How Should A Business Respond To Negative On-Line Reviews?

The first thing to do is re-frame the situation and instead of seeing a poor/negative review as a problem, start seeing them as opportunities. Negative reviews are the result of one of three things; either your company has delivered a poor quality product or service, there has been a miscommunication that’s led to unrealistic expectations that could never be met but were actually never promised, or you have a disgruntled member of staff who has now left the company having fallen out with the management team and so have decided to deride and taunt the business on-line.

Let’s deal with each of these in turn, but first things first – it’s important to answer ALL correspondence, both good and bad. You should be thanking people for their positive feedback and comments, and you should be answering the concerns raised in negative reviews, even if you don’t consider them to be genuine concerns or issues.

Here’s the thing; if you don’t respond to positive feedback then you are less likely to build raving fans that simply love everything about you. This response to positive feedback is a crucial part of building relationships and serves to build rapport with your customers and show them that you care about them personally. This is a great thing to do, and it’s great for business.

If you don’t respond to negative feedback then you’re leaving your market to decide (based on a one sided version of events) whether you’re in the right or in the wrong. This is dangerous, as people’s imaginations can always make things tonnes worse than they actually are and so by not dealing with the feedback you’re allowing the negative experience of one customer to infect and spread amongst other customers and prospects who will start to wonder about how much weight there is in what they’ve read. That said, they will never ask you about it and here’s where the danger lies. They won’t ever ask for your version of events, and so they’re left with the negative comments and their own interpretation of what they mean about your business.

The other really important thing to consider is that when you don’t respond to negative feedback it says loud and clear that you simply don’t care about the thoughts and feelings of your clients, and is as good as an admission of guilt. It also shows that you’re not prepared to face your failings by taking ownership of your mistakes, make adjustments and create an even better customer experience for your tribe. None of which leaves a positive picture of your business in the minds of your future clients.

So how do you respond to make the best of the situation?

The first thing to do is to validate their feelings by agreeing with how they feel rather than starting out on the offensive. Be honest and address their concerns directly by taking ownership of the experience and asking them how you can possibly help them to move through the issue to get the result they wanted when they originally bought from you.

Now, if the complaint is unfounded then you need to again show that you understand where they’re coming from with directly agreeing that their issue is a valid one, but rather by agreeing from their point of view you can see why they’re upset. Keep your communications factual and on point – leave your emotions at the door.

You will be judged not on the complaints people make about you, but on how you deal with those complaints. When you approach such situations with calm professionalism and keep everything fact based then your other clients and prospects will see your professionalism rather than the complaint. Everyone knows that no one is perfect, and so it’s actually a healthy thing for people to see that you’re human and make mistakes too, and that you own those mistakes and do everything in your power to correct them and do better next time.

This is what I look for – I know no one is perfect and no one ever will be, so my main concern is finding people and companies who are down to earth enough to admit and see this fact, and who make every effort possible to learn and grow from every experience – the good, the bad and the ugly.

Take ownership, ask world class questions, and stick to the facts of the situation – show you care, and reply to everyone.

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