In many ways, Yelp and other local review sites have been a blessing for local businesses. They offer a convenient, popular outlet for you to list your information, engage your customers, and collect feedback, all while steadily increasing your rank in Google. Of course, positive reviews are the ideal you strive for—they’ll make you more visible in both Yelp and Google, and will help convince new customers to come to you—but no matter how hard you try, you’re bound to get a negative review on occasion.
When you get a negative review, don’t panic. They’re a natural part of the system, and you might not have done anything wrong. Occasional negative reviews definitely won’t kill you, and if you react to them in the right way, they might even help you out. Try these seven strategies to mitigate the effects of a negative business review:
There are a few reasons why you’ll want to respond quickly. The first is somewhat obvious; the longer a negative review goes without being responded to, the angrier your negative reviewer might become. Second, if a negative review is left unattended to for longer than a few days, dozens or hundreds of people might get to read it without ever seeing the other side of the story. This could leave them with a negative impression that could have been avoided with a prompt response. Finally, in the event that the negative review sets off a chain reaction of other negative reviews, a fast response proactively cuts off the opportunity.
Emotional reactions or poorly worded responses aren’t going to cut it, nor are obviously automated messages. If you want to make any kind of meaningful impact with your response, you’ll have to be calm, professional, logical, personal, and well-spoken. Take the time to draft out a response, then set it aside and review it later once you’ve established some distance. This will help you emotionally cool off, and will give you the chance to make edits if necessary. You’ll only get one chance to make a good impression with your response, so take it seriously.
In your response, it’s important that you explain the situation. In colloquial language, you might call this giving “your side of the story.” However, it’s important that you don’t see it this way; implying this is your side of the story means that it’s you against your customer. Instead, try to see you and your customer as working together to find an amiable solution to a mutual problem. You can do this by illuminating the situation with details or facts the customer may not have had when writing his/her review, such as your cancellation policy or the level of chaos in your business on that particular day. Contextualize the negative review as much as possible, while acknowledging what he/she is saying.
A simple “I’m sorry” goes a long way. Even if you feel that you did nothing wrong as a business, it’s important to apologize in some form, such as by saying “I’m sorry we did not meet your expectations” or “I’m sorry to lose you as a customer.” This shows that you have genuine regret as a business, and that you care about the feelings of your customers, even when they’re no longer your customers. Without an apology, you may appear stubborn and dissuade others from doing business with you.
Offering compensation is ideal, but it doesn’t have to be monetary compensation, nor does it have to be a specific amount. You can offer a refund for the customer’s purchase or a discount on future orders, but try to think outside the box. Offer compensation in the form of another recommendation that the customer may find more helpful, or simply promise that their next experience with your company will be better. All you have to do is find some way to give them something positive in exchange for their recent negative experience.
Even if the review was written in a shoddy, unintelligible mess by someone with little emotional stability, there’s probably a grain of truth in the review. Every negative review, even the offensive ones, have something that you can learn from as a business. It may highlight a policy that needs to be updated, showcase a staff member who needs re-training, or demonstrate some other potential improvement that can make your business better.
Finally, don’t forget the overwhelming power of positive reviews. If you can influence just three positive reviews from your standing customer base, you can easily outweigh the potential negative impact from that one bad seed. Once you’ve handled the negative review situation to the best of your ability, focus on overshadowing it gradually with the positive force from your more loyal customers. Hang signs that encourage people to review you on local review sites, talk to your customers and subtly suggest the review process, and above all, try to perfect your customer service.
If you follow these seven methods of negative business review mitigation, you’ll save yourself from the worst effects of such events. Remain patient and treat these types of reviews for what they are—opportunities. Even the most vicious reviews can be turned into something positive, so never let one get the better of you.