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Turning a Negative into a Positive: How to Handle Negative Reviews

Let’s be honest, we’re all human and we’ve all made mistakes. Some are the big type, some are the small type and some are the “I forgot my lip balm today” type. They can conjure feelings of guilt, embarrassment and can tinge your cheeks an unflattering shade of red. Yet, these mistakes usually pave the way for us to learn and move on.

Unfortunately, if you’re standing at the helm of a business, any mistakes that are made are a little harder to face internally and to gracefully leave behind you. This is because your mistakes are publicly scrutinised online through the accessible medium of negative reviews.

Though we wish everyone could forgive, forget and leave a review on our Facebook page praising our efforts, the reality is that sometimes we make mistakes and people will speak out about them. A negative review is far from ideal, in fact one negative review is shown to drive away 22% of prospective customers. However, the way in which you manage and respond to this review can significantly improve the perception of your business.

Respond quickly:

If you see a negative review, you should respond promptly. Leaving it is like leaving a parasite and allowing it to infect the reputation of your business. Some businesses choose to reach out privately to negative comments (through social media direct messages) to provide a more personalised, in-depth response. However, a prompt public reply should also be provided acknowledging the mistake and outlining what is being done in response. This ensures other readers know you are taking positive action and are responsive to all feedback.

Responding with haste will narrow the window of opportunity for individuals to view the negative comment in its isolated form and improve your chances of gaining new customers. Ideally, no one will see the negative comment without your empathetic, apologetic response tethered to it.

 

Don’t Delete:

It may be tempting to delete the unflattering or incriminatory words of a disgruntled customer, but this will do more damage to your reputation. You may gain new customers through the absence of the negative review, but you’ve lost a customer and any future customers they could have referred to you. By deleting their comment that they took the time to leave, you are communicating that their feedback is not valued and that you don’t intend to improve on whatever they found dissatisfying. If you delete it, you are simply adding fuel to the fire.

In the unusual circumstance of inaccurate reviews (pertaining to products or services you do not provide) or that resemble a misleading or fake review (made by competition, a former employee  or someone who has never been an actual customer), these reviews can and should be removed.

 

Empathise:

Often, you won’t agree with a review or perhaps what went wrong was completely out of your control. For example, when there are shortages of a certain product in a clothing store due to a sudden spike in demand, this is not exactly an avoidable situation. However, it is important to try and understand why the customer has posted what they did and how they might be feeling.

Imagine if someone had been saving up to buy an item of clothing and comes in-store to buy it only to find there are none in their size. Now, imagine that due to the upcoming line of clothing this item would no longer be in production. Understandably, they are disappointed. You may want to frantically explain the facts of the situation to justify the circumstances, but it is far more important to understand the customer’s feelings and show you care. You can explain without disregarding their experience, making excuses, or avoiding responsibility. This is far more likely to achieve a successful outcome.

 

Be Polite and Professional:

What’s worse than a negative review? A negative review accompanied by a rude, dismissive response. This is a recipe for a tarnished reputation.

It is imperative to remain polite and professional when addressing customers, but especially when responding to a customer who is unhappy with your product or service. This is your opportunity to make amends and prove your quality as a business and therefore, this should never involve insults, slander or flippancy.

A professional format for your response could look like:

  1. Introduce yourself/greet them.
  2. Thank them for their feedback.
  3. Apologise for the negative experience they had.
  4. Explain if there had been a misunderstanding (do not avoid responsibility)
  5. Outline what their concerns are and (if possible) how your business will change/avoid future occurrences like this.

 

Learn:

As mentioned above, there are ‘mistakes’ that are beyond your control. If a negative review brings to your attention an area of your business that could be improved (through employee development, improving phone/website service, technological developments, altering prices etc.) this feedback could be invaluable to the progression of your business. View negative comments as opportunities to learn, grow and gain insights that ensure future reviews are positive.