4 Ways to Handle Negative Customer Reviews

Service customers often rely on the opinions of their family and friends to make purchasing decisions. In fact, Zendesk says 88 percent of customers have been influenced by an online review when deciding what to buy.

That’s why getting positive reviews is essential.

However, when you open your business to reviews on websites like Yelp and Angie’s List, you open your business to negative as well as positive reviews. While negative reviews can adversely impact your business and drive down your overall rating on customer review sites, they also present opportunities.

“Negative reviews can benefit your business,” explains Paul Chaney, author of “The Digital Handshake: Seven Proven Strategies to Grow Your Business Using SocialMedia.” “If every review is positive and abounds with four- and five-star ratings, potential customers could become suspicious, feeling that the reviews are ‘manufactured’ rather than being left by real customers. As paradoxical as it sounds, the fact that negative reviews appear can contribute to building trust, rather than diminishing it.”

And, “while dealing with unhappy customers has always been a challenge for business owners, in today’s age, negative reviews are for everyone to see, which makes handling the situation properly even more important,” explains Alain Parcan, director of marketing, Market Hardware.

Here are four ways to deal with negative customer reviews.

How to Handle Negative Customer Reviews #1: Monitor your online mentions.

To respond to reviews promptly—both the good and the bad—you first need to know what customers are saying and where they are talking about your business.

Online reputation monitoring tools like Social Mention (which is free to use), Reputology or Review Trackers (the latter two require a small fee) can help, Chaney shares. Also, set up Google Alerts to track your business name so you don’t miss anything.

Social media management tools such as Hootsuite or Sprout Social also have built-in monitoring capabilities, Chaney adds.

How to Handle Negative Customer Reviews #2: Be polite, respond promptly and take the issue details offline.

Responding to positive and negative reviews alike shows customers you are attentive and care enough to address customer concerns.

To craft the best response, first “remove emotion from the equation,” Parcan says. “Reacting emotionally tends to lead to an over-the-top response, which usually just adds fuel to the fire. Instead, take some time to relax and think about where the customer may have felt slighted (whether they are right or wrong).

“Also, you never want to air out an entire conversation in a public forum, so start with a simple, generic response,” Parcan advises. “Be as polite as possible. A positive attitude will help get a positive result.

Rebecca Hussey, Market Hardware’s director of account management, suggests the following responses:

  • Thank the customer for voicing his or her concerns. Say you are looking into the customer’s account and will be in touch to work toward a resolution.
  • Apologize and say, “I’m sorry to hear that you weren’t happy with your service. Can we contact you directly to try to resolve the error?”

“Communicating with an upset customer in a more personal manner, such as over the phone or in person, can help eliminate any misunderstandings and speed up solutions,” Parcan says. “It will also show the disgruntled customer you are aware of the situation and are working to sort it out.”

How to Handle Negative Customer Reviews #3: Encourage positive customer reviews.

To combat negative reviews, consistently encourage your happy customers to leave positive reviews.

Since only a small portion of your total customers may take the time to leave reviews, the people who do certainly have the strongest feelings toward your business—whether positive or negative. “Get in the habit of encouraging your customers to leave you reviews online or even consider sending out an email blast with a link to different review sites (Google being a priority),” Parcan says. “Chances are you have many happy customers who would be happy to take a minute or two to leave a review.

“One blemish won’t have much of a negative effect when surrounded by several glowing reviews,” Parcan adds. “And the fact that reviews boost your search rankings makes this an added bonus.” 

How to Handle Negative Customer Reviews #4: Share reviews with your employees. 

At a company or team meeting, share positive and negative customer reviews with employees. Positive reviews provide great momentum as your team goes into the field that day.

And with negative customer reviews, internal communication can “help ensure you prevent similar problems in the future,” Chaney says.

Become Review Worthy

A PowerReviews study says 97 percent of consumers consult reviews before making a purchase. Eighty-five percent of them seek out negative reviews specifically. The majority of consumers read between one and 10 reviews before making a purchase and 50 percent of consumers write reviews for products and services they’ve purchased, the study further revealed.

Commercial customers are also reading reviews. A State of B2B Procurement study from Acquity Group says 94 percent of buyers do online research before making a purchase. Seventy-seven percent use Google search, 84.3 percent check business websites, 34 percent visit third-party websites and 41 percent read user reviews.

Your online reputation is vital to your business’ success. “It affects your online marketing strategy, so don’t take it lightly,” Parcan advises. “Monitor the popular review sites regularly. Make sure you follow these directions closely if you do happen to run into a negative review along the way.”

Editor’s Note: Want to learn more from Alain Parcan? Check out his webinar “Want to Sell and Retain More Clients in 2019?” at 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 23, 2019. Learn more here. He’ll also be hosting our upcoming workshop 5 Step Formula for Winning on the Web. Learn more about the workshop here.

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