02.22.20166 min read

How to Overcome Bad Online Reviews

by Saphiya Hindeyeh

Just because your business is small, doesn’t mean your presence is small. Sure, The New York Times may not be paying attention to a bad customer review on Yelp, but other customers or potential customers are – and that can make or break your next sale. 

You need to care about what your customers are thinking and more importantly, what your customers are saying about your brand online. 

Bad online reviews matter!

If a customer is highly dissatisfied with his or her experience, they will likely talk about it online. Social media sites (like Twitter and Facebook) and review sites (like Yelp, TripAdvisor) have allowed people to express their business delight or dissatisfaction to a wider audience.

If your waiter rolls his or her eyes and scoffs at you while you are taking your sweet time deciding whether you want a Caesar salad or the five-cheese lasagna, you’ll likely never want to have that restaurant experience again and will probably post a negative review on the rude service. Similarly, if you paid good money and waited a long time to have a quality product delivered and it came to you with missing and broken pieces, you’d likely post your frustration online. 

According to an article on Psychology Today, “People are more likely to choose things based on their need to avoid negative experiences, rather than their desire to get positive experiences … psychologists concluded negative experiences or the fear of them has a greater impact on people than positive experiences.”

According to USA Today, “Harvard business school research says that a one-star increase on Yelp can lead to a 9 percent increase in sales. Four out of five consumers, or 80 percent, reverse their purchase decisions based on negative online reviews.” 

If people remember negative reviews more than the positive ones, which one would you want your small business to be remembered for?

So what does this mean? Online reviews have become a key factor in a consumer’s purchasing decision, and a negative review can directly translate into brand damage and loss of future business. 

How to respond to negative reviews

Let’s say a customer posts a negative review online. They’re frustrated that their delivery took longer than expected and were mad because they needed the item to conduct their own business. Here are examples of a bad, good and great response to their comment. 

Bad: Ignoring the review

Good: “Hi, thank you for your feedback. We will use your comment to strive for a better experience for our customers.”

Great: “Sarah [include person’s name], we sincerely apologize for the late delivery. We understand that it is frustrating expecting a delivery and not having it on time. We are sorry for the inconvenience it caused. Please send us your email address and we will send you a free shipping promo code for your next purchases. We will also waive the cost of the product and shipping free for any loss of business you may have experienced. We value you as a person and a customer.”

See the difference? You are personalizing it, taking ownership, understanding their natural frustrations and are letting them know that you don’t want to lose them as a customer. 

Here are some things to remember the next time you respond to a customer online: 

•    Be accountable and take responsibility

•    Address the problem

•    Be authentic; put some thought and effort into addressing your customer’s concerns

•    Put yourself in their shoes: Look at the problem form the perspective of the customer. Would you be frustration too, why and what would it take for a company to make you feel better and use their business again?

Don’t make things worse

In these cases, you don’t have to issue a press release, contact the press, or make a company-wide change

Here is a good fictional example of someone turning an honest mistake into a crisis management situation. In The Office episode “Product Recall,” the office manager Michael Scott wants to issue a press conference for a local product recall issue:

Michael Scott: We gotta do something. This is spinning out of control, Pam. This is just, not—

Pam Beesly: It's just the Scranton Times...

Michael Scott: Nooo … then Newsweek picks it up and then CNN does a story about it and then YouTube gets a hold of it.

At the end of the day

It’s all about the public’s perception of your small business. In the past, word of mouth held the power over your brand. Now, the digital world holds that power. It’s the 21st century and small businesses need to understand and adapt their business model. Be the example of how a successful small business works with and in the digital world. 

Saphiya knows one thing to be true - she loves public relations. It is her passion because she gets to share messages about matters that change the world for the better. She finds purpose in sharing messages on global small business success, entrepreneurship, economic stability, freedom and human rights. She believes that she is an adult rookie and can relate to every Buzzfeed post that talks about life in your 20’s, especially when they are about Netflix. Her top shows are The Office, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Walking Dead.

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