Online reviews can be a boon for your business, but what happens when you get a negative review? In the past, it was possible to ignore, or not even know about, negative reviews of your products or services. But today’s social media landscape can spread news, both good and bad, rapidly.
Our previous blog talked about the importance of online reviews and research continues to back that up. Nearly 88% of online consumers report that they are influenced by online reviews. But, what do you do with those reviews that are negative?
Negative reviews are sure to happen from time to time, and if truly care about providing the best service possible, they can be helpful because they help you know where your business should improve. It can be difficult to navigate, but because even just a handful of negative reviews can wreak havoc on your business, it’s too important to ignore.
So, let’s look at some steps you can take to handle bad reviews.
Steps to handle negative reviews
Identify which reviews are genuine. We’ve all heard the term “internet troll” referring to someone who is just trying to stir up trouble. And these people aren’t only found in comment sections, but in review sites as well. They can typically be spotted because they use profanity or inflammatory language, and are often times even un-intelligible. It’s best to leave these reviews alone while reporting them and flagging them as inappropriate.
If you believe the negative review you have received is not genuine, you can contact the review site. If you can prove that the negative review was not submitted by a customer, but by a third party or even a competitor, you may be able to have the review taken down.
Don’t go on the defensive. Some reviews may be frustrating to read, and may even make you angry. Don’t respond immediately. Instead, take time to calm down and to assess the situation. If the customer has purchased products or services from you before, familiarize yourself with their history so you can better understand the situation. If the review involves another person in your company, talk to the person to understand the situation as he or she saw it. If you respond in anger, it can spiral a situation out of control and lead to the last thing you want – a customer service nightmare playing out virally for the world to see.
Don’t ignore a genuine review. By ignoring a negative review, you may be justifying the customer’s feelings when he or she completed the review, and signal to current customers and potential customers that you don’t have time to look into issues that upset your consumers.
Join the conversation. While you may be tempted to attempt to contact the reviewer privately, you’ll leave out an important audience – other customers or potential customers who may be swayed by the negative review. How you respond may not only sway the reviewer, but future customers, as well.
We’re ruled by social media, and people expect responses to their posts and reviews. In fact, one study found that 40 percent of people expect an answer within only one hour. That doesn’t leave much time to investigate and craft an ideal response, but you still should try.
Use reviews to grow and improve. While some reviews may not always lead to positive change, when possible, use a negative review to look at your business and employees to improve and ensure a better experience for everyone.
One survey reported that 78% of online reviewers trust a business that responds to reviews more than one that doesn’t. Even if you can’t perfectly rectify every situation, you may be impressing business you didn’t even know about and earning new customers based on how you respond to negative reviews.
A few simple steps responding to negative reviews:
- Apologize and sympathize
- Insert a bit of marketing (for example – “Our practice prides itself on taking exceptional care of every patient we treat…”
- Keep your response simple, short, and to the point.
When responding to a negative review, acknowledge the situation and apologize, without blaming the customer. It is important to acknowledge how the customer feels, and express genuine concern that the customer didn’t have the best experience. Then, attempt to rectify the situation. Sometimes it can be as simple as discounted services or the offer of a new product to replace a damaged one. While you may not always be able to rectify the situation, an attempt should be made.
Most importantly, be authentic and sincere. Thirty three percent of negative reviews on Yelp actually get changed to positive ones when a business takes the time to engage with the upset customer. How you respond to reviews, both positive and negative, can grow your brand and company image.
Online reviews, both positive and negative, can be a powerful tool for all businesses, when looked at in the right light.
But, reviews can only benefit you, if you are gathering them and monitoring them. SEO Foxy’s team of experts has built a review generator and monitoring tool that will not only help you capture reviews, but can also help you respond to negative reviews before they are made public.
How to deal with negative reviews on Yelp, Google, Facebook, etc.
Once you find a negative review, what do you do about it?
- Determine if the review is from a legitimate customer. If not, attempt to have it removed.
- Check the review policy to determine if anything the reviewer wrote violates any part of the policy. If it does, you can get the review removed. You’ll need to prepare a solid case as to why you feel the review violates the policy, clearly stating facts.
- Wait for a response to your request. This can take a while, be patient.
- While you are waiting for a response, respond to the review. Do not make it personal, or attack the reviewer in any way. State facts, and attempt to make the issue right. Prove to the reviewer that you take customer services seriously.
- Work hard to get more positive reviews to ensure the negative review is less noticeable. This will help with reputation management for your brand.
How do negative reviews affect your business?
The way negative reviews affect your business depends on how you handle them. If you ignore the review, or respond in an angry or inflammatory fashion to the reviewer, it can damage your brand and your reputation.
