Ah, the Internet. It’s one of the greatest inventions in the history of humanity. We can do things today that our ancestors never even thought to dream of. If they could come back and see what we’ve built, they’d think we were gods.
Which is why tons of people love using the Internet to complain about every imperfect thing that has ever happened to them.
As a business owner, negative online reviews are easily one of the irritating elements of all things Internet. A friend of mine who owns a flower shop once told me that he’d received a negative review online from a customer who was furious that her bouquet of flowers had started to wither a mere six days after she received it. News flash, bouquet recipient – the flowers were dead when you got them!!!! Of course they started to die after a few days, THEY WERE ALREADY DEAD!!!!!
Alas, you can’t deal with negative customer reviews by writing what I just wrote. Combative counter-posts to negative reviews rarely looks good to your other potential customers. Yet left alone, those negative reviews can have a seriously deleterious effect on your business. And I just said you can’t yell at unhappy people and tell them they’re stupid for being unhappy in the first place.
So what are your other options?
Well, how about any one of these:
Get Positive Reviews
By now, most customers know that a few negative reviews in the midst of a boatload of positive reviews is most likely the result of an impossible-to-please customer, rather than an indication that your business is one to be avoided. So make sure you cultivate as many positive reviews as possible, using whatever techniques you can think of. You can even go so far as to reward your customers with a coupon for writing a positive review. As long as the reviews are genuine and not written by all of your family members (which savvy Internet users will also be able to spot), those positive reviews will shield you from the occasional negative review you’re inevitably going to get.
Respond to Every Negative Review
The big problem with negative reviews is that they only tell one side of the story – the angry person’s side. Without any context or counter-argument, even the most objectively-minded reader is going to have trouble imagining the issue any differently than your dissatisfied customer has told it. So you need to write your side of the story, always and always. Don’t yell (even when you want to), and don’t attack the customer (even if they deserve it). Simply describe what happened as calmly and objectively as you can, which of course might include a description of a completely unreasonable customer acting completely unreasonably. You can’t eliminate negative reviews, but you can try and neutralize them.
Apologize When You Should
Let’s face it – some of your negative reviews are going to be justified. There will be times when your products don’t operate properly and your service won’t meet its normal impeccable standards. (That’s right, sometimes your service will be quite peccable.) Whenever that happens, your best bet is to apologize and discuss how you plan on improving in the future. There’s some evidence to suggest that customers who receive an apology for an unpleasant experience actually become more loyal customers than those who never experience an unpleasant experience to begin with. A business strong enough to own its failures is one that is probably thinking all the time about how to constantly improve itself, and that’s the kind of business a lot of us want to buy things from.
Thanks for reading. And feel free to comment on this article. Just be warned – if you post a negative review about this article, I’m going to assume you’re doing it just to be mean, and I might respond by making some unflattering assertions about your intelligence. You’ve been warned…
I can testify that a sincere apology when your company screws up is invaluable. I’ve been with my healthcare company for over 25 years (long before the internet) and, at one point in this journey, I was account manager for hundreds of clients. I always told my staff that if they KNEW I was going to get an angry call from someone, I wanted to hear from them before my phone rang (surprises are for Christmas and birthdays). I would approach the client, tell them what I heard, apologize and state whatever steps I would be taking to prevent said incident from happening again. Fast forward 12 years when I received a call from the current account manager. She was amazed how many people still remembered me. The comment she heard most often was “while XXXXXXXX wasn’t perfect, we knew that CJ would always be up front when problems did occur. She would call us before we knew there had been an issue knowing that we might never even find out about it! That’s why we are still clients 12 years later.” This is one of the most cherished compliments of my career.