance to get in on the Ground Floor of a company expansion (with a company that’s NOT Ground Floor) where you could generate monthly recurring residual commissions on mobile phone bills nationwide, would you want to know how to get in on it?

In addition to bulk messages, using LinkedIn’s messaging feature for the purpose of recruiting, or requesting that I turn over the names of my contacts, to help you build your network marketing business is spam.

A valid recruiting message is acceptable.  If you want to hire me or collaborate on a project, great.  Clearly this wasn’t.

I am happy to receive LinkedIn messages (and would like to connect and discuss any thoughts you may have – including about YOUR business or interests). Just don’t spam me.

The Take Away:

Regardless of the social site you use and regardless of whether the nature of your message is personal or professional – the end goal is to develop and grow relationships.  You do that by connecting personally.  Bulk messages have value when used correctly.  Just make sure you are using them correctly.