Reviews are pretty darn important: 92% of customers use them to make purchasing decisions (BrightLocal). Having a few positive reviews is great, but receiving negative online reviews is an inevitable part of running a business. Since 44% of customers consider reviews older than a month irrelevant, you need to make sure you manage all your reviews as they come in. This way you can minimize the damage of negative reviews.
Positive business reviews are welcomed with open arms and cause little friction. But here’s the twist: friction can be beneficial, because growth requires feedback–all reviews are feedback. Negative customer feedback is often even more valuable than positive feedback.
Absorb negative feedback as constructive criticism–your customers may be complaining, but they’re still taking the time to engage with you. Negative online reviews are only posted by customers who care. Return the favor. Dig deep into customer reviews to pinpoint the issue. Often customers vent in long-winded rants, and the actual problem is difficult to identify amidst that hurricane of emotion. Comments like “worst service” or “horrible quality” are vehement but vague. You may have to directly ask the customer to explain their issue in detail. Once you understand the problem, you can take corrective action.
Remember, when customers post negative reviews, they believe their complaint is valid whether it truly is or not. This means even if they aren’t in the right, something led them to believe they were. Identify what this something is, for perception and reality frequently blur, and enough misconceptions from other customers can lead to a negative business reputation. In your response, clear up any misunderstandings to prevent any future confusion from potential customers.
How to turn negative feedback into positive experiences:
- Don’t react–respond. Address customer complaints promptly and thoroughly: 69% of customers attribute their positive customer service experience to swift resolution of their issue (Zendesk). Fight the knee-jerk urge to defend your business, even if the negative feedback is unfair. As in any human interaction, denials and accusations only elevate conflicts. The shorter the conversation, the better. Also account for the setting: if bad customer reviews are posted on public sites, whatever you say is visible to everyone. Even in private exchanges, however, your response reflects your business as a whole. Timely responses show respect, but rushed responses are dangerous. If the negative feedback strikes a nerve, wait until you’ve calmed down to plan out your reply. Take a walk around the block, watch a funny cat video, whatever works. Then begin carefully choosing your words.
- Appreciate the voice of the customer. As mentioned above, negative feedback really can benefit your business. Without complaints, a problem may continue repeatedly and possibly worsen. Let your customers know you sincerely appreciate their feedback; even if you had to take a cold bath to quell your fury, don’t let it show. Swallow your pride, thoughtfully acknowledge your customer’s dissatisfaction and thank them respectfully for their feedback. A gracious response can transform livid customers into loyal ones. Ending the conversation on a positive note can spin a customer complaint into an outstanding customer experience.
- Provide evidence of customer experience improvement. If you were able to take immediate steps to resolve the problem, let the customer know in your initial response. Otherwise, outline the steps you will take to fix it. If the issue was not promptly resolved before your response, follow-up once you’ve made changes so the customer knows you really listened.
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