Let’s say you own a company that installs water sprinkler system systems for homes with big front lawns and beautiful gardens. The profile of your average client is something like, particular, skeptical and unforgiving. One morning, over coffee and eggs, you Google your company’s name as usual. You’re half conscious, but you quickly jolt awake as you spot a negative review of your business, freshly posted an hour and a half ago. It’s a scathing review in fact. John Doe is leading a full-fledged assault on your company: your “leaky” sprinklers, your “outrageous”, “hidden” fees,” and even the personal hygiene practices of your technician. He would give zero stars if he could.
A bead of sweat trickles down your forehead and your eggs grow colder by the minute. You are failing to remain unaffected by the criticism. You conjure up defenses: John Doe obviously doesn’t have the sense to figure out how to operate a can opener. The messy state of Fred’s hair in no way takes away from the fact Fred is your most reliable, competent and generous technician—your right hand man for good reason.
Blow off some steam, feel what you will, but eventually you’ll be confronted by the question of how you should address John Doe’s very public criticism.
Whatever you do don’t fire back. You’re a business owner, and a professional. As enticing as it might be in the moment, lashing out in return won’t do you any good. You might also be tempted to ignore the review in hopes that it simply goes away, but we urge you to reconsider for the following three reasons:
No one likes to be ignored, even angry customers or clients.
If you don’t respond, you allow the reviewer to feel as though their qualms have been ignored, and therefore justified. By abstaining from saying anything at all, you reinforce John Doe’s preconceived notion that despite compensating you for your services, he doesn’t matter to your company at all. Everyone wants to be heard and have their grievances addressed. So, when it comes to dealing with an angry review, remember that inaction can be more costly than mustering up the strength to address the situation properly.
You could learn a thing or two from the review.
Sit back and read John Doe’s negative review carefully. He might have lost his head in the heat of the moment, but hear him out anyway. No matter how condescending the tone or the magnitude of hostility, at the heart of any criticism is a problem being identified. To you, as a business-owner, this can be a blessing in disguise. Maybe a problem has simply gone unnoticed, and now you have an opportunity to correct it and make your business better. Think of it this way: John Doe went ahead and did some of the work for you.
Whether it be a lapse in communication with a customer service rep, a late delivery, or in this case, not-so-hidden fees, identify the problem and take stock of it objectively. If you do this, you are well on your way to adopting practices that will keep your customers happy and your business flourishing. Make sure the delivery fee is in a larger font on the next coupon you send out; make sure Fred instructs John Doe on how to use the sprinkler remote; book a barber appointment for Fred before he does this. Whatever it is, address the problem head-on.
A constructive response to a negative review is great PR.
That’s right—even though this all-caps bad review of your company stands out like a sore thumb, you must remember that a good response has the power to change the conversation and ultimately benefit your business.
The key to achieving this positive outcome is taking the time to construct a thoughtful and meaningful response to the reviewer. Be sure to address all of reviewer’s grievances. Put yourself in their shoes and come up with a solution that will alleviate their disappointment.
“Hello Mr. Doe, we are deeply sorry that you had this experience. We noticed how nicely you maintained your boxwood and the last thing we want is for our sprinkler system to be the cause of any watering mishaps. If you’re available today, we can make an appointment to stop by and look over what we installed and maybe add some wind-resistant nozzles to the sprinkler heads to prevent over spray. It would be on us. Please let us know if that’s something you would like or if there is anything else we can do to remedy this unfortunate situation.”
Not only will a constructive response leave John Doe pleasantly surprised, but guess which company name will soar to the top of his list when thinking of sprinkler systems good enough for his friends and family? Yours.
In addition to courting John Doe, a constructive response will cultivate the respect other potential customers who stumble upon your post and read it. You will attract new business. You will instill further confidence in your company’s existing clients. You will have presented your company as one that authentically cares about the needs of its customers.
If none of this has convinced you or diplomacy in highly-charged situations is not your strong suit, at least remember that the best way to destroy an enemy is to turn them into a friend. Delegate the task of replying to the negative review to someone who is better-suited to conflict resolution.
Online reviews appear more and more prevalent these days, and it’s not a trend that will die out anytime soon. In order to remain competitive, companies will have to treat online reviews as an integral component of their web presence, wanted or unwanted. Negative reviews might sting at first, but savvy business owners know how to transform these experiences into a win for the entire team. They know that occasional negative feedback is virtually inevitable, and that a constructive response offers the best chance of upholding their company’s reputation.