What do you do when your business is subject to bad reviews?
You don’t panic. You breathe. And you read this checklist.
In it, I’ll show you how to recover from the dreaded bad reviews.
What You’ll Learn:
- The kinds of technology you’ll need to monitor and respond to bad reviews
- How to audit your channels for bad reviews
- What not to do when you receive a bad review
- How to respond to a bad review
- How to collect more positive reviews
Positive reviews are hugely influential when it comes to convincing consumers to buy a product or give that new salon a try.
For every business, virtual, brick-and-mortar, or both, a good reputation starts online. Typically, that means on Google, Facebook, and a handful of review sites.
So, as you might imagine, positive reviews can make or break a business. Companies risk losing nearly a quarter of their customers based on one negative article about their brand.
In other words, bad reviews are bad news.
The gold standard in bad review recovery is reaching out to unsatisfied customers and attempting to make things right.
For example, if you’re a restaurant you can say, I’d like to invite you back in and give you 50% off your next meal. If you’re an e-commerce brand, you might send someone a gift card or a replacement product.
That’s all pretty straightforward—this idea of apologizing after you’ve messed up.
The problem is, reviews come from all directions. Think Facebook and Google, as mentioned, as well as sites like the Better Business Bureau, TripAdvisor, G2Crowd, and Yelp. The list is endless, with review platforms catering to every industry from weddings and restaurants to local services, software, automotive, and on and on.
With that in mind, think of reputation management as a two-pronged effort.
You need to have technology that keeps track of feedback from all corners of the web. This way, you can set up alerts, so that no negative tweets or bad reviews slip through the cracks.
The second part of the equation boils down to merely being a good person. This means responding to comments, complaints, and questions in a helpful, thoughtful manner, and admitting when you’re wrong.
Here, I’ll go over some strategies for recovering from a bad review. We’ll look at the technology that allows you to scale your apology tour, as well as some best practices for cultivating positive vibes.
Get Technology on the Case
If you’re planning on managing your online reputation, you’ll need the right software.
If you think that reputation management is reserved for big companies with big budgets and volatile CEOs, think again. Companies of all shapes and sizes from SMBs with limited PR resources to e-commerce companies just getting started can benefit big-time from using software to track reviews and public perception.
According to Convince and Convert, 42% of customers that complain on social media expect a response within 60 minutes.
The point is, you’ll be able to nip negativity in the bud by responding to customers online. Even better, you’ll gain access to unstructured feedback that you can use to improve the customer experience and better yet, drive long-term loyalty.
Here, I’ve listed a few reputation management tools worth checking out:
- Birdeye: Allows you to generate positive reviews for your business and monitor feedback across 150+ channels. You can also apply review schema directly through Birdeye so you can get those five-star Google reviews to show up in the SERPs for increased visibility and credibility. What’s more, you can even use the platform to ask for reviews on Messenger, email, or wherever else your customers hang out.
- Cision: While Cision is all about everything PR, it’s a versatile platform that allows you to listen in on social conversations, run feedback campaigns, and track the customer journey.
- Podium: Podium lets you see your social accounts and customer interactions in one central hub. You can text customers and manage customer relationships on multiple channels at a time.
- ReviewTrackers: ReviewTrackers allows you to monitor up to 100 review platforms at a time, so you can track and act on customer feedback across multiple channels. Additionally, ReviewTrackers uses machine-learning technology to identify CX trends so you can better understand your customer.
- Yext: Yext Reviews allows companies to generate reviews, monitor feedback, and engage directly with customers. You can also set alerts that give you a heads-up when a bad review comes in or someone has a specific question.
In addition to software that helps you find and collect reviews, you’ll also want to use tools that keep track of all your brand mentions online. Negative reviews don’t come solely from review sites, and a negative mention on social media or a Reddit form can be equally damaging to your reputation.
Make sure you’ve set up a Google Alert for your brand name, and consider using a tool like Social Mention or Warble to monitor all incoming comments or mentions. That way, you’ll be alerted to any mentions in real-time and able to respond promptly.
