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Have you ever received a “less than favorable” Online Review?

positive-negative-reviewWith over 3 billion people online today, positive and negative testimonials are having a huge impact on business operations, allowing everyone to have a clear picture of how you manage customer service. In an era when most purchasing decisions are made on line, web based testimonials will inform prospects and customers about the reliability of both your services and products.  While most businesses strive to have all positive reviews, negative evaluations can, and will occur to even the best companies. While it is good practice to respond to all reviews, it is absolutely imperative that you respond to any assessment of your company that is less than completely positive.

So what do you do if you receive a negative review?  First of all, don’t panic. Every company is made up of a staff of individuals, and as human beings, we are all prone to make a mistake now and then.  Your readers realize that no company is perfect, and errors can happen. What you can control is how you react to them.   This is your opportunity to demonstrate to the public how conscientious you are by rectifying problems in a timely and equitable manner.  An important point to always keep in mind is that any problem represents an opportunity to create even more sales by elevating the publics’ view of you.  First of all, by exposing an error or weakness, your readers will realize they are in an open, honest environment, and secondly, you’ll be able to demonstrate that on the outside chance an error should happen with their order, you will be responding in a timely manner to make things right for them as well.

Okay, so what should you do when you receive a negative review?negative-review-response-yelp

1. Express your gratitude
Just as you would respond to a positive review, saying “Thank You” for his/her feedback is the first step. Successful businesses appreciate the customers who take the time to provide negative feedback, because without it, they wouldn’t know where they needed improvement.  Let the customer know that they are important, and the feedback they provide helps you become a better company. This demonstrates not only that are you open to criticism, but that you are grateful the customer took the time to reach out and provide valuable feedback to your business.

2. Apologize
Acknowledging that you made a mistake is key to mitigating a negative review. Whether the complaint is completely accurate or not, your customer feels that they have been inconvenienced and your product or service has not lived up to their expectations.  Regardless of the credibility of the complaint, in the public arena, always take the high road, do not become argumentative, but focus on a resolution to the problem instead.  If the client refuses to be placated by genuine offers of reconciliation, the public will see the client as the problem and respect your efforts to solve their complaint for them.  Ultimately, you have the final option of blocking someone from your site that is a habitual complainer if nothing appeases them and they become an on-going problem.

3. Identify the Problem
After you have thanked the reviewer for voicing their concerns and apologized for their inconvenience, it is now time to resolve the issue. You can ask yourself a series of questions such as, “Is this a systematic issue that could affect every customer or is it unique to the reviewer? Is their issue baseless and only requires appeasement? Is the issue linked to a problem that is not easily fixed such as infrastructure or policy?” Knowing the type of issue will give you a clearer course of action to which you can direct the customer accordingly. If they are upset about a product or service, perhaps offer to have it replaced. Let the customer know that their service is important and you are willing to help in any way you can!

While negative reviews or comments can be frustrating and cause one to feel a little bitter, responding in anger will only make matters worse. It is important to always keep a cool head and try to see things from the customer’s point of view. Taking the high road will say a lot about your business, how you handle difficult situations within your company, and how you keep customer satisfaction as your top priority.

Of course, like all things in life, there are always those rare exceptions to the rule. If you have a review that you feel is false, malicious, unjustly submitted, or one that breaks the site rules (contains profanity, personal attacks or private information), contact the site where the review is being hosted and it could be warranted for removal.

Whenever possible, have reviews monitored in real time. Make sure to have someone assigned to overseeing online reviews and responding within an appropriate timeframe. They should be monitoring any social media platforms you are currently involved with as well as any “open public review sites” such as Yelp, Angie’s List, and Google Reviews/Local/Places/+ to see what people are saying about your business. One of the simplest ways to observe what people are saying about you online is to set up Google Alerts for your business. This will provide timely notifications any time your business name is used online, making it easier for you to respond when needed.

Remember, the more transparent and authentic you are, the more trustworthy and approachable you will appear to your customers and prospects. Your best strategy for handling negative online reviews is to avoid taking it personally, implement the necessary steps to remedy any issues, and then continue to actively seek out helpful customer feedback.