At some point or another, most business owners face the difficult task of dealing with negative reviews and criticism. The truth is that even the best businesses sometimes have an off day and even if overall you run a five-star business, you won’t always get five-star reviews. Since less than favorable reviews are inevitable, you should have an action plan for dealing with them. Google Places now offers business owners the opportunity to respond to negative reviews. When possible, you should always take advantage of this feature. Responding to negative reviews shows you care about your customers and it’s even possible that a well thought out response to a negative review may garner you more customers than a spate of perfect reviews.
First and foremost, it is always important to give yourself time to deal with a negative reviews. Many business owners are furious when they first read a negative review and rather than stopping and thinking about how they can calmly react, they immediately start writing a hostile retort. More often than not, this type of response results in far more negative publicity than the initial bad review. Take the time to breathe and process what the negative review is really saying. Rather than viewing the review as an attack, you should view it as the opportunity to learn from your mistakes. It’s true that sometimes customers complain needlessly, but often there is legitimate criticism embedded within the review. Use that criticism as a learning opportunity.
Once you feel calm enough to write a response, you should begin writing your reply. Keep in mind, the people most likely to see your response are prospective customers. Think of them as you write your reply. Use this opportunity to reaffirm your company’s purpose and goals. For example, if your company is known for it’s terrific customer service, but a reviewer is complaining about poor customer service, you should apologize for the poor customer service and then state that your company is committed to providing the best customer service possible. Note here that reaffirming your company’s mission does not necessarily mean denying that the customer in question had a negative experience. You should not at any point appear argumentative or defensive. Instead you should acknowledge the customer’s negative experience and make a commitment to doing better going forward. Your potential customers want to be assured that if they frequent your business, their patronage will be respected and they will be heard.
If you’re having trouble crafting an appropriate response or you’re unsure about the tone of your response, have a trusted friend or colleague look it over. A third party can objectively tell you whether or not your reply comes across as antagonistic. Remember, you want to erase any trace of hostility. The last thing you want to do is appear uncooperative or unreasonable to future customers.
While it’s best not to assume a review is illegitimate, there are unscrupulous business owners who may post negative reviews against competitors. If you suspect something is unusual about a negative review you may want to investigate it. Google will take down inappropriate or fake reviews, but only if there’s something legitimately wrong with the review. Do not expect Google to take down legitimate reviews.
Finally, it’s important to remember that negative reviews are not a kiss of death for your company. Consumers understand that every business has a bad day and most of them are willing to give business owners the benefit of the doubt. If you treat reviews as an opportunity to learn and grow your business, you may be pleasantly surprised to find that even bad reviews have a touch of good in them.