One of the worst parts of being in business today is the negative backlash you receive online. Whether it is Yelp, Google, or various social media sites, negative reviews can turn into nightmares.
Nobody wants to receive a bad review, but they happen to all businesses eventually. Handled properly, negative reviews can be turned into positive results. In fact, businesses with nothing but 5-star reviews can engender suspicion rather than trust. Having some 1, 2, and 3-star reviews demonstrates that your reviews are real and not manufactured.
Online reviews can be a huge boon for business. According to a 2016 study by BrightLocal, “84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.” Given the high stakes of online reviews, it’s a good idea to have a plan in place.
In this guide, we’ll help you handle negative reviews by turning the negatived into positives.
How to Turn Negative Reviews into Positives
Review Response Do’s
Do prevent bad reviews in the first place
Negative reviews happen. But, you can help prevent them by improving business practices and customer service.
Normally, the customer contacts the business to solve the issue before venting online. If you receive a customer complaint, respond quickly and take it seriously. By resolving their issue immediately, you can prevent a social media and review problem online.
Do respond quickly
According to a 2012 study from NM Incite, 47% of U.S. social media users seek customer service through social media and 30% prefer to reach out to a brand through social media compared to the phone.
Customer service is changing. It’s becoming blurred with marketing. When customers contact you on Facebook or Twitter, they are expecting a quick response.
Facebook even tracks your responses to messages and displays your response time publicly. To get the best results, try to respond to all messages, reviews, and complaints within the hour.
Do respond privately first
Before posting a public response to a negative review, contact the reviewer privately or offline if you can. This way, you can speak to them directly and try to resolve the issue. When a satisfactory resolution is agreed upon, you can politely ask them to remove or alter their review.
This helps to prevent the issue from blowing up and becoming a PR nightmare. As long as they know you are honestly trying to resolve their problem, they will most likely be happy to remove or alter their review. The main point is that customers want to be heard and responded to.
The reason why customers complain online is that they have felt ignored. They are looking for a response. And the quicker you give it to them, the better they will feel about your company. The main point is to let customers know that you have acknowledged their issue and are working on a solution.
A discrete private message can remedy the situation and potentially get the review removed. You don’t actually have to have solved the problem for them to feel much better about their experience with your company.
Luckily, since a lot of businesses fail to respond to consumer complaints, if you do, then they may feel genuinely surprised and pleased that you thoughtfully heard them and responded.
Do let them know what to expect
When you respond to a customer complaint, it’s important to let them know how you are working on a solution and when to expect a follow-up. Just tell them you’ve acknowledged the problem and provide a realistic time frame for a solution.
Do apologize if necessary
Customers are just like you and me. They are fairly reasonable people (for the most part). They know that sometimes mistakes are made. What they are expecting is a reasonable response in return.
If you made a mistake, don’t cover it up. It’s best to admit your mistakes and take ownership, in life and business. This generates respect and possibly repeat business if handled properly.
The key here is to focus on the solution. What can you do to make things right? If you can’t resolve the issue offline and get the customer to remove their review, then thoughtfully compose a public apology response.
If posting a public apology on social media or elsewhere, make sure it is genuine. You can use templates if you want, but stray away from scripts. They tend to lack emotion and concern. Use your natural conversational tone to express concern, empathy, and effort.
Do personalize your response
Scripted responses are easily detected. Customers want to know that a human is listening to them. If they feel they are receiving an automated response, the result can be ugly.
While review response templates can be useful, try to personalize the response as much as you can.
Here are some tips for personalizing your response:
- Use the customer’s name.
- Be conversational and sympathetic.
- Let them know you have a solution or are working on one.
- If a mistake was made, own up to it.
- Acknowledge their specific issue in your response.
- Ask the reviewer to contact you to discuss the issue in more detail.
Never copy and paste the same message every time. The key is to demonstrate your understanding of the issue and your determination to resolve it.
Do create a plan
When you receive a complaint, it can be difficult to know who is responsible for fixing it. To help your social media and customer service team respond appropriately, create a plan and protocol for handling complaints.
Your customer review plan should include a list of all relevant employees and departments along with contact details.
Provide this document to your customer service and marketing teams so that the complaint or request is always delivered to the right person/department. This will speed up your response times and prevent negative reviews form escalating into uncontainable PR nightmares.
Do go the extra mile
When a customer receives out-of-this-world responses that not only solve their issue but go the extra mile to make them happy, they are likely to share their experience with others.
Consider ways you can go the extra mile by providing additional solutions. If you made a mistake, you may want to provide a complimentary service or product. We live in a transparent, social media world. What you do is noticed.
Do follow up
Responding to a negative review is the first step, but you’re not done yet. Make sure you follow through to make the customer satisfied.
Don’t assume that just because you sent a response that the issue has been solved. It’s important to follow up with the customer within a day or two to make sure everything has been resolved and to gather feedback from their experience.
This is a great way to differentiate yourself from the competition and improve your customer service processes. Continue to communicate with the customer until the issue has been completely resolved. Timely customer service is a great way to separate you from the competition.
Do monitor conversations about your business
It’s important to stay tuned in to online conversations about your company, but it can be difficult since many people won’t use hashtags or tag your company in particular.
In these cases, you may want to use online tools, such as Mention and Agora Pulse. You can also contact our team at VitalStorm, where we monitor conversations and provide timely responses on your behalf.
Do share reviews with your team
During your weekly, monthly, or quarterly meetings, it’s a great idea to share some online reviews with your team. Hand pick positive reviews that increase pride and morale, but don’t forget to include negative reviews that can serve as learning opportunities moving forward.
If a customer is upset about something specific, fix it! Negative reviews can force you to take a long, hard look in the mirror. Share your online reviews with your team so you can improve products, services, and customer service policies.
