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Many businesses have shied away from online reviews because of the fear that bad reviews will ruin their business. But it’s just not true.

Everyone knows that no business is perfect and that sometimes things can go wrong.

So, across-the-board five star reviews should always be taken with a pinch of salt as it’s inevitable that someday, someone, somewhere will have been less than ecstatic about the company they bought from.

For example, there’s the recent publishing industry scandal when best-selling author R. J. Ellory was caught out using fake personas to praise his own work and denigrate that of other authors he perceived to be his competition!

A recent review into fake online reviews found that, even though they are not as prevalent as people might have thought, the vast majority of fake reviews do tend toward five-star rating.

Good or bad, what people say online matters. As the latest figures in Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising survey revealed that 70% of consumers trust online reviews completely or somewhat.

But recieving a negative review doesn’t automatically lead to losing customers, it’s how you handle any negativity that counts.

Follow our tips for complaint handling and you should find that even negative reviews can ultimately have a positive impact. 

Before we start on the tips though, this article shows exactly how not to handle negative reviews, with two examples of businesses being outright rude and insulting to the customers who gave them!

So the first rule of thumb is - don’t become emotional.

Five ways to handle negative online reviews this Christmas

1. Respond quickly, positively and personally.

By joining the conversation in a positive manner as soon after the negative review has been posted as you can, you start taking the right steps to resolving the issue and ensuring your company doesn’t look bad.

Have your customer service agent use their name rather than referring to the company name as it instantly makes you seem more approachable, trustworthy and engaging. Try and take the conversation offline by offering to call them to discuss it. 

2. Show empathy with the customer that has left a negative review.

Let them know that you understand why they feel dissatisfied with the product or service they received from your company.

Even if you disagree, don’t enter into a debate; instead let them air their grievances so you can understand how to make amends.

3. Make up for the mistake even if it wasn’t your fault

By agreeing to compensate in some small way - maybe a box of chocolates or bottle of wine for the product they are unhappy with - you instantly remove their cause for complaint.

Often this will prompt them to write a new, positive review or edit their original comment with a less overtly negative tone and increase your star rating. Good will goes a long way in winning repeat business.

Even if a customer has been unhappy with a purchase, by making amends you’ll be more likely to get their business again. 

4. Detail how you will make things better for future purchases.

Learn from the experience and show how you’ll ensure that it doesn’t happen again. If it’s a service you provide directly, tell them the step you’ll take to remedy the issue.

If the complaint is about a product you sell on behalf of other brands, detail how you’ll address it with them. Try to ensure this doesn’t happen in the first place though with these tips for improving your after sales service. 

5. Sometimes it’s better to move the issue offline

If you handle the negativity well, playing the whole thing out in public is an opportunity to show your high levels of customer service.

But sometimes it would be better to move the discussions offline to email or phone so that you can really get to grips with it. 

Who manages online complaints and social media questions well?

Brands can face problems if they ignore complaints made about them on social networks.

For example, 89% of customers said they will start doing business with your competitors following a bad customer service experience and that 50% only give a brand one week to respond to a question before they stop doing business with them.

Some companies are getting it right, according to data from Expion: 

  • KLM, Walmart, Next Online and Xbox all have average response times to customer posts on their Facebook pages of less than 40 minutes.

  • Xbox’s "Elite Tweet Fleet" earned the Guinness World Record for Most Responsive Brand on Twitter.

  • Instead of directing customers to a website or general email when they post questions on their Facebook page, Next Online representatives stay within Facebook as much as possible by using direct and private messages to solve personal issues or deal with sensitive information.

Takeaways

To make sure that your organisation can respond well when customers post negative reviews on social media, you need to ensure you have the proper process in place to deal with it in a consistent and friendly manner.

  • Make sure someone has ownership of dealing with online reviews and a timeframe for responding.

  • Ensure that you respond quickly and positively.

  • Don’t start a debate.

  • Show you understand the problem.

  • Detail how you’ll resolve it.

  • Show you have learned from the experience.

Always remember, though, that no matter how well you handle the situation, some customers are just downright awkward and don’t want the matter to be resolved.

Follow the advice in this Econsultancy blog post on handling awkward customers on social media. In a nutshell, don’t pick fights, but do stick up for yourself when necessary.

Jan Vels Jensen

Published 3 December, 2013 by Jan Vels Jensen

Jan Vels Jensen is Chief Marketing Officer at Trustpilot and a contributor to Econsultancy.

9 more posts from this author

Comments (2)

James .

James ., Director, Digital Strategy & Optimisation at Personal

A great, concise article that highlights some of the positives when it comes to obtaining online reviews and some useful hints for dealing with the inevitable negative or poor review.

For e-commerce retailers use of an independent third party such as Feefo or TrustPilot can also help as it gives customer confidence to reply and shoppers confidence to trust the legitimacy of the reviews published on the site. The benefit of these such third party systems for e-commerce is the fat that it is genuinely your customers that are contacted directly and a random third party (supposed customer) cannot provide feedback unless they have completed a transaction through your e-commerce platform.

There are other benefits for the product reviews as well given the fact you can integrate the review scores into your AdWord campaigns - a great way to separate yourself from your competition if they are not already doing it.

almost 3 years ago

Jan Vels Jensen

Jan Vels Jensen, Chief Marketing Officer at Trustpilot

James. Thanks for your comments. E-commerce shops are seeing great conversion rates by embracing open reviews. Sometimes as high as 58% - here’s a link to that stat: http://go.trustpilot.com/collect-free-reviews. But the real pot of gold is in consumer insights, customer satisfaction and innovation. The perception that modern consumers buy from wherever is cheapest is false: customer service still matters big time. Many e-commerce shops still live in the past and do not dare open the conversation since they are afraid of the negative feedback.

They don’t understand 2 things: 1. The consumer will decide which shops survive in the future (so you have to start the journey now) and 2. That getting a negative feedback is not only natural (no-one believes anyone has 10/10 all the time) but also a chance to win a lifetime customer over by reacting and correcting the situation. It is amazing how powerful and disarming handling negative reviews are. If you want to read more, here’s a link to one of our eGuides, called Turning Complaints Into Customers: http://go.trustpilot.com/cc_complaints_en

almost 3 years ago

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