Dealing With the Review From Hell

Customer reviews are an efficient marketing tool, but alas - they are not always positive. Successfully handling the problematic reviews should play a major role in your company's retention strategy

Adebisi Adewusi
January 02 2018

Hell hath no fury like a scorned customer. And scorned customers leave reviews from hell.

Customers don’t care if you’re a big business or a Mom and Pop store. If they feel wronged, they’ll most likely leave a negative review. Take a look at this review from TripAdvisor:

This the kind of review that can turn customers away from your business.

Before you shrug your shoulders dismiss the unflattering feedback, check out why negative reviews can be your undoing:

  • 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation
  • 90% of consumers read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business
  • 58% of consumers say that a business’ rating is important

The facts are in: silence isn’t golden when customers drop disastrous reviews about your business. While it’s important you respond to customer reviews, it’s how you respond that’ll determine if you make amends or cause yourself more trouble. In this post, we’ll show you to respond to negative reviews without damaging your online reputation and losing customers.

Identify Who You Are Talking To

Every customer is different, so how you respond to their grievances is important. There are at least five types of customers complaints. Here’s how to respond to them:

The Meek Customer: These customers won’t divulge their pain points right away, but may express themselves when prompted.

The Aggressive Customer: These customers readily complain, often loudly and at length. To ease the situation, map out how you’ll resolve the complaint and openly communicate with your customer about the process and timeline.

The High-Roller Customer: VIPs expect the best and are willing to pay for it. They’re aren’t interested in excuses. Make them a high priority and resolve their issues without delay.

The Rip-Off Customer: These customers are not looking to get an issue resolved. Their goal is to get something they aren’t entitled to receive. A repetitive “not good enough” response to your efforts to satisfy this customer is a sure indicator of a rip-off artist. With these customers, stay objective, use accurate quantified data to back up your response and document everything you say.

The Chronic Complainer Customer: Chronic Complainers are often repeat customers. While they can be frustrating, be extraordinary patient with them. When you make things right, Chronic Complainer Customers will appreciate your efforts and tell others about your positive response to their complaints.

Once you become familiar with these patterns and learn to respond appropriately, you’ll find it easier to deal with customer complaints.

Keep Calm and Breathe

Negative reviews can be upsetting especially when you consider how much time and money you’ve spent in building your business. So it’s understandable if you want to start a cyber war. However, for the sake of everything you love, don’t. Responding in anger can make your business look petty. The case of Ocean Avenue Books illustrates what not to do:

The female owner of the now-closed Ocean Avenue Books in San Francisco received a two-star rating from a Yelper. After several rounds of cyber-attacks, she went to his house, forced her way in, and the two got into a physical altercation. And yes, both the bookstore owner and the actual store suffered the consequences. This is an unusually dramatic instance, but even aggressive interactions on your end means you went too far. Rather than immediately respond in anger, ‘walk’ away from the situation. When you’re calm enough, craft a polite, gracious and professional response.

Your response should thank the customer for bringing the problem to your attention. Be non-confrontational, acknowledge the customer’s concern and show that you understand the issue(s) raised, even if they’re unfounded. A negative review has the power to crumble your business, don’t fuel the fire by taking things personally.

Issue A Sincere Apology

You may feel your customer doesn’t deserve an apology. But it’s not about you. If your customer is unhappy he/she deserves an apology regardless of what you think. And an ‘I’m sorry’ can go a long way.

According to a study by the Nottingham School of Economics’ Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, people are more than twice as likely to forgive a company that admits to a blunder and expresses remorse than one that offers them cash. If you’re going to apologize, do it the right way. In two separate studies with 755 people, Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business found six key elements that comprise of a meaningful apology:.

  1. Expression of regret
  2. Explanation of what went wrong
  3. Acknowledgment of responsibility
  4. Declaration of repentance
  5. Offer of repair
  6. Request for forgiveness

If you’re pressed for time, make sure your apology includes two elements: acknowledgement of responsibility and offer of repair. Roy Lewicki, lead author of the study and professor emeritus of management and human resources at Fisher, stated that these two elements are the most important when apologizing. Here’s what a sincere apology looks like. After getting wind of a guest’s negative review on TripAdvisor, the Manager of the Stamford Plaza in Brisbane wrote a very professional and thoughtful response.

When apologizing, use gracious, warm and appreciative language.  Apologies cost you nothing and when done right, can calm the most irate customer. Don’t mess it up.

Resolve the Issue and Offer A Solution

Okay, you’re sorry. Apology accepted. What’s next? It’s not enough to apologize and walk away. You’ve got to resolve the complaint. If you don’t, your customers will stop doing business with you and tell about 15 people about their terrible experience. To make things right and redeem yourself, here are a few sure steps to take.

Take the conversation offline: Depending on the situation, ask for permission to contact them so you can discuss the issue/problem in person. Having the customer speak to you offline allows them to air their grievances and feel heard.

Find a solution: When possible, resolve the complaint on the spot. If you can’t resolve the issue immediately, tell them what you plan to do and when you’ll do it. You can also ask your customer which actions they would like you to take. It may actually require very little effort on your end.

Reach An Agreement:  Agree on a solution that will resolve your customer’s situation to their satisfaction. If the customer is satisfied with the solution, it’ll be easier to end the experience on a positive note. Also, follow-up to ensure the customer is completely satisfied, and don’t be scared to ask them to update/change their review to reflect that the situation has been resolved.

Don’t Feed The Trolls

While it’s important to respond to all negative reviews, lookout for trolls that aren’t trying to raise a legitimate complaint. They just want to make you look bad and enjoy the notoriety it brings. Any interaction with them only encourages them to carry on their behavior. Indicators of troll-like behavior include: a vicious tone, multiple posts with similar language, and nondescript names. But before you assume all negative reviews are left by trolls, investigate the complaint.  Once you are certain that a review is false and malicious, flag it. Most popular review sites will take down fake reviews.

While the best long-term strategy may be to ignore trolls, calmly address the situation and provide other users with facts to put them at ease.

Love Your Haters

While no business wants to get negative reviews, they’re bound to happen. Negative reviews don’t mean the world is coming to an end. See it as an opportunity to get direct feedback from your customer and improve your product or service. The next time you receive a negative review, keep calm, sincerely apologize for the upset and make things right. Turn a negative experience into a positive one, and you’ll be alright.

Adebisi Adewusi

Adebisi Adewusi is a freelance B2B writer and a Huffington Post Contributor. When she’s not creating compelling content for businesses, you’ll find her capturing moments with her Nikon d600.

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