Do encourage more reviews
One of the best ways to deal with negative reviews is to encourage more positive reviews. It also helps with your SEO (search engine optimization). You can do this by linking review sites, such as Yelp, Facebook, and Google in your online newsletter, email signatures, business cards, invoices, marketing materials, and more. Learn more review generation strategies.
Review Response Don’ts
When it comes to review responses, what you should not do is just as important as what you should do.
Don’t delete negative reviews and comments
Not only is it hard to delete negative reviews and comments, it’s also not recommended. Even if you are successful in deleting negative reviews, it doesn’t mean the problem magically goes away. Customers will find new channels and venues to voice their complaints. This tactic can quickly backfire.
Occasionally, however, you will face a disgruntled customer or former employee who is on a vengeance. In these cases, you can issue a warning to them. If they don’t stop, feel free to delete or block that person.
In extreme cases, you may have to contact the website that posts the complaint to take it down. If the reviewer has violated the site’s Terms of Service, you may just be able to take it down. Just make sure you have proof of the indiscretion or false statements. And make sure you mention which Terms of Service were violated.
Don’t post fake reviews or create false personas
It may be tempting to steer public opinion in your favor by creating fake accounts and profiles, but this is one tactic you want to avoid entirely. Most likely, you will get caught and have to deal with the negative backlash for an indefinite period of time. Just don’t do it.
Don’t respond to reviews in an emotional state
It’s better to post a late review response than to post one that is overladen with emotion. In fact, since it is so hard to divorce emotion from your business, we recommend having a 3rd party write up a response for you. They will be able to take a more objective stance and write a professional response without ego.
A third party review response team will be able to evaluate the situation, apologize, and respond appropriately, even if it is an unfair review.
Don’t hire a reputation management company that promises to remove negative reviews
Any reputation management company that promises to remove negative reviews from the web are a scam. Google, Yelp, Facebook, and every other review site pride themselves on hosting honest and untouched reviews. Business listings may even be removed if the site detects suspicious or fake reviews.
Don’t threaten review sites. They have more money and lawyers than you do.
Don’t get trolled into flame wars
When you get into arguments with disgruntled consumers or former employees, it can motivate them to retaliate on multiple review sites, bad mouthing your business even more. Just don’t do it. Hire a review response agency to take care of negative reviews for you.
What to do if the review is factually incorrect
It can be frustrating to read a negative review that contains false or misleading information. While it may be possible to present facts and evidence that refutes a review and have it removed by the site, this can be difficult to accomplish in reality. If you do have facts that prove a review’s inaccuracy, you can try contacting the site administrator to have it removed. If you don’t have conclusive proof, don’t bother. You’ll just waste your time.
Instead, contact the reviewer offline by phone or email to see if you can reason with them to remove the review. For instance, sometimes reviewers post their review to the wrong business page. If this is the case, a simple message letting them know is often the best way to have the review removed. Even if the review is from a real customer of yours, it’s often best to try to resolve the issue offline first before posting a public response.
If you cannot get the inaccurate review removed, consider posting a public response that details your side of the story in a polite and professional manner. When reviews get personal and there is a lot of emotion involved, it’s normally best to have a 3rd party write up the response.
The Only 2 Ways to Remove a Negative Review
The best way to remove a negative review is to have the reviewer take it down themselves. The only other way to actually remove a negative review is if the review violates the review site’s Terms of Service, which lists the things that are not allowed in public reviews, such as:
- Fake or defamatory reviews;
- Trading reviews with other businesses;
- Compensating someone or being compensated to write or remove a review;
- Violating any third party’s rights, including any breach of confidence, copyright, trademark, patent, trade secret, moral right, privacy right, right of publicity, or any other intellectual property or proprietary right;
- Promoting bigotry or discrimination;
- Promoting a business or other commercial venture or event, etc.
If you feel that any Terms of Service are being violated, collect all of the facts and contact the appropriate department with your Terms of Service violation report. Mentioning a TOS violation improves your chances of getting the review removed.
You can’t make everyone happy. That’s okay. The important thing is to make sure customers are being heard and that their opinions and complaints are valued.
Remember, prevention is much better than a cure. The key to receiving great reviews online and reducing the amount of negative reviews is to be proactive with your customer service. If a customer contacts you with a complaint, it’s best to make them satisfied even if that means losing some money as a result. The long-term consequences of a negative review will cost your business much more.
Consider implementing a review generation strategy to cultivate your business’s review portfolio. And now that your customers are contacting your business through social media sites, it’s best to monitor your various profiles at all times to resolve a problem before it turns into a permanent negative review.
As a recap, here is how you can turn negative reviews into positives:
- Respond quickly
- Respond privately first (phone, email, or private message)
- Acknowledge mistakes, apologize, and make an effort to improve
- Explain your side of the story in a calm, neutral way
- Let them know what they can expect and when
- Personalize your responses (no copy-and-paste responses)
- Follow up with customer (ask them to contact you for further assistance)
- Go the extra mile
Take your lemons and make lemonade.
Why You Should Hire a 3rd Party Review Response Service
Customer reviews and timely business responses are important, but it can seem overwhelming when you are busy running day-to-day operations.
We highly recommend hiring a 3rd party review response service to provide excellent review responses and manage your online reputation.
Choose VitalStorm to monitor and respond to reviews on your behalf:
- We monitor reviews from across the web and provide timely responses
- You have the ability to review and approve responses before they are sent
- Our writers and social media managers are highly trained and skilled, especially for the home service industry
- We work with you and your customer service team to encourage positive reviews and get negative reviews removed (if possible)
To help you manage your business reputation online, contact VitalStorm.