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Negative reviews can be crippling for your business. Even just one bad review can have a ripple effect that pierces your profit. But it’s important to understand that every business is subject to a bad review. You simply cannot please everyone, and your business can’t be perfect. Every once in a while, a bad review slips through the cracks, no matter how hard you work to build great products and services. What’s important is how you respond.

One study from ReviewTrackers found that 94% of consumers will avoid a business if they refuse to respond to a negative review. Furthermore, responding to negative reviews can actually be beneficial to your business. According to BazaarVoice, the majority of consumers are likely to change their opinion about a company if the business responds in a timely, positive manner. Even more, an individual’s purchase intent is often higher after receiving a positive, personal reply.

What this means is that, although it’s clear negative reviews can hurt your business and positive reviews can help, bad reviews can be turned around quickly. Here’s how you can manage and respond to negative reviews:

When The Review Doesn’t Fit

Every now and then, a review comes along that is downright scathing and unfair. Many businesses have sued reviewers and review platforms whose digital words have significantly impacted their bottom line. Conversely, review platforms have sued individuals for abusing the platform by penning fake reviews to hurt other businesses. There are many ways a review could seem unfair. It might be false, it could be a review for the wrong business, or it might be overly critical and go beyond what’s necessary to get the point across.

Depending on the platform, there are different ways to approach false reviews. However, generally, the first thing you want to do is respond to the review. The second thing you want to do is flag the review. When you flag a review on Google, you must pick a violation type and include your email. Violation types usually fit into one of the following categories:

  • The review contains hateful, violent, or inappropriate content
  • The review contains advertising or spam (i.e., a person encourages readers to go to another business)
  • The review is off-topic
  • The review contains conflicts of interest (i.e, the review was written by a previous staff member)

If you believe you were wrongfully reviewed, try gathering a few friends to flag it. The more flags a review gets, the more likely it is to be investigated and removed. If it’s a serious issue, you should contact Google or Yelp immediately after flagging. Google makes it very easy to contact support regarding an inappropriate review directly through the “Google My Business” dashboard. As you’re filling out the support fields, be sure to include a screenshot of the offensive review.

Yelp reviews are slightly more difficult to have removed, but it can be done. Just keep in mind that Yelp, and other review platforms, cannot discern between factual and false evidence, and will typically stand behind the reviewer if nothing can be proven. In this case, your best bet would be to gather a review-flagging team, as previously mentioned.

Use Reputation Management Tools & Services

A quick search on Google for reputation management will yield plenty of results. Here at Square 1 Group, we offer a unique reputation management service called Reputation Booster. The platform is designed to help you make the most out of every online review, and works effectively whether you’re a new business looking to gain traction, or an established business seeking to improve your current reputation.

If you don’t think reputation management is important, think again. Roughly 90% of consumers consult online reviews before visiting a business, and 84% of people trust online reviews just as much as they trust personal word-of-mouth recommendations. And according to Harvard Business Review, for every one-star increase a business gets on Yelp, they’ll see a 9% increase in revenue.

With review software tools like Reputation Booster, you’ll get a high-level overview of your entire review funnel. You’ll be able to:

  • Maintain the most accurate business information across all review platforms
  • Utilize smart landing page design to feature your best reviews
  • Automatically request and post reviews to your website
  • Reach unhappy customers before they have a chance to give a negative review
  • Guide customers with clear instructions and conversion triggers for 100s of sites
  • Embed reviews with schema for your websites to help boost SEO

 Be Transparent

Today’s consumers value transparency in a brand. And using transparency to address negative reviews and so-so feedback can be a great way to capitalize on your existing customer base and even retain some of the unsatisfied customers you made have lost otherwise.

Shama Kabani, author of The Zen of Social Media Marketing and CEO of The Marketing Zen Group, said in an interview, “People are not looking for perfection online. What they’re really looking for is humanity and a genuine response, so a negative review can be a great opportunity to respond in a positive and transparent manner. And that has a good impact on all your customers.”

Source: https://www.comm100.com

There are two great ways to be transparent: through your social media, and through your content marketing. For example, use your blog to address some of the commonalities you might have noticed in your negative reviews. This is easier to do if you’ve received several bad reviews.

