Negative reviews are part of the game. But they’re not the endgame.
The first step in how to handle negative online reviews is to come to terms with this inevitable truth: negative reviews happen to everyone. Not every product will perform perfectly. Not every service will run smoothly. And that product or service is going to disappoint some customers along the way.
What matters is your response to those negative reviews.
Look at it this way: the negative review isn’t the end. It’s not a sign of failure. It’s merely a step in the process. Even when a customer blusters online that, “I’ll never buy from X company again!”—odds are you can win that customer back. The truth is, 70 percent of your complaining customers will come back if you can quickly resolve their problem.
You want online reviews, negative or otherwise.
Online reviews provide credibility and sales lift—yes, even the negative reviews help. Sites featuring reviews noticed an 18 percent increase in sales. Products with 20+ reviews perform better as well, scoring over 80 percent more conversions than those products featuring no reviews. Consumers like to see what they can expect from a purchase, warts and all. In fact, the vast majority of Millennials (93 percent) will check online reviews before moving forward with a purchase.
Online reviews also serve as word-of-mouth advertising, especially when 72 percent of customers place as much trust in online reviews as they do in their friends’ and family’s recommendations. And 68 percent of those customers trust reviews more when there’s a mix of both good and bad ones.
But that leaves you vulnerable to negatives reviews.
You won’t hit a homerun every time. No one does. Something’s going to go wrong, leaving you with an upset customer on your hand. There’s no point rehashing the statistics about all the damage an angry customer can do, or that a bad review can cause. You’ve heard it already. Chances are you’ve fired off an angry online review yourself. When you’re on the receiving end of a nasty online review, remember:
- This doesn’t mean your company’s bad. It doesn’t mean you’ve got a lousy product, or that your company’s doomed. Remember, bad online reviews are part of the process. There’s still hope. We’ll show you how to handle negative online reviews in a bit.
- You don’t know the circumstances yet. Perhaps your product found its way into the hands of a customer who doesn’t belong to your target demographic. Maybe the customer had unrealistic expectations. Or perhaps the customer was having a bad day and decided to take it out on you. At the beginning, you simply don’t know. Wait until you’ve got the facts before you react to a bad review (because you really should respond to bad reviews).
- Take the review as information, not damage. A bad review is a form of feedback and gives you a chance to do some soul searching. See if the review points to any changes you ought to make internally.
- Never respond to a negative review when you’re angry. Keeping a cool head in the midst of what may feel like a crisis is always a good move.
How to handle negative online reviews.
Jive’s established itself as an industry leader in large part because of its customer service and positive online reviews. That’s why I went to Tina Francis, Jive’s Resolution Manager, to ask how Jive’s won back customers who left negative reviews. Here’s what she said:
#1. Don’t go in blind.
Handling a negative review involves reaching out to the customer. Tina warned that you don’t want to run into any surprises when you do. “Investigate the customer and the situation before you call,” she said. “Ideally, the customer shouldn’t be telling you anything you don’t already know.”
#2. Let the customer talk.
“If they’re posting online, that means they want to talk about what happened,” Tina said. “Give them plenty of uninterrupted opportunity to tell you their story. Genuinely engage with them and listen to what they have to say. Not enough can be said about validating a customer and their view and frustrations.”
#3. Acknowledge their feelings.
“What the customer feels is real,” Tina explained. “Maybe it wasn’t the company’s mistake that caused the problem, but that customer feels like you messed up. You can validate how the customer feels without necessarily agreeing that it’s your fault. But simply acknowledging their feelings, regardless of whose fault it is, and sympathizing with them doesn’t cost you anything.”
#4. If you messed up, own it.
Tina advised that if you made a mistake, don’t shy away from it. Take responsibility and try to make it right. “It goes a long way with a customer when you actually admit, on the company’s behalf, that you made a mistake. A company that can admit it was wrong 10 times out of 10 really impresses people. Most other companies the customer encounters will point the finger elsewhere and run from responsibility. Owning up to your mistake isn’t going to jeopardize the character and good standing of the company—it just makes you more personal, more human, which helps you out in the long run.”
#5. Shock and awe!
It’s not enough to admit you messed up. To win back a customer, you want to really wow them. Tina suggested, “Have something at the end of the call to offer them. Or ask permission to give them a call back once you’re able to look into things and offer a resolution. Whatever it is you come back with, make sure it’s more than what the customer was hoping for. If you can shock and awe a customer, they’ll fall in love with your company all over again.”
#6. Ask for a follow-up post or review.
If you’ve done your right job and and reached a satisfactory resolution, Tina said you should feel comfortable asking for a favor in return. “Once the issue is dealt with, broach the review they left. Ask them—if they feel it would be appropriate—to go and comment on the review as a follow up. Make sure they know there’s no obligation to do so, and it won’t affect the loyalty and great service you plan on giving them.”
#7. Don’t ask for them to delete their review.
This is a common mistake companies make when dealing with negative online reviews. Tina cautioned against it. “If a company shows up with no bad reviews at all, people get suspicious. They think the positive reviews are all paid for. What customers have told me is that seeing a bad review, and later seeing how the company rectified the situation, always makes the company seem more trustworthy than one that has no negative reviews at all.”
Make it right for your customers.
A study of over one million online reviews revealed that the most commonly used negative word in those reviews was “disappointment” or “disappointed.” That’s great because you can work with “disappointed.”
All “disappointed” means is that the customer had certain expectations, and those expectations weren’t met. But they don’t have to remain unmet. By employing Tina’s “shock and awe” approach to negative reviews, you can right your relationship with your customers, personalize your company, and win greater brand loyalty.