Don't Feed The Haters: How To Respond To Negative Reviews

How To Respond To Negative Reviews

A question we see frequently asked by business owners online is how to remove or deal with negative reviews. As business owners in the digital era, we all worry about our online reputation, most of us even count on it for the bulk of our business referrals. 

Getting negative feedback from anyone is hard and it's only made harder when it's broadcasted on such a public space as the internet. 

Believe it or not, bad reviews can be a good thing. They can help you educate future customers, bring any business opportunities to light, and help shape your business perception both on and offline.

In a digital marketplace, the importance of reviews has never been higher -- After all, more often than not, consumers are just a click away from another option.

Read on how to turn online negative reviews into real-life value.

Reacting Vs. Responding

You work hard to make your business the best. A few negative reviews won't undo the countless hours you've spent becoming the best at what you do-- If you respond to them accordingly, that is. 

First and foremost, you have to get off of the defensive. It's incredibly easy to get caught up in your emotions and enter into a back and forth with a bad reviewer. After all, who are these people to leave such responses?! Your paying customers, that's who.

Let's look at the facts:

  • "78% of consumers have bailed on a transaction or not made an intended purchase because of a poor service experience." (Source: American Express Survey, 2011)

  • "A typical business hears from 4% of its dissatisfied customers." (Source: “Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner)

  • "It takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience." (Source: “Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner)

  • "On average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase." (Source: White House Office of Consumer Affairs)

What do these statistics tell you?

For one, customer perception is business reality and two, unresolved negative reviews hurt your business more than tackling and resolving the issue. 

None of us want to swallow our pride, especially after we've worked our butts off to build something that we're incredibly proud of. I am definitely not telling you to put your tail between your legs and let customers walk all over you. Every situation is different, of course, and what solves one problem might not solve the next one.

What I am urging you to do is to be productive.

You've worked hard; you know what you're capable of -- Don't let one customer's bad experience derail others from visiting your business. 

While working for a large and highly admired corporation, I learned the art of dealing with negative feedback/reviews and turning them into moments of growth.

It's quite simple and boils down to three key components:

Acknowledging, Aligning, Assuring.

1. Acknowledge the criticism. 
2. Align with what the customer is saying.
3. Assure that the experience will be improved upon their next visit.

Sounds easy, right? It is. 

Reviews don't have to turn into a defensive back and forth between you and your customers.

You don't have to feel like you're bending over backward for someone who has just trashed your business. 

Be responsive.

What you can do is turn a bad customer experience into a learning opportunity either for you or for future customers.

What you can do is let other customers know that you're there, that you're listening, that you value their business.

Turn a negative into a positive.

"It is 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one." (Source: White House Office of Consumer Affairs)

Often times, even if your pride is telling you the opposite, it is much more beneficial to you and your business to refund or exchange a product or service for someone who is unhappy than it is to try and reach new customers.

Even with a bad experience, this customer has decided to give your business a shot.  The hardest part of a business has been achieved: customer acquisition. 

By leaving a bad review, they are looking to:

1. Feel Heard
2. Feel Valued
3. See Change 

You are never going to make everyone happy. It's true, trust us, we've tried to no avail. However, you can run a customer-centric business that empowers you and your employees to be prosperous. At the end of the day, every business needs customers to keep their doors open. Customer loyalty is the foundation on which most successful businesses have built their company on. 

Think of the last time you felt wronged in an interaction with another business. How would you like to have seen the situation handled?

"In 2011, 7 in 10 Americans said they were willing to spend more with companies they believe provide excellent customer service." (Source: American Express Survey, 2011)

The answer to bad reviews is not complicated. It's about reacting vs. responding. Acknowledging the criticism, Aligning with the experience, and finally, Assuring that things would be different upon a second visit.

Who knows? Handled correctly, that one unhappy customer could turn out to be a lifelong client.