Some reviews are very long, while others are straight to the point. As you examine each review, find the core subject of the complaint. It might be a faulty product, poor customer service, or false advertising. First and foremost, address how to fix the issue internally. Come up with a long-term plan, and make any adjustments (such as additional training) necessary with your team. Then, prepare to address the problem on your blog.

You can also address issues on your social media channels. Going this route makes it easier to create dialogue, and respond to any reactions you might get. The fact is, admitting mistakes puts businesses in a very vulnerable position, and consumers like to see humility in the brands they work with. Don’t feel too proud to admit your mistakes, as doing so will only help you in the long-run.

Image source: Facebook

Respond Quickly

As previously mentioned, businesses who reply to reviews are more likely to secure that bad reviewer as a customer, and others who see the response during their own research will be much more forgiving. But when it comes to responding, timeliness is everything. It does little good to respond to a review months after the initial review. People who are researching your business can see the timeliness with which you respond. Furthermore, studies have shown that 42% of consumers who complain on social media expect a response within an hour.

How Businesses Respond To Social Media Positively

If you’re having trouble responding to reviews, sometimes taking a look at how other businesses are reacting to bad reviews or issues is a good way to learn more about corporate responsibility–even as a startup. JetBlue is a great example of this.

Even when “reviews” are informally written on social media, the team works diligently to respond to each tag and mention, especially when a negative comment is made. Laurie Meacham, Manager of Customer Commitment and Social Media at JetBlue Airways, said in an interview, “If we’re doing it right, any interaction you have with a JetBlue crewmember will be very similar… our goal is to deliver a consistent experience.”

One unhappy JetBlue customer complained on Twitter when he had to take an entire flight with a non-working TV screen, although everyone else’s television set worked just fine. JetBlue responded, asking whether it was just the customer’s television, or all televisions, and when the customer informed JetBlue it was just his, the airline company requested that he send them a private message for a flight credit.

Image source: Twitter

But great customer service isn’t just reserved for large corporations, and there are plenty of smaller businesses that exemplify great customer service, especially when it comes to addressing bad reviews. Austin-based Forest Family Dentistry responded to a negative review this way:

Image source: https://broadly.com

Take The Matter Offline

When the review calls for it, you may have to take the matter offline. You’ll notice that many responses to bad reviews request that the person send the business a private message. This allows you to not only settle the matter in a more personal way, and also shows the people reading the review that you likely bettered the situation offline. This Honda dealership comment hits all the marks: it gives the reviewers a direct line to a manager, apologizing for the initial issue, and doesn’t make excuses.

Image source: https://broadly.com

When you want someone to continue the conversation offline, be sure to leave your name and title to make it easier to reach you. At this point, many business owners make the novice mistake of asking the customer to remove the review, which can actually make the situation worse.  Most people will stand by the reviews, and feel you’re cheating future customers by manipulating the review system. If you aim to solve the issue without hopes of anything in return, you’d be surprised at home many people are willing to change or delete their review on their own accord.

Furthermore, it would be bad practice to aim to delete every negative review of your business. For starters, negative reviews give you the ability to have a dialogue on your review page. And, as previously mentioned, studies have shown that having negative reviews actually helps build trust and credibility. Too many five-star reviews–particularly over a large period of time–might actually make the consumer feel as though some of the reviews are fake.

Let Your Positive Qualities Shine

When responding to a negative review, it’s important that you find ways to let your positive qualities shine. Use a negative comment to shed light on some of your business’s better traits. This doesn’t mean that you need to defend yourself when replying to their comment, but rather that you should highlight some of your core strengths while also addressing their concern. Here’s an example of how to highlight your strengths in a situation where someone had a bad customer service experience.

“I am deeply apologetic that you had a bad customer service experience. Our team undergoes extensive retail customer training twice a year in an effort to serve our customers in the best way possible, and we are always thinking of innovative ways to create a better shopping experience.

For example, you might have noticed that we added mobile card readers to help the line go by much faster during high-traffic times like Saturday afternoon (when you came in). This has cut our waiting times down by 40%. Although we do our best to train our staff well and cater to our customers, sometimes incidents like this happen out of our control, and I wanted to address the issue myself. Please send me a private message so we can discuss in detail what happened, and I can work with you to offer a token of my apology. We hope we don’t lose you as a customer!”