Online reviews

How to handle bad online reviews

A bad review online can feel terrible, no matter what size your business is. But don’t despair, a bad review or two won’t bring your entire company down. There are ways you can handle it and in some cases, you can even turn the experience into a positive situation. Here are some tips for handling bad online reviews:

1.     Always respond

When you stumble across a bad review about your company or product it can be tempting to just close the computer and walk away. But don’t do this. Ever.

All reviews, good or bad, should be responded to. When a reviewer leaves a comment and you don’t respond it will look like you either don’t care or that you are trying to hide something (i.e. that the bad review is the truth).

Responding isn’t just for the benefit of the person who left the review, but for every other person out there who will be reading it. Once someone writes something negative about your company, there can be hundreds of people who believe it if there is no counter-comment. Always be friendly and open because being abrupt will just give them something else to complain about.

Respond as quickly as possible, so that other people who are looking at the reviews can see that you are efficient and professional when it comes to online customer service.

It is also a good reminder to the users of the site that when leaving a review about any company, someone will always see it. It makes it harder for people to complain in a nasty way if they know a real human on the other end is reading the comments and responding.

2.     Don’t air dirty laundry

When responding to negative comments, move the bulk of the conversation offline. Don’t get into a slanging match, or start sifting through the minute details of the issue.

Keep in mind how many people may end up reading this exchange so a sincere apology along with details of how to contact you to discuss further will come across as genuine and professional.

Not airing dirty laundry only applies if you do not agree with the complaint being made. If the problem is easy to rectify, you should do so and let the world see it. For example, if someone has made a negative comment that their product didn’t arrive intact in the mail, you could respond swiftly that you are very sorry to hear that, unfortunately how the post is handled is out of your control, but you’d be happy to send a new one if they would like to get in touch with your customer service centre (and then provide the number).

However, if the complaint is something you’d prefer not to get into in a public forum, such as someone saying your product is terrible, then it’s time to move the conversation offline.

A sincere response to this could be along the lines of; “We are so sorry to hear that you feel this way. Please call or PM us so we can discuss this further.”

3.     Encourage positive reviews

No matter how good your product or service is, the sad fact remains that you simply can’t please everyone. Over the years while you run your business you will in time come across a customer who is less than satisfied. The average, logical client will realise this, and when looking at reviews online if they see 20 glowing reviews and one that is less than stellar, that won’t be enough to turn them away. Especially if you have responded fast and appropriately to the negative reviewer.

The best thing that can happen for your company is to have many more positive reviews online than bad ones. You can’t control whether or not people will write a positive review, but you can encourage them to leave one. You can do this by placing links to review sites on your website, or place direct links to your profile on review sites within your emails or newsletters. Make sure you register a profile on several different review sites to get your name out far and wide. You can even mention it when talking to customers, something along the lines of “if you are happy with our service make sure you leave a review online!”

4.     Make lemonade out of lemons

Receiving a bad review doesn’t have to be the end of the world. If handled correctly, you may even be able to turn a cranky customer into a loyal one. Don’t take a negative review personally, instead take a step back and think about how you can turn this person’s impression of your company around. If you can’t fix the actual problem, you may be able to respond in a genuine enough way that they feel good that they are at least being heard. You’d be surprised how many people are happy to leave good reviews when they have an experience that started negative but then turned positive.

5.     Be honest with yourself

As tempting as it is, you can’t just dismiss negative reviews outright. Sometimes you may need to reflect on the complaint in question and ask yourself if there could be any truth in it. If you’ve received more than one bad review for the same complaint, it’s time to seriously consider that there could be a legitimate problem within your business. Don’t let this get you down in the dumps though, a negative review might be the turning point to improving something within your company, which in turn could make business run even better than before.

Negative reviews are just one part of the business of doing business. But if you handle them quickly, politely and professionally you won’t have to worry about your reputation.

By Bill Vasiliadis having written 56 posts for SEO for Small Business Pty Ltd. Bill Vasiliadis is a Senior Digital Marketing Consultant with over 15 years online experience. He has helped businesses of all sizes increase the return on investment from their online marketing spend.

One Comment

  1. Alexis

    Great post. Something I think businesses often overlook is surveying their customers about their experiences so you can solve a problem before it gets that bad.

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