The Internet can be a pretty wild place. When people are unhappy with a business, well, all hell can seem to break loose. Remember the saga of Amy’s Baking Company? They closed a year ago, and in a very real way Internet comments were a huge factor as to why.
No one is saying they were running a great restaurant, but Amy’s only made their situation progressively worse the more they engaged with negative reviews.
Negative reviews happen. You need to be prepared for how to properly respond. Here’s my complete guide to handling, and hopefully drastically reducing, negative reviews of your brand.
Step One: Run a Great Business
To be clear, I’m in no way suggesting your business should be compared to Amy’s Baking Company. Your business is honest, reliable and customer-focused.
You can’t just operate with this idea, however. You also have to offer tangible proof to your audience. The best tactic here is to offer a money-back guarantee or a free trial. Hassle free refunds work great for physical products while free trials are better suited for virtual services, including most B2B services.
Step Two: Control Your Review Spaces
You want to sign up for accounts on all the major review sites, including Yelp. Just because you’re the brand owner doesn’t give you automatic access to your own name on any review site. You still need to make an account, and you want to do so quickly.
First, this prevents someone else from running your review site. It also lets you control your online image. If negative reviews are piling up unanswered on a review site somewhere, potential customers will certainly notice, even if you don’t.
Step Three: Personalize Your Review Spaces
Once you’ve claimed your business on Yelp, reviews will now be shown in the search engines. You can also personalize your page. Yelp limits how in-depth you can go, but you want to fill out your bio, add links to your site, include some pictures and basically add as much info as allowed.
You’ll also want to connect your existing webpages and social media platforms to your preferred review sites. While you need to monitor your presence on all review sites, you should probably pick just one to promote. This will hopefully group all your positive reviews together while also letting you place just one link on all your existing pages.
Don’t forget to include a review link in all your email correspondence, too. When people sign up for your newsletter or purchase a product, a thank you email is often a nice way to reach out. Plus, if the customer is happy with their purchase, that’s the best time to nudge them towards a positive review.
Step Four: Respond to Reviews
People connect with other people, not brands. When someone leaves you a positive review, reply. You don’t need to write anything elaborate:
“Thanks for the positive comments! We appreciate your business. If you have any questions, please contact us directly.”
You’ll likely get some negative reviews no matter what. This just the nature of business on the Internet. Potential customers aren’t necessarily going to run away at the first site of negative reviews. Instead, they’ll want to see how you respond.
Every negative review – even if it’s completely off-base or even downright bizarre – deserves a response. The tone you take is very important. Make every response:
- Prompt – Ideally, acknowledge the complaint within a half day
- Professional – Treat this as a serious matter
- Apologetic – Apologize and explain how much you regret the incident
- Customer-Focused – Offer a free product, discount or something else tangible
For the most part, you’ll want to do this on the review site or social media post. If you resolve the situation in a great way, you’ll want potential customers to notice. This an effective way to turn bad PR into good PR.
Step Five: Use the Feedback
This an important step which is often overlooked. In the hustle and bustle of daily marketing tasks, I’ve become so involved in responding to reviews that I forget to actually consider the larger meaning.
People don’t leave reviews when their opinion of a product is “meh.” Instead, they leave a review if they’re had a great experience or a terrible one. So these are people you should listen to.
If you see the same positives often, that’s great! You’re doing something right for sure. If you see reoccurring complaints, that’s an area you need to focus on.
Negative reviews don’t need to be intimidating. They’re actually a great opportunity for positive public relations!