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If you deal with clients or customers, chances are high that someone will be upset or displeased with your service. Not only that, but they will leave a negative review on every platform they can think of. The web has given a platform for user reviews on a scale that businesses of yesteryear did not need to concern themselves with.

Recently, one of my clients had negative reviews left on Google, Facebook, Yelp, and an industry forum. The review was scathing and the reviewer held no punches.

The problem?

They were not even a customer of my client. The reviewer had the wrong business.

As I was coaching my client through the situation, it reminded me of the many times I have seen brands respond inappropriately to online reviews.

For the purposes of this article, I am going to assume that, generally, you receive 4- and 5-star reviews. I am going to assume that you want to provide above average customer service. I am also going to assume that you take reviews like this very personally.

Okay, that is out of the way. Now, how do you handle a bad review.

Breathe

First, take a deep breath.

Reacting immediately will surely result in an emotional response. And humans make terrible choices when in fight or flight mode. Unless you’ve trained for stressful situations, you’ll default to what Seth Godin calls lizard brain. The part of your brain responsible for keeping you alive. Lizard brain does not make logical decisions, it makes survival decisions.

And a bad online review does not require survival skills. It requires empathy and sympathy skills.

Read the Review Again

On your first pass, you likely skimmed the review. In fact, you probably comprehended less as your blood pressure rose. Once you’ve settled down and given it some time, re-read the review. Take note of the specific issues the reviewer is highlighting. You don’t need to agree with them, or even acknowledge their version of events is true, just take note of what the issue is in their mind.

Assess

This is perhaps the hardest part of dealing with a bad review: assessing the validity. As leaders, we take our business very personally. Any review, good or bad, reflects our own characteristics and traits. It is hard to accept bad feedback, especially when it seems the reviewer has the wrong facts.

But use this opportunity to objectively consider what the reviewer is complaining about. Poor service? Product failure? Pricing issue? Miscommunication?

Is there any validity to the complaint?

Be honest with yourself and do some investigation, if necessary.

Draft Your Response

It is common to want to immediately delete a negative review. Don’t. For one, that undermines the entire review process. Reviews mean nothing when you are only seeing the best ones, right? On top of that, negative reviews are actually an opportunity to win new customers because they allow you to showcase how much you genuinely care about the satisfaction of your customers.

Start by writing a draft response to the reviewer. Begin by thanking them for the review (Ouch). Acknowledge that you understand the issues they raise and that you are sorry for the experience they had. Remember, their perception (whether correct or not) is that they have been wronged. Your response needs to touch on all of these points early to set the stage for a winning review.

Be courteous and factual. Don’t allow emotions to detract from the point you’re trying to make. Likely, the review will be filled with emotion and baseless “facts”. Ignore them in your response.

Respond

Once you have your draft completed, respond to the review.

Always respond.

Always respond on the platform of the original review. For example, if they left a review on Yelp, reply on Yelp. If on Facebook, respond on Facebook.

Again, in your reply, stick to the facts. Share your side of the story and offer an explanation from your perspective. As tempting as it is, avoid mud throwing and petty rebuttals. As a leader, your job is to lead and elevate yourself above the situation.

Example Scripts

John, thank you for taking the time to reach out. We strive to exceed our customer’s expectations and am sorry to hear that we did not meet yours during our recent service call. I spoke with the technician who came to your house and discovered there had been a scheduling error that resulted in him being across town when he should have been at your house. This is entirely our fault and apologize for the inconvenience this caused you.

Mary, I am so sorry to hear about the slow service you received when at our store on Saturday. I spoke with the manager on duty that day and she explained there had been an unexpected rush of customers that resulted in slow service. It is our goal to have customers get their order in 3 minutes or less and we did not meet that goal when you were in. Please make yourself known to me next time you are in the store so I can buy you a coffee.

Terry, thank you for your review. I understand you are upset about the condition of the book you ordered. I’m sure you can imagine, when dealing with used items, perception of the condition is very subjective. We do our best to clearly describe the condition of products. I’m sorry you feel that the description was not an accurate reflection of the condition of the book. Please feel free to contact me at XXXXXXXX to arrange an exchange.

Bryce, thank you for your review. I understand how frustrating it would be to have the type of damage you described. I cannot find any record of our company responding to your home. Can you please call or email me directly? If it was our company, I want to get this resolved for you.

Wrapping Up

Remember, customers who feel wronged want to be heard. When you take the time to respond to a bad user review, it is not uncommon to have the entire review deleted by the user and replaced with a glowing one. Another client of mine personally keeps track of customers whose relationship started with a terrible review and blossomed to a loyal ambassador. He keeps a special list of them to personally follow up with from time to time.

Additionally, responding to reviews (good and bad) gives other readers (those who don’t necessarily leave reviews, but just read them) an idea of what to expect from doing business with you. Everyone has seen a ridiculous 1-star review. We know some customers cannot be satisfied. Accept this, respond, and move on. Savvy shoppers will know to disregard the rouge rough review.

I encourage you to view these negative reviews as an opportunity to turn a bad experience into an ambassador to your brand.

Photo by Headway on Unsplash

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