Online Reviews: How to Handle Them

Online Reviews Can Make or Break You

Online reviews are a fact of business life. Like it or not, your customers are free to express themselves where it concerns your product or service. There’s little you can do to prevent negative reviews other than provide a level of service that discourages them. Even then, there’s always that one guy …

online reviews and how to handle them
Don’t tell me what kind of review to post.

The other day I received an item I had ordered on Amazon. Enclosed in the package was the note at right. Truthfully, though I won’t be able to review the order for at least three weeks (I ordered Caladium bulbs), I had a momentary impulse to — I hate to admit this — go leave them a negative review. Because, don’t tell me what to do. 

I don’t want to be too hard on this business, but the random capitalization of this note is jarring as well. If you’re going to include a note in your shipment, please be sure it’s appropriately punctuated and uses proper grammar.

The real problem here is, you don’t demand (even with the word please) that your customers not leave you negative reviews, you earn positive ones.

How you respond to your reviews can make or break you online.

Where to Watch for Online Reviews

You know about Yelp, Facebook and Google for reviews, but don’t forget about Trip Advisor. According to Search Engine Land, 

Though Google and Facebook are definitely leading the pack on generating local businesses reviews, the findings around TripAdvisor show that it’s important to know your niche and also to generate reviews on your industry-specific platforms.

Tips to Help You Handle Online Reviews

  1. Check frequently. Depending on your business, you may need to check in daily. Consider your reviews an opportunity to get feedback that can teach you how to better reach and attract customers.
  2. Be engaged. The best responses to reviews I’ve seen are genuine and personal. Don’t copy and paste the same paragraph after each review. Thank the reviewer for a positive review and mention that you’d love to see them again.
  3. Be thankful for negative reviews. Yes, I mean thankful. If you have a problem that motivates a customer to leave a negative review, you need to know about it, and sometimes customers won’t tell you in person. Maybe they are with friends or business colleagues and don’t want to interrupt their gathering. Take these reviews seriously, respond quickly and do not make excuses. See below for my suggested negative review response template.

Negative Online Review Response Template

Hi <name>. I’m so sorry you had a bad experience at our <type of business>. We messed up and we would like to make it right for you. Here’s a <coupon, free pass, some sort of gift> to express how sorry we are for your trouble. Please feel free to contact us at this <number, email, other contact> if there is anything else we can do to help. We’d love a chance to redeem ourselves — would you consider giving us another chance?

Notice there’s no self defense, no explaining, no excuses. Those tactics will make your conversation adversarial. [Tweet “The only way to get a disgruntled customer on your side is to be on their side.”] Trying to explain away or defend your mistakes will only set them more firmly against you.

Negative Online Review Posts on Social Media

The template doesn’t vary too much for negative online comments, you may just have to use fewer words due to character limits. Answer the comment as above — remember, you’re on their side — and offer to resolve it via private message if possible. Let your audience see the complaint, show them an attitude that is eager to listen and even more eager to fix the problem.

We have fairly regular issues with our cable/internet provider. I tend to tweet my displeasure, and while this company is eager to listen and their responses are OK, their execution of the fix falls short. Strangely, though, after each of my tweetstorms, the problem has disappeared for a few weeks, which tells me that I have to stay on top of them. On one service visit, they blamed the problem on the fact that we have “too many devices.” So it’s our fault your service is crappy? For the record, we have two laptops, two iPads and two smartphones. Not exactly unreasonable.

Don’t make your customers stay on you to get the best service — do whatever you can to make the problem right and they won’t feel the need to complain.

Know When to Give Up

Some people are not going to be reasonable and will not be amenable to your efforts to correct the issue. Do your best and walk away if someone just won’t be satisfied. There will always be those who just don’t like you for whatever reason, and it’s wiser to focus on real customers than to chase down a curmudgeon.

Fake Reviews

Yes, there are fake reviews. You can and should report them to the site, but you may or may not get much relief. Google, in particular, provides no oversight on reviews, and does not care whether or not they are legitimate customers. You’ll have to report a fake review many times, and you still may not get it removed.

While it would be great to get fake reviews removed, don’t plan to depend on any review site to do that for you — better to focus on adding more positive feedback.

Don’t Stress Over Online Reviews

Last of all, don’t let fear of negative feedback overwhelm you. Nearly every business online has some sort of negative feedback. If your comments are more positive than negative, it probably won’t hurt you, especially if you’ve responded well to the negative review. It’s going to happen, so be prepared and ready to respond — fast.

And never, ever, ever tell anyone not to give you a negative review.

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