Next to the relationships a business holds, the second most important thing that a business possesses is its reputation. Benjamin Franklin famously said, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation and only one bad one to lose it.” Today’s consumers and clients are more vocal about the service they receive than ever before. It is inevitable, no matter how good your service is, that a negative review will appear.
Here are four steps to turn this negative situation into a positive outcome.
Step 1: Do Not Panic
Negative reviews can be the most pernicious. In reading these negative comments, it is common for one to take them personally. It is also common and, in some cases fair, to feel attacked. The worst thing you can do in this instance is to be quick and impulsive in your response. In most cases, negative reviews cannot be removed from a platform. Do not despair! This negative review is an opportunity to make your business look great, rebuild a relationship with the reviewer, and buy some general goodwill to entice new customers.
As a Public Relations Director and someone who has practiced crisis communications for almost two decades, the worst thing that a business can do is to be hasty in their reply and meet the negative comment with anger or more negativity. This never ends well, trust me.
Step 2: Learn All you Can
Before you respond to a negative comment or review, you have some homework to do. Research the relationship that this person has with your business, find out who was working that day, and talk to them about their interactions with this person. Learn all you can about this reviewer’s interaction with your business.
Pay close attention to the reviewer’s claims and address those issues head-on. Ignoring the grievances in your response can make things worse. Most importantly, try your best to understand where this review is coming from, and put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself, are they making a valid point, and is this an area where your business can improve? No one likes to be told their work should be improved, but sometimes we need to hear it in order to improve it. Try to find out all that you can about the time the reviewer spent interacting with your business. This is essential to understand the situation and determine where things went wrong.
Step 3: Draft a Response
Now that you’ve taken time to learn about what went wrong, we are moving toward a resolution. I recommend drafting a response and running it past a few trusted individuals before you post. In your response, address the reviewer’s claims directly. If there is a misunderstanding that led to negative feelings, apologize. Crisis communications practice teaches us that to begin to repair a relationship and build trust, the following steps must be taken –
- First, accept responsibility for your role in the situation. Ask yourself, was this a misunderstanding, or did we provide bad service?
- Second, apologize. You may be thinking, we didn’t do anything wrong. While that may be true, your customer had a negative experience with your business, and that is enough for an apology.
Step 4: Kill them with kindness… Publicly
With your drafted response in place, where you’ve addressed their complaints, apologized for your role in the situation, and reviewed with a trusted college, now is your business’ time to shine.
Pro-tip: if you have someone senior in your organization address the customer review, even better. This shows all audiences that, as an organization, bad reviews go straight to the top. It helps the reviewer be heard, and in the end, that’s what most people want. It also makes them feel important, which can lead to a better outcome in most cases.
When you post your response, thank the reviewer for this critical feedback, as a way for your business and staff to be more mindful and to improve operations. Respond on the same platform of the initial review. If the reviewer can leave an additional response to your comments, even better. Do your best to keep the dialogue public. Be overly kind and showcase the great customer service of your business. Also share all of the potential solutions that you are willing to provide to “make this right” for the customer.
Doing this will demonstrate that your business cares, and in some cases delegitimize the negative comments. Unfortunately, social media is the court of public opinion. No matter what, do not be impulsive in your responses. Stay calm, collected and kill them with kindness.
All Shiny and Bright!
Bad reviews do not have to be the end of your business’s reputation. Make this an excellent opportunity to showcase your customer service skills and make your business more personable and likable. Life is one giant learning experience, and, if you approach the situation correctly, there are tremendous opportunities to learn more about your business, your staff, and your customers. Sometimes these lessons are painful, even more so when they’re learned publicly, but humility and a curious attitude go a long way. Follow these four steps and find your way back to shining brightly again.
Written by: Jacqueline Thomas