We business owners pour our heart and souls into our trade, which is why negative reviews can feel like a direct personal attack. If you have received your first negative review, it could seem like a red flag that spells disaster for the future of your company. I'm here to tell you that a few bad reviews aren't spelling out the end for you or your business. There are however a number of points you need to know about negative reviews in order to find benefit from having them:
1. Negative reviews are going to happen.
It's hard to please everybody – especially in industries that yield highly subjective deliverables that are contingent on the clients' perceptions of value and style. There may also come a time where a quantifiable service cannot be met in a timely manner. It happens. Eventually – whether early on or much later in your career – you will have to face the review an unsatisfied customer. And that's OK, because every opportunity to deal with a customer in a public setting is a chance for you to prove your worth to your market audience.
2. Negative reviews are an open-ended opportunity.
Not surprisingly when I spoke to clients about their customer experience, they noted that they felt hurt and frustrated after discovering a poor review. The first knee-jerk reaction in most cases were highly defensive, accusatory, and response was largely aggressive. Knee-jerk reactions only serve as mental sand traps. Consider your business reviews - both good and bad - as opportunities for your market audience to assess how you conduct business. Reviews are an important tool for consumers to determine whether to buy from you or move on to another company.
Some buyers will actively seek out reviews with low ratings simply to see how the business owner responds to a negative public lashing. They will want to check your response to see if you are defensive, dismissive, or if you rise to the occasion to try to make the best out of a poor transaction. A bad review is a golden opportunity to showcase passion, perseverance, professionalism, and personalized service (my four P's).
3. Negative reviews validate your portfolio of customer testimonials.
Maintaining 100% positive reviews is the golden egg of collecting reviews. Yes, it exemplifies a business that is consistently reliable, but it can also be anathema. A portion of your market audience may question the vetting process of the review collection. They might ask themselves, "did the business owner only invite happy customers to review them?" or worse still, "Are some of these fake?"
Given all this, what should a response to a bad review look like?
It's important to avoid the knee-jerk reaction. Your response should be based in passion of the facts, not on heated emotion. The best way to do this is to prevent yourself from responding immediately. Get your eggs into one basket. Review your transaction history with the customer. Use the customer's review to identify the problem and develop two action solutions:
Your first solution should be a corrective action.
This is your chance to appeal directly to the customer that was provided an unsatisfactory service. A corrective action is usually an immediate response that directly benefits the customer. Some examples of a corrective action are:
Partial or full refund of payment.
Replacing or repairing goods.
Perform the service again for free or at a discounted fee.
Offer future service or goods at discount.
Your second solution should be a preventative action.
This is your chance to appeal to future prospective clients who may be reading the review. A preventative action is a forward-thinking response that should outline a change in policy or procedure that will limit the chances of the unsatisfactory results from occurring in the future. Some possible examples of this are:
Changing how employees interact with customers.
Implementing new management systems.
Realign the advertised expectations to realistic outcomes.
Leverage third-party resources to increase customer satisfaction rate.
The ideal response to the review should be factual, passionate, and deliberate. The response should outline your business' mission, policy, and your corrective and preventative actions. Finally, the response should include an invitation for the customer to re-engage the business by phone or e-mail. Bad reviews don't have to spell disaster for your company. Use them as an opportunity to showcase your four P's and improve your quality, customer service, and satisfaction.