Clean Up the Low-Hanging Fruit
As you start looking at managing your online reputation, you’ll want to start by running an audit on all of your owned channels.
- Check your NAP data across all directories and make sure that your Google My Business account is updated and optimized (more on that here), and check that everything from messaging to imagery is consistent.
- Claim your business on Facebook, Google My Business, Yelp, Amazon, the Better Business Bureau, or anywhere else that collects reviews within your niche.
- Listen to customer feedback and respond to negative comments with helpful, actionable solutions where possible.
Know Your Review Platforms
We’ve covered the top ten review platforms in the past, which includes the big ones like Trustpilot, Google My Business, and Yelp.
You’ll also want to consider any platforms that are specific to your industry—think something like Wedding Wire if you’re a florist or a wedding planner or the wide range of medical or automotive options.
As mentioned in the previous section, you’ll want to make sure you claim your account on any applicable review platforms and add links to those pages to your email marketing campaigns, social profiles, and website.
Avoid These Bad Review Blunders
I get it, it’s tempting to play dumb in the face of criticism, but burying your head in the sand is not the best way to win customer loyalty. In fact, ignoring bad reviews or responding the wrong way erode trust faster than you can hit “publish.”
Here’s a quick look at some “bad review don’ts” that hurt your chances of a fast recovery:
Don’t Get Defensive
One of the worst things you can do is attempt to defend your business while you’re angry. Understandably, you’re frustrated or upset that someone would say something negative about your brand. Because let’s face it, even though this is business, it still feels personal. But think about it from the perspective of review readers.
How many times have you seen an uncomfortable interaction between an angry customer and an angrier business owner on Yelp?
Even if the customer was in the wrong, the owner comes out of the situation looking like a jerk or possibly even a total psycho. Take some time to cool down and draft your response outside of the review platform.
Take, for example, the response below. It’s unprofessional, unpolished, and unlikely to win over any potential customers.
Instead, make sure your response is polite, error-free, and demonstrates a commitment to making the situation right. If the reviewer is still rude, angry, or trying to provoke you, other readers will see your measured response and professionalism.
Look, the customer isn’t always right.
But the key to managing your reputation is not losing your cool. It doesn’t matter if that other person flies off the handle. In other words, take the old internet wisdom, “don’t feed the trolls” to heart.
Don’t Ignore the Bad Reviews
Ignoring the uncomfortable is tempting, but taking the passive route is almost as bad as hurling digital expletives back at those who dare to criticize your business.
Other customers and potential customers will see that you don’t respond to comments and make the assumption that you don’t really care or that you’ll ghost them, too, if any issues come up.
You’ll also want to respond promptly to any reviews – negative or not. A fast response shows an emphasis on customer service. I recommend responding within 24 hours for best results.
Don’t Hide Your Negative Reviews
Yes, the best defense against negative reviews is getting more people to leave positive ones. Your job is to earn those reviews by providing a great experience and asking satisfied customers to share feedback.
And here’s the thing: at the end of the day, we’re all human. In fact, consumers are responding to the human element more than ever.
Part of being human is messing up – even when it comes to business. A brand that’s accrued nothing but 5 stars may very well come across as suspect to its audience. So remember, it’s okay to receive some bad reviews. The real make or break moment is how you deal with them.
So don’t hide them. Use bad reviews as a way to show potential customers that you can own – and make up – for your mistakes.
A proven willingness to accept and right your wrongs will go a long way in winning over customers.
Now, this doesn’t mean you want to rack up pages of bad reviews. If that’s the case, there’s clearly a bigger issue at play here, and you need to take a serious look at the root cause of these issues.
Take Exchanges Offline
Taking your exchange offline shows that you’re willing to make good on the promise even when no one is watching. Always leave a thoughtful public comment first, but end with a transition to another channel.
For example, you might say something like this:
Hi there, this is Jane Smith, owner of XYZ Burgers. I’m so sorry to hear that you were unhappy with the service you received the other day. Our goal, of course, is to have every guest leave on a positive note. Feel free to call or send an email so we can resolve this issue right away.
