Online reviews are a significant component to today's world of commerce. In just the first quarter of 2016, Yelp had a monthly average of 21 million unique visitors. According to a 2015 BrightLocal study, approximately 92 percent of consumers surveyed said they read online reviews, while 68 percent said that positive online reviews make them more likely to trust a local business. So what should you do when there are negative reviews of your business on such sites?
1. Remain Objective—If the review or comment is obviously not serious, or if the poster is using angry, abusive language, your best option may be to ignore it. If possible, have it removed. Most consumer-review sites offer a way to flag or report reviews that violate terms of service.
2. Say “Thanks”—Whether or not you agree with the complaint’s validity, the reality is that a customer perceived an event in a certain way. Acknowledging the experience and the role your operations played in shaping that perception is the first step in successfully addressing a concern. Thank them for taking the time to offer feedback.
3. Respond with Tact—Keep it professional. Passive-aggressive or sarcastic comments will only fuel the flames.
4. Take it Offline (if possible)—Engage the customer with a short and positive private response that recognizes the issue and discusses ways to remedy the situation. By taking the issue offline, you can avoid a back-and-forth that could draw even more unwanted attention to the review. If successfully resolved, politely ask the customer to revise their review to note that their complaint was addressed, or delete it altogether.
5. Apologize and Ask for Input—A sincere apology does not necessarily mean you are agreeing with their assessment of the situation, but it does mean that you are genuinely sorry that they had a bad experience. An offer to make things right can go a long way to validate your customer’s concerns. It lets them know you are committed to ensuring it won’t happen again.
6. Flip the Script—Highlighting your strengths is a great way to frame your story while still making the person feel heard and acknowledged. Having the ability to react to negative feedback can actually be a positive move.
7. Evaluate the Public Response—Review sites allow for businesses to easily offer their views. Offer a short response that corrects the facts, but do not delve into specific inaccuracies.
8. Legal Action is a Last Resort—Publicity over an ugly lawsuit may drag the company into territory difficult to return from, no matter the outcome. Use it only if you must.