What to Do About Bad Online Reviews

Dealing with bad online reviews

Today if a customer is dissatisfied with your product or service, they have many ways to vent their frustrations. The old adage that a satisfied customer will tell one person and a dissatisfied one will tell ten, needs to be revised in the age of Yelp and City Search. Today a dissatisfied customer will tell hundreds if not thousands of people about poor service at the click of mouse or a swipe on an iPhone.

Rule #1: Don’t ignore negative online reviews.
So what can a business owner do when they receive a bad online review? The first thing to do is to step back and listen to what the customer actually is saying. You should always look at criticism as an opportunity. If the customer’s criticism is valid, you must address the issue directly. Depending upon where the criticism was posted, you may have several options to respond to the posting. If you have an account on Yelp, you should reach out to the customer online and offer a refund or a credit. If they are posting negative messages on your Facebook fan page, you should respond in a timely manner, acknowledge the complaint, post your phone number and encourage them to call you. 

For example, a good response to a post would be:  “Sorry to hear you had a bad experience at our store, please call me (Bob Jones)  at 1-800-555-5555 at your earliest convenience so we can discuss how we may make things right”. The strategy is to take the discussion offline and give the person the opportunity to vent directly to you. It will also give you the chance to ask probing questions to find out if there is more to the story. It is amazing what you will learn from these phone calls.

Rule #2: Stay positive in your online responses and always take the high road. 

Even if you are 100% confident that the criticism is unwarranted, the best approach is to always take the high road. Any post you make online should have a positive tone and you should never criticize or insult the customer online (or offline). This is a cardinal rule and must never be broken no matter how bad the customer’s behavior or comments. 
When you have 20+ reviews online people are forced to read and analyze the reviews. How you respond to individual negative reviews has a huge impact on how customers perceive your business. Sophisticated users of online review sites can quickly tell when someone is ranting unfairly and when a business is poorly run by tone deaf management.  This is all reflected in the attitude and timeliness of your response.  

Rule#3: Respond quickly to online reviews -- within an hour if possible.

The longer you let a customer stew, the more angry they will get.

First you must acknowledge the feedback online, then try to get the disgruntled customer to call you so you can take the discussion offline and attempt to placate them. The last thing you want is the disgruntled customer posting additional negative comments and rants on other social networking sites. Again, the idea is to get the customer to vent offline.

Rule #4: Seek more reviews from your customers online.

The final strategy for combating negative online reviews is to dilute the negative reviews with authentic unfiltered reviews from your customers. Let customer know they can review your service online. Encourage them to use review services where you have an account so you can interact with the customer. Put links on your website and placards in your store. The more positive and even neutral views you have, the less the negative reviews will stand out. Keep in mind, negative reviews can enhance the credibility of the positive reviews. For example, if you own a restaurant and you had a few negative reviews due to a bad chef but you fired the chef and the food is now great, positive reviews that comment on the new chef will seem even more credible when posted next to the bad reviews.