The Negative Review Reaction
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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.
- 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).
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.
As a consumer, how much value do you place on a negative review or testimonial?
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