All businesses will deal with negative reviews at some point. We should actually learn to look forward to them and not get upset about them when they happen. If you have reviews at all, that means you’re doing business, and people are actually using your products, services, or facility! Another good thing about negative reviews is that they almost always highlight something in your business that you can improve, for example, your communication style, your process, your organization, or simple things like cleanliness. There are things that your customers see from the outside that sometimes you don't see from the inside of your business. My point is that you should view negative reviews as valuable feedback from people who want to do business with you and are giving you insight on how to do better.
How to Deal with Negative Reviews
- Reply to every single review that’s left for you online. When you reply to a negative review, you’re not just replying to that person, you’re replying publicly. Your reply shows your brand. Everyone who comes to check out your business should be able to read your reviews and responses and understand your brand.
- Take the opportunity to emphasize your brand messaging. Don’t allow your personal feelings to get in the way of responding helpfully and professionally. Simply thank the person for the review and for the feedback. Then, highlight an aspect of your brand that the review will help you improve upon. For example, if your brand is about transparency or creating a family atmosphere, mention specifically that the review will help you improve on your policy of transparency or that it will help you improve the atmosphere of your establishment so that families always feel welcome. This is a great way to use a negative review as an open channel for your own positive uses.
- Always offer to speak to the reviewer about the issue either on the phone or in a direct email, if possible. Say something like, “We would love to discuss this with you personally. Could you give us a call at this number or send us an email so that we can review this with you?” Show your customers that you care about their feedback and that you are willing to do what you need to do in order to make things right.
- Never publicly address the fact someone left you a negative review. Under no circumstances should you go on your personal Facebook profile, business Facebook page, Instagram, Twitter or any other social media outlets and complain about receiving a bad review. Your publicly complaining about a negative review will turn many people off and make them not interested in doing business with you.
- Drawing attention to a negative review could cause the “Streisand Effect.” This phenomenon got its name back in 2003 when Barbra Streisand didn’t like the fact that a photo of her house was online. She drew a huge amount of attention to the photo by sending a request from her lawyers to have the picture taken down. Well, that just made everybody want to see it, and so people started reposting the photo everywhere. If she hadn’t made such a big deal about it, hardly anyone would have noticed or cared about a photo of her residence online. Handle the review in a professional manner, reply to it, and leave it alone. Then, internally work on making things better so that it doesn't happen again.
- Keep your response short and to the point. If you give a lengthy explanation as the response to the review, it’ll likely come across as whining. Say as little as possible, but say the truth. Don't say anything that could be misconstrued by the other side as they are not seeing things from your point of view.
- The way to handle a negative review is to get more positive reviews. When you receive a negative review, that should prompt you to try to get three to five more positive reviews to come in after the negative one. You don't want that negative review to be the first review people see. Positive reviews will push down the negative one. You don’t want all of the positive reviews to come in on the same day, of course, but trickle them in over the next week.
What if it's a fake review?
At some point, you will deal with someone leaving a review who was genuinely never a customer or client. Google, Facebook, Yelp, and most review platforms have a way to report fake reviews, but it's difficult to actually get them removed because it's difficult to prove they are fake. However, it is possible if you stick with it.
I've seen some companies have fun with their replies to fake reviews, offering 100% reimbursement for dinners or full refunds on entire purchases simply because they know the reviewer never came in. However, the best method for dealing with ANY bad review is to immediately get more good reviews. That way the negative review does little harm.
You can...do it!
Courteous treatment will make a customer a walking advertisement.
James Cash Penney, founder of J.C. Penney Stores