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How to Handle Bad Reviews

I Hate This Place! How to Handle Bad Reviews

by: | September 27, 2012

Imagine for a moment you’re in a new town, perhaps visiting, and you’re looking for a restaurant to grab a bite to eat. You fire up Yelp and look at the reviews for some spots that seem interesting. Do you go for the steak joint that has a couple good reviews and a lot of bad ones, or do you go for the diner favorite that has a slew of great reviews and one or two bad ones where the owner responded to their concerns?

Personal tastes aside, you’re probably more likely to go with the restaurant with the better reviews.

Now, imagine you’re the business owner with the negative reviews. How you handle those reviews can either endear customers and readers to your company or restaurant, or it can send them fleeing from a potentially bad experience with a business that doesn’t care about its customers.

How to Handle Bad Reviews

Someone left a bad review of your business on Yelp or Google, and you’re worried about how it will affect your business? There are three ways to handle it, each with their own consequences: Ignore it, blame the customer, or respond positively.

Most online review sites allow the owner to respond to reviews, so take the opportunity to clear your record.

Option 1: Ignore it

Don’t want to deal with it? Think you have enough good reviews on your side? You’d better hope you’re right.

Building a business surely takes a lot of time, and simply ignoring the review is a time-sensitive way to deal with it. You also wouldn’t be wrong in stating that most other owners don’t respond to negative reviews. Be that as it may, ignoring bad reviews shows something about your company. Namely, that you’re too busy with your business to respond to your customers, leading some to insinuate that you simply don’t care. That lack of response silently suggests to customers that they might want to keep looking for a more responsive, customer-focused business.

Option 2: Blame the customer

How do you feel about public fights, those screaming matches that make everyone around uncomfortable? Next, imagine watching a business owner yelling at a customer. Not a sight that would inspire confidence and security in that business, is it?

Sadly, I see business owners take this approach in dealing with bad reviews on online review sites. They immediately launch into an all-out assault on the customer, blaming them for their bad experiences.

From the business owner’s perspective, it might feel good in the moment, and you might feel vindicated, but it makes you seem petty, unreasonable, and the opposite of customer-focused. These are exactly the opposite of the feelings you want to instill in people who are considering spending their money with you.

Option 3: The positive response (the correct response)

The customer isn’t always right, but they do always deserve to be treated with respect, even if they’re being outrageous. The mark of a good leader is being cool, calm, and collected when dealing with adversity. Those same traits can be applied to being a good business owner or marketing manager.

A calm approach to negative feedback can instill confidence that you care how your customers feel and will work to make them happy. That feeling can go a long way toward building a lasting relationship with your customers and ensure they’ll come back again and again.

Discuss the problem, show your side, and explain what changes you made in response. And keep it clean. When you’re responding to an unhappy customer, you can always offer that person a discount to try your establishment again and change their opinions. A little humility can go a long way.

Negative Articles, Reviews, and Interviews

Not all bad reviews are posted on review sites. Sometimes you’ll find a blistering blog post or article online. Should you ignore it or respond to it? If you’re a small business without a lot of press, it makes it that much more likely for your customers to find only the negative press. You can help avoid negative consequences by responding directly to the criticism.

Show bad reviews on your site, and discuss the review in your blog post. Respond, in plain view of your customers, and you’ll gain more emotional capital by being up-front and honest.

Craft your response

There are a couple things to keep in mind when you’re responding to a bad article, review, or interview. The three options outlined above still apply in these circumstances. If you’re responding on your business’s site, be sure to quote the original article and respond to their points positively, without blaming the source.

If you’re feeling brave, you can link to the original article on your piece. Not doing so can make it seem like you’re trying to hide the source content.

You’ll never be able to completely avoid bad reviews—you can’t please everyone, and you shouldn’t try. You should, however, try to mitigate the negative consequences of your customers seeing only those reviews. After all, that’s why big companies hire PR firms. Follow these tips, and you won’t make the same blunders other business owners do!

Ready for some good news? Read the first part of this set, I Love This Place! How to Get Good Reviews.

How have you successfully handled bad press in the past? How do you usually respond? Let us know in the comments!

Posted in: B2C, E-Commerce, Engage!, Link Building, Local Search

About the Writer:

Born in England and raised in the U.S., Charles Forster is the marketing director and partner at Vine & Grain, a company that creates management technologies for bars and restaurants. Prior to that position, he ran a graphic design company, Call Me Chaz, in Philadelphia, PA and Orlando, FL. He focused on branding, websites, print, video and marketing for small business clients up and down the east coast. He's a self-prescribed car nut and foodie. He's also the curator for This Is Visceral, a site devoted to poster art.

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