How to Respond to Online Reviews
Social media and social proof are two powerful tools in your business’s digital presence. But the easy access to customers is a two-way street. As sweet as it is to get rave reviews, the reality is that any keyboard warrior can lay blame at your door and lambast your company online. And, online reviews matter:
- 9/10 consumers read local business reviews before buying something.
- Online buyers will read an average of 10 posted reviews before they make a purchase.
- Over 50% of consumers trust and seek out online reviews.
These five coveted stars aren’t just about closing deals. 60% of customers may find you through your Google Business listing reviews. So, you want them to be good. But what do you do when they aren’t?
How to Handle Negative Reviews
It’s evident that you should invite online reviews. Some of them will be negative. No business is perfect and, even with a solid performance, there will always be disgruntled people who go online to air grievances.
So, do you:
- Hide them?
- Spin them to sound positive?
- Fight them?
How you handle negative reviews speaks volumes to your online audience.
Should You Hide Online Reviews?
If you see a scathing online review, it is tempting to want to hide it while you decide what to do. Depending on how upset a customer is, this could backfire big time. Unless there is something legally concerning, you should not hide negative online reviews. This will only erode customer trust, especially if the reviewer posts again, asking where their post went. Hiding a review looks suspicious and like you literally have something to hide. Your response is an opportunity to showcase your brand’s commitment to integrity and honesty. Use it.
Should You Spin Online Reviews?
It is tempting to want to use your response to an online review to spin the situation, either abdicating you from guilt or minimizing the reviewer’s concerns. For example, if a reviewer said something like:
“This air filter not only didn’t work but actually filled my home with a rotten egg smell so intense that I had to move.”
You may be tempted to say, “we are so glad that you made this purchase! Did you know that a sense of smell is very subjective? We’re glad that you had the opportunity to relocate.”
Extreme example, but you get the idea. Don’t do this. Playing spin doctor just comes off as tone deaf. Only respond in a genuine, human and compassionate way.
Instead, you could say, “Feedback is deeply important to us. We would love to speak at your earliest convenience to understand how we can help!”
Should You Fight Online Reviews?
This is an area where you may have to set barriers in place to reel in certain staff. If you are prone to be combative or have an emotional response to the online review, let someone else deal with it. If you have team members or a social media agency, your protocol and expectations for responses should be crystal clear. Even a short-lived, blasted message (meaning you speak in the heat of the moment and then delete) will be seen. And it will hurt you.
Don’t get in the ring. People are upset for a reason. It may or may not be legitimate. You may have every right to defend your business. Your staff may have done everything right. But what is the long play here? Being right? Proving yourself? Instead, consider that this review will live in infamy. Don’t be the villain in this scenario. No customer wants to buy from the villain. Kill them with kindness if that helps… but, be kind.
3 Steps to Handle Bad Online Reviews
Here’s a blueprint for how you should handle bad online reviews.
Negative reviews don’t go away. The longer they sit, the more angry the reviewer could become and the more people will see that it has no response. According to one survey, over 53% of customers expect a response within seven days. We suggest no more than 48 hours.
Don’t talk specifics
You have two audiences who are observing your response: the reviewer and everyone who will read the review. The latter is actually more important. Keep your response extraordinarily gracious and invite the reviewer into a live discussion on the phone. Make it clear that you want to talk and learn.
Invite positive reviews
If you have not actively solicited reviews from your customer base, a negative review is your prompt to do that… right away. Negative reviews won’t go away but they don’t have to dictate your star rating. You can swing the balance in your favor if you invite happy customers to leave 5-star reviews. Eventually, the impact of negative ones will be diminished.
Note: for serious accusations, you need to tread lightly with ever offering a written apology or admission of guilt. If you have any doubt about culpability or legal ramifications, consult your legal team.
Use Negative Reviews to Your Advantage
Negative reviews are not a death blow to your company. They should not be a cause for despair or deleting your social profiles. Whether you are taking blows all the time or have your first one-star, this is an opportunity. Negative reviews can provide a platform to convey humanity, grace and a spirit of community and growth. Your social media, marketing and PR teams should all be well educated on best practices for responding to negative reviews.
If you want to develop that best practice and oversee your team’s reactions, contact us to learn about our support services.