Negative reviews and comments are everywhere on the internet. And with the dawn of social media, it’s become even easier to voice issues regarding specific services and / or products.
Even the most popular companies are not exempt from getting bad reviews on Google or Yelp. Social media platforms are overrun with comments on bad service.
The potentially bad news here (to you as a business owner) is that 81% of shoppers conduct online research before completing a purchase, while 61% read reviews beforehand. Today’s buying public is informed.
This means that bad reviews can really damage your sales if nothing is done about them. And this doesn’t just affect your online reputation, people tend to share those bad experiences with their friends and family.
But bad reviews are not the end of the world, as long as they are managed correctly. They are also an important learning experience which you can use to improve your business.
We look at 5 tips to negate the effect of bad reviews for your brand.
1. Know What is Being Said About Your Brand
It’s your job to monitor what people are saying about you or your brand. On average a business only hears from 4% of dissatisfied customers – which means you only hear from 1 in every 25 unhappy customers. So where are they complaining?
If you do a simple Google search for your company name accompanied with the word “review”, what do you find?
If all you’re seeing are positive results, then well done. But more than likely you’ll find some negative feedback. Try the same on various social media accounts, actively look for criticism on your business.
Ideally you should have a presence on all platforms that are relevant to your industry. Create accounts on the right social media platforms so that you can monitor and respond to any customer feedback.
You can also use a tool like Social Mention to monitor comments across all social media platforms. Simply enter a relevant keyword or phrase, and discover everything connected to it (top keywords, how many comments are negative / positive, the most popular hashtags associated with your keyword(s) etc.).
Google Alerts is a great free tool to receive updates on specific subjects.
If you don’t know you are being criticised, you can’t fix or manage it.
2. Take Ownership – Is It Your Fault?
First you should look at whether the complaint is a valid one. If you are at fault, then you should deal with the matter in a fair and respectful manner. The internet is littered with examples of the wrong way to deal with complaints, you can learn from these mistakes to improve your brand image.
Reply to the complaint, and apologise if it was your fault. Try and find a way of correcting the situation – offer a refund, a discount voucher. This is a means of showing your sincerity in dealing with the problem.
Each company makes mistakes, but the difference is in how each of them deals with those mistakes. If you are replying in public (social media or review sites) and effectively dealing with the complaint, others will note your good customer service.
All of these experiences are part of a learning process – finding what doesn’t impress your customers is important. You can use this information to adapt your practices to improve the experience for them.
3. Increase your Positive Reviews
As mentioned previously, every company will receive their fair share of bad reviews. Unfortunately people are more likely to leave bad reviews than good ones, so how do you inspire customers to leave good reviews?
You could ask them.
On your website and via social media, simply ask customers to leave honest reviews. If the response to your request is slow, you could offer people an incentive (a free download, discount voucher etc) to leave a review, but make sure to ask for a fair review – you don’t want to give the impression that you are trying to buy a positive review.
After a customer completes a purchase, send a follow-up e-mail asking how their experience was. Include a link to your preferred review site.
Also, positive reviews are great tools you can use to market your business on your own website or on your social media accounts. They build trust and credibility for your brand.
4. Leave no Comment Unanswered.
No negative comment or review should be left to fester. They should be dealt with as quickly as possible or else people will get the impression that you don’t care about your customer-base.
And before you click the “reply” button, have a colleague look over your reply. The tone of text-based replies can easily be misinterpreted, so it’s best to be sure that you are coming across as friendly, helpful and sincere.
Thought it might save time, don’t use pre-formulated responses when replying, they can appear as lazy and disinterested. You should rather take the time to write a custom reply to each comment.
5. Don’t Argue Online
Chances are that some situations might threaten to go out of your control. It’s important that you try to remain calm when dealing with angry customers.
Also, try to see the experience from the complainer’s point of view, imagine how the incident would affect them. That perspective can give you a new level of understanding, and assist in clearing up the situation.
If things do go completely pear-shaped, you should always try to take the conversation offline via e-mail or private message. Remember to maintain calm throughout, and polite (overly polite even).
When things get too much, try stepping away from your computer for a few minutes before your next reply.
While it’s a long and difficult process to have negative reviews deleted, the best way to overcome them is to have a great strategy to generate positive reviews to overwhelm the bad press.
You should always deal with complaints, this is an important part of good reputation management. Even your harshest critic can become your biggest brand advocate if you handle the situation correctly.