You want to do damage control, and get ahead of the issues raised before it becomes an even bigger problem. Research have found that more than 90 percent of consumers have been convinced to avoid a business, simply from reading a negative review. But if you respond properly, you can convince customers that you take all complaints seriously, and will work to rectify them. If you don’t, and instead become snarky, rude, or defensive, you may just send more than the reviewer running for the hills.
The truth about bad reviews
Can a negative review actually turn into a positive? If you handle it professionally and properly, you can absolutely turn a negative review into something that works in your favor.
So, how can that happen? Respond in a timely and professional manner, after you have taken the time to thoughtfully read the negative review. Craft a personal response that highlights your apologies that there may have been a bad experience or miscommunication. Then, make an attempt to resolve the issue at hand. This shows not only the person who left the review, but the public who may read that review, that you take customer service seriously.
It is also important to look at the positives that can be found in a negative review. None of us like to be told something bad about ourselves, and that certainly also applies to our companies. But, we should always be looking for ways we can improve. Was the review about a product or service that the customer didn’t think lived up to its hype? Was it about an employee who may have been unprofessional? Look at what the reviewer has said, and then look at your business overall – is there something there that can be improved?
If you genuinely address issues that are brought up in valid negative reviews, you can prove the reviewer and the general public that you are committed to customer happiness. And that can in turn drive business.
How you handle negative reviews can actually make you stand out from the pack – but it’s up to you whether that’s in a positive way or not. So, be gracious, be honest, and show the customer that you take their concern seriously and would like to rectify the situation.
Can you sue for negative reviews?
Too many negative reviews, even if you attempt to respond to each of them, can hurt your business. But is there anything you can do about them?
Some businesses may wonder if negative reviews are legal, or if there is a legal recourse to take against negative reviews. Can you sue for defamation over what you think is an unjust negative review?
Leaving reviews, be they positive or negative, is covered under the First Amendment of the United States constitution. Free speech means that customer can leave a one star review, along with a stinging narrative to accompany it. But, if you can prove that the post contains factually incorrect information, you may be able to sue for defamation.
A false statement of fact that negatively impacts your business is not covered under the first amendment, and therefore you could sue. For instance, if a reviewer posts that you are not licensed for the business you are conducting, when in fact you are, this could negatively affect your business, and it is false. A legal case could be built around that. However, if a reviewer thinks you are overpriced, or that a member of your team is rude, that is not a fact, and cannot be pursued.
And before you think about suing Yelp or Facebook or another review site, think again. The U.S. Communications Decency Act forbids lawsuits against websites that publish third party reviews.
But while you could hire a lawyer and take a reviewer to court, there may be a better, and cheaper, route to take instead.
As we’ve mentioned, a gracious and honest response can go a long way to mitigating the damage a negative review can do. Ask specific questions to learn more about the reviewer’s experience. This will do two things. First, it will show the user you are actually interested in learning more about the experience. But secondly, it can help you weed out false reviews.
Once you feel that you may have appeased the negative reviewer, you can then ask if the reviewer would consider amending the review, or removing it altogether.
Likewise, you can work hard to build up your positive reviews so that the negative review will get buried beneath glowing ones.
Can you remove negative reviews?
You can go right to the review site to attempt to get the review removed. Most review sites allow for reports to be filed against false reviews or reviews that violate the site’s terms of service. If you can prove the review is false, slanderous or defamatory, or that it violates terms, the site may remove the review. This process can take a while, but here are some things that can be against policy:
- Yelp – inappropriate content, conflicts of interest, promotional content, relevance, privacy, intellectual property, demanding payment
- Google – spam and fake content, off-topic, restricted content, illegal content, sexually explicit content, offensive content, hate speech, harassment and bullying, impersonation, conflict of interest
- Facebook – violence or criminal behavior, safety, objectionable content, integrity and authenticity, respecting intellectual property, content-related requests
It’s also important to note that you cannot remove your Yelp listing to try to get away from bad reviews on Yelp. You can unclaim it, but the listing will remain. Yelp says the following “Yelp publishes business listing information so that consumers can share their experiences about local businesses, and because the information is typically a matter of public record and public concern. Therefore we don’t remove such information from the site.”
Facebook allows you to turn off reviews. To learn more, click here.
On Google Places, you can remove a Google Places listing, however, be aware that it can destroy your local presence altogether. It is best to handle negative reviews as adeptly as you can. However, if you have purchased a practice or business from someone else, and the old business has negative reviews, it is a good idea to start fresh.
SEO Foxy is an expert in helping businesses maintain their online presence and monitor their online reviews. Our review tool can help you correct situations that have led to a negative review before the negative feedback has the chance to influence other customers. Call us today at 844-SEO-FOXY to learn more.