Consumers find online reviews valuable, but for businesses, they are a double-edged sword.
Businesses cannot afford to overlook online reviews. According to a survey from the Pew Research Center, reading online reviews before deciding on a purchase has become routine for a half of adult Americans under the age of 50. 82% of all adult Americans use online reviews at least sometimes. 51% of adult Americans believe online reviews give an accurate picture of a product or service, while 48% believe that the truthfulness and bias in online reviews are hard to gauge.
People who are more prone to seek out online reviews are also the ones that are more prone to trust them. So, as long as the reviews that are coming in are good, there’s nothing for you to worry about. But if you’re still carefree when the bad reviews start rolling in, you’re making a big mistake. If you don’t start handling the situation, a large number of bad reviews will damage your business and leave it in need of serious reputation management.
The First Step of Handling Bad Reviews – Deciding Whether to Engage
Your strategy for dealing with bad online reviews is centered around providing an appropriate response to bad reviews. In some cases, however, no response is the best response you can have.
As you probably know, the Internet isn’t only for the polite, honest, and serious people who want to give bad reviews so they can help your business on its way to achieving greatness. Your business will get its fair share of constructive criticism, the type of criticism you might be thankful for. But some of the time, it will be hit by trolls, frequent complainers, or even competitors trying to negatively impact your business.
In general, you should avoid responding to any reviews that contain profanities, that are written in inflammatory manner, and that are obvious attempts at trolling. Getting familiar with the rules of the website where the reviews were posted can be helpful – some websites will allow you to ask to have these obviously false reviews removed.
If the review doesn’t appear so obviously false but you think there might be something dishonest with it, you should talk with your personnel to get a clearer picture of the incident and compare it to the review itself. If you notice some inconsistencies in the review that point toward it being a fake review, you should notify the website administrators.
How to Deal With Genuine Bad Reviews
Bad reviews happen. They can indicate that there’s something wrong with your product, or that your customer service needs improvement, or that simply someone at your place of business slipped up or had a bad day. You should get as much information about the circumstances as you can from the review and then speak with your business’ personnel to get their side of the story. This will allow you to understand what exactly happened and give you an idea how to improve your business.
As for replying to the reviews, there are two ways you can do it – publicly and privately.
Public Replies to Bad Reviews
There are tried and tested ways to compose a public response for a bad review. The formula says that you should start by saying that you’re sorry for the bad experience, and proceed by offering a way of making things right, if possible. Discounts and replacement products are helpful, and if there’s anything else you can do in that specific case to make things better – without actually hurting your business – is something you might offer.
Once you’ve recognized that your customers have had a bad experience with your business and offered a remedy, you should continue by explaining what type of action you’re going to take based on their bad review. At the end, don’t forget to thank them and say how much you appreciate their feedback.
Private Replies to Bad Reviews
Depending on the website, you might be allowed to create a profile as a business and reach out to the disgruntled customer using private messages. Even if you don’t have the time to start a conversation with them – and they might not have the time for it either – you should use the private message to ask for more details about their experience. Of course, you should also tell them who you are, that you’re sorry they had a bad experience, that you value them as a customer and that you need their feedback to further improve your services.
Some businesses decide to leave a public reply after their private conversation with the person who wrote a bad review. This is something you should strongly consider because you need people to see that your business takes bad reviews seriously and that it owns its mistakes and doesn’t shy away from making improvements.
Having lots of bad online reviews can hurt your business. An occasional bad review can be a blessing in disguise. Having only good reviews can seem suspicious, and a bad review gives you a chance to demonstrate how well your business handles criticism and negative feedback. Ultimately, handling bad reviews well just might increase your reputation with your customers.