With the advent of review sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google My Business and even the ability to post reviews on Facebook, Twitter etc, business can’t take reviews lightly. Consumers read reviews because they want reassurance before they make decisions, and want to know if they should be choosing a business. Reviews hold a lot of weight! In fact, 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
Good online reviews are very beneficial for businesses in driving new customers. Think about it – people read reviews because of a need for that product or service. It’s the zero-moment of truth, the decision-making moment for many consumers. Reviews, however, can be very frustrating if they are not good – especially if they are not genuine, or not aligned with the expectation of the service. Check out this example of a local business that received what appears to be a good review, but only a 3* rating:
This one rating brought the average from 5* down to 4.8* – very frustrating for the business owner!
Sometimes, a business will receive a low star rating for a very subjective review – something that is a big deal to them simply may not be important to someone else. One person’s idea of bad isn’t the same as another’s.
Check out these examples on TripAdvisor, reviewing the same property at the same time:
Now, there are of course cases when a low star rating and negative review are completely justified – the business provided a very poor experience, and in these cases, there’s no getting away from negative reviews! This person’s experience at a local business really was disgusting…yikes!!
Every business has probably received at least one negative review. Don’t let a couple of negative reviews bring you down – in a sea of positive reviews, one or two negative reviews won’t harm your business. Consumers know you can’t please everyone and there will always be someone who complains at the slightest thing (usually hoping for something free as compensation).
Why should businesses reply to negative reviews?
Replying to negative reviews shows the person submitting the response that you care, even if you feel like it’s not a justified review. In most cases, if the negative review was genuine and not spiteful, the customer is looking for acknowledgement, an apology, and a reassurance that their review was taken seriously, leading to a peaceful resolution. By providing this resolution, you may not have lost a customer.
A response also shows potential customers that you have seen the review and have probably taken steps to rectify the problem. It shows you have taken responsibility for the problem, that you are caring and empathetic, and it also presents an opportunity to provide the facts. If a negative review has stated something about your business that cannot be true (e.g. mentioning an employee by name who doesn’t work there, referring to a food item that isn’t on the menu etc.) you can take this opportunity to politely suggest the reviewer might have got the wrong business as “We don’t have a Michael who works here” or “that item is not on our menu”. It provides some doubt to the reader who might be a potential customer that it is not accurate.
The key with negative reviews is how you handle the response.
Keep calm, take a deep breath, and wait a while between reading the review and responding. Your blood might be boiling, you might be thinking “what a pile of @$%!” – in which case now is not the time to reply as you will be hot-heated and too emotional. Give yourself a chance to calm down first. Then, craft a delicate response when you are ready.
What should the response be?
If you want to respond to a genuine negative review and try to turn it around, try these 4 steps:
1- Start with an apology, and show you understand that it must have been a disappointing experience.
2- Take responsibility. Don’t try to push it back on the customer.
3- Show how you are using this review to make positive changes in your establishment.
4- Offer for the customer to contact you with further comments.
Reviews are a two-way conversation, and not one where the customer is always right. We all have different ideas of a good experience vs a bad experience. Some people naturally have higher expectations than other people, and expectations lead to an associated experience – whether negative or positive. It’s not to say that the customer is wrong – no one can deny the way they feel – however, if the initial expectations were inaccurate or uneducated, then the business might be justified in taking a more forceful stand in defending their business. Check out this example:
If you’re feeling brave, add a little humour to the exchange – especially if the conversation is happening on Twitter. This business got it 100% right:
Trying to add humour, however, can seriously backfire, like Virgin Trains’ response to this tweet:
This response did not go down well, and probably resulted in a very bad day for the company’s social media manager. Take serious complaints seriously, use humour sparingly – and always get a second opinion before hitting “send”!
Should compensation be offered?
If you feel that the situation was genuine, and that the customer really shouldn’t have had that experience, then by all means, privately offer some form of compensation. However, don’t necessary do it publicly, (as people might come to expect it). Don’t feel that you always have to offer something – use your judgement. Is it a regular customer? Is it a genuine review?
Did you know – 70% of a person’s experience is based on how they feel they are being treated.
Sometimes, you will have the ability to stop a negative review from even being written in the first place. It all comes down to how the customer feels like they have been treated since the issue was first brought up. For example. I travelled with WestJet a few years ago to the UK, and had 2 young children with me. The flight was delayed for 3 hours and eventually cancelled at 10pm. We were transported to a hotel and booked on a flight for the next day. WestJet offered me 20% off my next flight as compensation via email. Now, I am not a complainer, however, my trip was cut short by 18 hours, the new flight arrival time was much earlier than the previous flight and was inconvenient for the people picking us up from the airport, and I missed out on a day of time to spend with family members who I only get to see once a year. I contacted WestJet privately via Facebook and after explaining my situation, was quickly offered a much more satisfactory compensation – thus avoiding a negative review.
Negative reviews can be hard to swallow, and even harder to not take as a personal attack on your business. However, remaining calm and responding in an empathetic and non-emotional way can turn a negative review into a positive for people reading the reviews online. The customer is (nearly always, but not all the time) right and hard as it might be, an apology and acknowledgement is sometimes all they need to hear.
And a final note…don’t forget to thank people who have provided you with a positive review. They have gone out of their way to say how great your business was, and should be acknowledged in the same way as if it was a negative review.
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