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Many businesses have shied away from getting involved with 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 though as the latest figures in Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising survey show.  

70% of consumers trust online reviews completely or somewhat. But getting 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.

Five ways to handle negative online reviews

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. 

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.

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.

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. 

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. 

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?

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

An article from Convince & Convert reveals that 83% of people who complained on Twitter and got a reply from the brand liked or loved that they were heard.

Despite this, 70% of companies ignore customer complaints made on Twitter.

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.

  • 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.

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

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 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 26 March, 2014 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)

Ajay Prasad

Ajay Prasad, Founder & CEO at GMR WEB TEAM

What I feel that if there is negative review people feel that the reviews posted are genuine (both positive and negative). Also while dealing with negative reviews business can clear their business policies that help them in long run.

Many review sites do have a filter that list down suspicious reviews. Such reviews are not visible for the user at one shot.

over 2 years ago

Jay North

Jay North, Spokesperson at My Factoring Network

Very useful information disclosed towards handling clients through positive & yet little sorry towards the mess or misunderstanding created. Though sometimes the situation gets worse due to overlooking attitude of the working staff, but this practice shouldn't followed else it will give negative vibes of the company. As negative online review gives a zeal to bring a change in manner & bring positive changes as per requirement.

over 2 years ago

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