Negative reviews. You hate them. We all do. You did the best job you knew how and still they found something to be upset about.
Your first instinct might be to say "Forget them. The customer can't always be right, after all." But is that the best response? Won't you lose customers?
How do you put aside your very real human emotions and engage a customer's negative online reviews professionally? Today we're going to take this one step further. We're going to show you how to turn a negative review into a positive marketing tool. Are you ready? Let's dig in.
1. Begin with Damage Control
Unless the negative review is an obvious hit job meant to damage your reputation, the customer who wrote the review likely cares about their relationship with your business. How do we know this? They spent the time it takes to write a review instead of writing you off and going to your competitor.
Their perception of your business is now damaged. You have to assess the damage and attempt to fix it professionally.
Begin with research. Find out what caused the problem. Maybe it was a faulty part or a negligent worker or maybe it was something outside of your control.
Fix the problem. Even if the problem was outside of your control, you can sometimes smooth things over with a future discount or a small refund on their plumbing bill.
2. Apologize and Empathize
Empathy creates a competitive advantage. In 2016, a UK consulting firm created an "Empathy Index" and found that the top ten countries in their index increased their earnings by 50% as opposed to the bottom 10.
Being able to put yourself in your customer's shoes will help you understand why they wrote a negative review. It will help you provide better services in the future.
Humility is the first step toward empathy. You must be able to see your own flaws and be willing to apologize. Otherwise, you will be unable to empathize with your customers because you will have built a prideful shell around yourself.
3. Promise Change
Customers will feel most heard if you've recognized the problem they've brought forward and promised change. Not only does this help you streamline and improve your business, but it also helps customers feel like they are part of your business.
Authenticity is vital to reaching customers where they are at. In fact, if customers perceive you are being inauthentic, they'll drop you like a hot rock. A 2017 survey found that 86% of customers will adopt a brand if they feel the company is authentic.
What is authenticity? It's the ability to be open and honest with people. An authentic person acknowledges their shortcomings and seeks to learn to overcome them. They have a sense of humor that isn't hostile and they have realistic expectations.
When responding to a negative review, you must be authentic. Acknowledge the problem, figure out how to prevent future problems, and then advertise your plan.
Customers see brands as authentic if the brand gives the customer a behind-the-scenes look into their operation. Use social media to announce your intended changes and use this opportunity to give them a glimpse into your everyday operations.
4. Respond Promptly
If a customer feels ignored, they are more likely to go to your competition. Thus timing is everything. Be quick about your research. Find the problem as soon as possible and respond to the review as soon as you have an answer.
Even if your answer is impartial, give an answer, and promise more investigation.
5. Take the Conversation Offline
If the problem is bigger than a short response can fix, take the conversation offline. Give a short response and offer to talk to the customer in person.
This is a vital part of damage control. You have to keep the miscommunication to a minimum and not let an irate customer control the conversation in public.
Sometimes a negative review is a hit job. Some people don't want a resolution. To avoid the negative impacts of these kinds of reviews, try to interact with the customer in person.
6. Adapt and Extend Your Customer Service
Sometimes a negative review is the result of a simple misunderstanding. Maybe you didn't communicate your policies correctly or you misquoted a job.
Simple fixes give you room to augment your customer service. Audit your website and fine-tune how you present your terms and your policies. Make money-back guarantees part of your marketing. Create an FAQ to address your customer's most common concerns.
Review your employee training procedures. Do you include empathy training? Do your employees understand your policies as well as you do?
7. Bad Reviews Reduce Buyer Skepticism
There is a Northwest-based window company that offers discounts for good reviews. In fact, they will write the review for you at time of signing if you're too lazy to do it yourself. Suffice it to say, this is unethical.
When you dig to find genuine reviews of the windows themselves, you find out there is a reason they're fishing for good reviews. Their windows are trash. They warp and their seals break constantly.
This kind of unethical marketing behavior is rampant and customers are wary of scammy tactics. A smattering of bad reviews can assuage potential customers' worries.
On top of this, just like credit, bad reviews are better than no reviews. A company on Google without reviews looks like a company with no customers. And a study by Northwestern University found that when a company has at least five reviews, the likelihood a customer will buy is 270% greater than when a company has no reviews.
Hit the Negative Online Reviews Sweet Spot and You're Golden
The sweet spot is still more good reviews than negative online reviews, of course. A 4.5-star rating looks better than a one or two-star rating. A 4.2–4.5-star rating tells customers that your company is run by humans and not machines.
Humans who make some mistakes but show humility when responding will always seem genuine. Remember that authenticity is key in responding to your customer's concerns. If you're ready to take your marketing to the next level, get a free marketing audit today.