How Do I Deal With Negative Reviews?
Let’s talk about 100% 5-star reviews… Do they feel suspicious to you? If I see a business with all 5-star reviews, part of me gets super excited for them. How cool is it that they are that awesome? And I usually don’t doubt that they are… but, I also want to know more.
Someone told me that in order to really know how great a company is, you need to see what happens when something goes wrong. Because inevitably, something will. How will they address it? How will they remedy it? Will they offer empathy? Will they understand the other side? Will they defend? Will they be kind?
Whatever we believe about this gets put to the test when someone posts a negative review about our business. How will we respond?
Here are a few tips for how to prepare yourself for when that moment comes, starting with…
What NOT to do:
- Don’t ignore it. Kind of like when your car makes a funny noise – you can’t just turn the radio on, or put a piece of black tape over the “check engine” light. Negative reviews aren’t fun, but pretending that they’re not there is not a solution, and may cause people to assume that the criticism is accurate.
- Don’t get defensive. The customer may not always be right, but you gain nothing by proving them wrong. Getting defensive often triggers a similar response in the other person. Online they call this a “flame war” (and if you’ve ever seen one in the comment section, you know that no one wins). Try to avoid that and look for ways to be more solution-oriented, responding calmly no matter how out of line you think the customer is.
- Don’t dismiss legitimate criticism. Before responding, take a minute to do a little self-examination – maybe the customer actually has a valid point. If you’re open to it, their feedback could help you address an area that needs improvement, in which case it’s better to just admit that you were wrong rather than to argue.
What to do:
- Own your responsibility. Success in business is not about avoiding mistakes – it’s more about what happens next. If you did something wrong, do your best to make it right – let the customer know you’re sorry they had a bad experience and that you hope they’ll give you another chance. Ideally your kind response (plus the offer of a refund or exchange if needed) will be what they remember most.
- Address complicated issues privately. While you do want to respond, the entire interaction doesn’t have to be on the review site (especially as you keep the customer’s privacy in mind). If you don’t have the customer’s contact information, invite them to reach you by phone or email.
- Beware of fake reviews. The review site might be willing to take it down (especially if it’s clearly a troll), but if not, let the reviewer know that you value all feedback and are committed to customer service, then politely inquire about the claim, and invite them to contact you directly to resolve the issue.
This whole conversation takes me back to a BOS Media podcast we did about “making negatives into a positive“. One of the quotes we highlighted was from Danny Meyer: “The road to success is paved with mistakes well-handled.” Just remember when negative reviews come, it doesn’t have to be the end of the story – show your company’s true colors in a gracious response, and be ready for lots more to discuss about reviews in the coming weeks!