The 7 Steps to Flip a Negative Review Into a Positive for Your Business
In a new city, you probably look at Yelp to find a restaurant — not only does the review giant filter restaurants by proximity, price, and hours, you can trust candid online reviews to ensure you spend money, and calories, wisely. And you’re not alone — over 90% of consumers trust online reviews as much as word-of-mouth reviews.
Great news for a business with rave ratings; not so great when you a disgruntled customer brings your average star ratings down and rakes you over the coals in a public forum. And it might do more than just hurt your feelings; it can hurt your revenue with 86% of people hesitating to purchase from a business with negative online reviews.
Unfortunately, consumers are more likely to leave a negative review than a happy one. Think about bad experiences you’ve had — you may have been pissed off enough to want to tell your friends… or the world. The last really good one? You know you should review the business, but it doesn’t feel as urgent as needing to blow off steam online.
But while a negative review can seem like it’ll ruin your reputation, how you respond can salvage your relationship with the customer — 95% of customers say they’d return to a business if it resolved an issue quickly. Even more advantageous, you’ve just been given a public stage to show you’re a responsive, engaged, caring business owner. A social media complaint may be out there for the world to see, but so is how you respond.
So here’s how:
- Breathe… and Realize It’s a Silver Lining. It’s hard to read a bad review, but it reveals an area of your business that needs improvement. For every negative review you actually get, there could be scores of customers who silently felt the same way… and didn’t return to your business. You may not have known your receptionist put people on hold indefinitely, or that you needed to take your appointment scheduling online, or that your office decor needed an update. Now that you know better, you can do better.
- Always Reply. It’s often enough for the angry customer to know that you hear them. When you show that you are listening to feedback rather dismissing them as a crank or playing ostrich, you’ll take the first major step to repairing a relationship. Acknowledge that your customer is unhappy/frustrated/stressed, apologize for the specific circumstances, and tell them, empathetically, that you want to make it right.
- Thank them. Tell the reviewer that you appreciate that they took the time to constructively criticize you so you can improve your business. This shows that you are serious about providing the best customer service and publicly turns a negative into a positive. It’s no longer a mark on your reputation; it’s an opportunity you’re taking the reviewer up on. It totally changes the tone!
- Don’t Get Defensive. It could be tempting to write a lengthy response telling the client that your business was just busy that day, or accusing the client if they were somehow part of the problem (e.g., they were late). Resist the urge! Nothing is worse than a defensive, blustering answer. Pause, breathe, and say sorry.
- Don’t Delegate an Apology. An apology that comes from the owner or CEO means far more to the customer than an automated, one-size-fits-all response. Sign off with your name, title, and personal email.
- Take the Conversation Offline. Rather than parsing out the details of the situation online, tell them you’d like to take the conversation offline to resolve the issue. Don’t get into embroiled in a multi-comment thread. By taking it to a personal arena, you look professional and show you have processes in place to deal with issues.
- Make Good on Your Promises. If they contact you, answer in a timely manner and work to turn their experience with you around, whether that’s reimbursing them, giving them extra services, or simply having them come in to talk to you about what happened. When you do, the reviewer may take their negative review down, or even update the original review with a positive conclusion.
- Build an Arsenal of Positive Reviews. If you have three total reviews, a negative one will stand out. If you have a hundred positive reviews and one negative review, readers are more likely to dismiss the review as an off day or one of those people who are never happy. So don’t be passive about getting reviews. Ask for feedback immediately post-interaction, and if it’s positive, ask if they can help out your business by writing a review. You should be regularly communicating with customers and prospects (e.g., email newsletters, social media posts, appointment reminders), so remind them that the best way to help your business is to post about it on a review site — include links to your review profiles. And, of course, a contest always works; announce you’ll randomly choose a Yelp reviewer to get a discount on your services.
Even if the customer never replies to your apology, or still continues to bash your business, other readers will see that you’ve acknowledged a slip-up and tried to make it better. We all make mistakes, but if you handle a negative review with grace and dignity, you’ll do more than fix it — you’ll earn respect.
Aylin Cook made the transition from journalism to SaaS content marketing eight years ago… and never looked back. She’s currently the Sr. Content Marketing Manager at PatientPop, a rapid growth startup which created the first all-in-one practice growth platform designed for health care providers. Her forte is writing about entrepreneurship, small business best practices, marketing (digital and traditional), and how to build and maintain a brand. When not writing or editing, she voraciously reads, listens to podcasts, runs, explores L.A., and searches for the perfect burrito.