This example does a few things:
- Makes a Personal Connection—Jane introduces herself as the owner, she’s not hiding behind a “help@XYZburgers.com” address or signing off XYZ Burgers Staff.
- Acknowledges the Mistake —Jane acknowledges that the customer had a bad experience with the service. She validates this person’s feelings, rather than coming off as defensive.
- Promotes a Positive Brand Image—Sure, anyone can say it’s their goal is to deliver a great customer experience. But the message, as a whole, shows that Jane is willing to invest some time into correcting the situation.
- Offers Multiple Ways to Get In Touch—here, Jane gives the customer the option to call or email. This makes her look like an excellent communicator (ideal for continuing to build trust with people who read the review later), but also adds an element of control to the interaction. She’s saying “you can reach me on the phone or via email”—which, of course, are private second locations where a more in-depth discussion is more appropriate.
Always Close the Loop with Customers
If you have taken action, reach out to let people know you’ve dealt with the matter. This is most important for companies that operate entirely online, like SaaS companies or e-commerce brands.
Why? Well, both of these types of businesses don’t have a physical location that proves legitimacy.
Another reason is that sometimes making changes takes time.
If your product is a software program or an app and someone complains about a bug or a poorly-executed feature, it might take some time to make the fix.
When you do, follow up with the customer and let them know that you’ve taken their feedback to heart and made some changes. Encourage them to check it out and ask them what they think about the updates.
On the e-commerce side, closing the loop is more about communicating with unhappy customers. For example, if someone complains about the fit or quality of a product, you’ll want to reach out to see what they feel the best solution is for them. Be upfront about any refunds issued, where to send returns, and make things as convenient as possible.
Process any action items ASAP and keep customers in the loop. There are tons of scams out there from companies that ignore unhappy customers to those subscription services that trick you into an autopay arrangement.
Even if it’s obvious you’re not that kind of business, you must be transparent about how you deal with credit cards, restocking fees, and fine print. If we’re talking about a couple of bucks lost here and there, consider it an investment in your reputation.
Once you’ve resolved the issue, send an automated survey to follow-up on the service—this will let you know if the customer was pleased with the outcome and may even provide a few clues for future improvements.
Treat Bad Reviews as a Valuable Learning Experience
These situations might initially feel disappointing, but they’re a fantastic opportunity to improve your product based on what customers actually want. And that’s a significant step up from having your team make guesses based on the Andrew Accountant or Sally Social Media personas.
Additionally, following up with a user to say, “hey, you inspired us to change X,” goes a long way in making someone feel like their opinion matters.
Ask Your Best Customers for Help
Ultimately, you want to make a habit out of asking happy customers to leave a review.
Again, people that have had a great experience with your brand won’t mind sharing a few kind words. As a quick refresher, here are some easy ways to find people willing to write reviews.
That said, you don’t necessarily want to ask everyone to leave public-facing reviews, as negative comments pop up from time to time.
If you’re unsure how customers feel about your brand, consider interviewing customers and sending out surveys to get a pulse on sentiment.
Make it Easy for Customers to Leave Reviews
Still, just because someone says they’d hypothetically leave a review, doesn’t mean they’ll do it.
As such, you’ll want to make an effort to remove any friction from the process. This means not emailing your customers to ask them to leave a review on Facebook or Yelp. Or, if you receive a nice note from a customer or find something on social media, ask if it’s okay to use it as a testimonial on your site.
Keep in mind, many of the software listed above will automate the process for you and streamline review collection so that it’s hassle-free for your customers.
Even though today’s businesses should approach CX as an omnichannel approach, make sure you make your request from the channel you want this person to use.
Wrapping Up How to Recover From Bad Reviews
Ultimately, the best way to deal with bad reviews is to load up on the good stuff. But, earning positive reviews doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a long term exercise in building trust, delivering great products/services, and making sure that your customers feel that their happiness and opinions matter.
People can choose from millions of competitors these days. Brands need to keep this top-of-mind—local businesses, enterprise SaaS companies, sustainable e-commerce shops, restaurants—every business is nothing without their customers.
A negative review is disappointing, but failing to use it as a learning experience means there will likely be many more one-stars to come.