A bad review can sting, there’s no doubt about it. You put your heart and soul into your small business, and you work hard to make customers happy. So, when a customer isn’t happy—and then posts their complaint on a site like Yelp, Google, or Facebook for all the world to see—it’s hard not to take the criticism personally.
Don’t despair. Online reviews are a fact of life for small business owners, and sometimes they’re great for business. They can certainly boost your conversion rates, with 72 percent of consumers saying that positive reviews make them trust a business more. But even the most successful companies are bound to make a rare mistake or come across a customer who just can’t be pleased. The occasional bad review is inevitable.
So while you can’t prevent bad reviews, you can mitigate their impact and protect your company’s online reputation. With the right response, you can even turn a negative review into a positive for your small business by taking the opportunity to demonstrate great customer service.
Follow these tips to make the most out of a bad review situation:
1. Respond quickly
Customers typically post a bad review out of frustration. They want to be heard and they want their concerns to be taken seriously. The worst thing you can do is ignore the bad review, leaving the customer to stew and allowing their resentment to build. Instead, respond to the review as quickly as possible, assuring the customer you will look into their concerns and heading off their frustration before it boils over. Make sure you set up notifications in your profiles with major review sites and create a Google Alerts notification for your company name so that you receive an immediate alert whenever a review is posted.
2. Remain calm and courteous
Don’t lose your cool. It’s tempting, I know—this person just insulted your business, they may have misstated the facts or misunderstood your policies, and they’re making you look bad in front of other customers. But you need to remain calm. Take a deep breath. Demonstrate your professionalism by being gracious in your response; thank them for the feedback, post a sincere apology and offer to look into their concern and make it right. Do not post a response that’s defensive, and do not get into an argument with a customer on a public review site. Remember, other customers can see your responses. Picking fights will only make things worse and cost you more business in the future.
3. Be specific and thorough
Complaining customers often aren’t looking for a refund; they just want to be heard and have their concerns acknowledged. You want the customer to know that you have read their review and you’re taking the time to write a personalized response. Don’t cut-and-paste a short, generic answer that ignores their concerns. Instead, use the customer’s first name in your response and include specific details from their review, such as product names or service details.
4. Take the discussion offline
A public forum like Facebook or Yelp is not the best venue to work out the details of a refund or air the dirty laundry of an employee who didn’t follow your company’s policy. You want to take the discussion off the review site and work out these issues directly with the customer. However, you also want other readers of the review (and potential customers) to know that you’ve seen the bad review and promptly taken care of the problem. So, you should post a note in response to the review, such as: “I am very sorry to hear about your bad experience, and I want to do what I can to fix it. Please email or call me so we can make this better.”
5. Ask for a follow-up review
If you feel that the customer is satisfied after communicating with you offline, you can publicly post a follow-up to your initial response: “I am glad I could speak with you directly and remedy your concern. We look forward to serving you again in the future.” You should also ask the now-happy customer to post a follow-up review noting that their problem was resolved. This will go a long way toward showing other potential customers that you will always go above and beyond to make them happy.
No one wants to see all their hard work reduced to a few complaints on the internet. But you can take control and demonstrate to reviewers—and their readers—that you’re an attentive business owner who cares deeply about customer satisfaction. In the end, if you continue to prioritize quality service and quickly diffuse negative feedback with the right responses, the number of positive reviews you receive will far outweigh the occasional bad review.
Brian Lindamood, content director for Manta, is passionate about great marketing and management advice. Manta helps small business owners succeed on their own terms with educational resources, digital marketing tools, and services that are simple and effective.