As the owner of a small business, you’ve put your blood, sweat, and tears into your beloved company. You’ve probably even prioritized it over other aspects in your life. It’s tough love, but it’s worth doing.
So when you receive a negative review online, it feels like the world has crashed down around you. It can be difficult not to take the harsh criticism personally. After all, your small business is a reflection of who you are, and the words of an irate customer can be frustrating. What could you have possibly done wrong? Is it going to affect your bottom line? How can you possibly maintain a good reputation after this crisis?
It can be mentally and emotionally exhausting (not to mention time-consuming) to deal with a negative customer review, but it’s a part of your job. Choosing to ignore the issue might some like the easy way out, but this can seriously hurt your business reputation in the long run. Especially when 97% of customers rely on online reviews when making a buying decision.
So what’s a small business owner to do?
Well, we’ve got you covered. By following these 3 simple and practical tips, you’re well on your way to securing the reputation you’ve worked hard to build for your business.
Tip #1: Avoid getting personal.
When you’ve received a negative review about your business, it can be tempting to be on the defensive to the point it can get personal. But as advised by Google Business, it’s never a good idea to lash out. As a business owner, it’s important to remain professional and polite when responding to reviews.
It’s not always easy to win an argument when you’re dealing with an unhappy customer, so remember to make your replies useful, relevant, and courteous. Most importantly, think before responding to a negative review. If a customer believes you’re being rude, condescending or unprofessional, chances are they’d get angrier and make the situation even worse.
Tip #2: Deal with the matter offline.
Unfortunately, it’s rare to be able to completely resolve a customer’s negative experience, if you only resort to empathetic online response. Oftentimes, trying to address the issue in a single reply can do more harm than good for your small business.
According to David Anderson, an author at IHateWritingEssays.com review blog, a better way to deal with the problem is by moving the conversation offline. Provide your contact details, as well as the name of your customer representative, if possible. This way, you’re demonstrating receptiveness to customer feedback.
Doing so shifts the power dynamic by turning your company into a more personal one-on-one encounter. Additionally, it shows that your company takes customer service seriously. Customers will surely appreciate the fact you’re trying to make things right and working towards earning back their trust.
Tip #3: Offer a public apology.
The point of starting an offline communication is to create an opportunity where the unhappy customer may voluntarily edit or remove their negative feedback from your business website or in platforms like Facebook, TrustPilot, SoftwareAdvice, or Yelp. If the issue is resolved through offline communication, then you can skip this step.
If, however, the reviewer decides not to remove the negative review or you’re not able to contact them offline, then it’s time to respond publicly. This is a crucial moment for you and your business, and it’s the perfect opportunity to share your side of the story.
Remember that other people who will see the negative customer review, will also see your response below it so be mindful as you craft your message. There are some things you need to keep in mind when writing your response:
- Be honest. Transparency is key. If you or your team messed up, own up to your mistakes.
- Be sincere. A simple “I’m sorry” or “I apologize” can go a long way when trying to make amends.
- Customize your replies. Avoid using canned responses. Take a few minutes to craft a proper response to each review or comment.
Get your customers to write an online review!
If your customers are happy and satisfied with your product or service, encourage them to leave a review on your website or social media accounts. However, be careful not to appear too pushy by asking them to leave only positive feedback.
Some online review management best practices include:
- Having a full understanding of how review websites work
- Registering with platforms like Daylite to keep track of mentions
- Registering your business in third-party review sites that are relevant to your chosen niche or industry, so you can be notified when a customer posts a review
- Informing customers and prospects that you’re listed on review sites
- Providing details on how your customers can leave feedback
- Sharing reviews with your team
It goes without saying that negative reviews online have a huge impact on your small business’s reputation. More and more businesses are turning to review sites and social media to be more aware of what customers are saying about them.
But just like face-to-face customer complaints, bad online reviews don’t necessarily have to result in lost business or a stained reputation. With the right strategies, you can turn them into the perfect opportunity to attract more customers.