Dealing With Negative Reviews
by Jo Shaer, on June 23, 2012
The majority, who get most of their business from referrals and don't bother with online reviews because they don't value them.
Some, who get most of their business from referrals and receive good online reviews but don't believe that anyone pays any attention to them.
Others who think reviews are very important and actively work to obtain them.
And, finally, those who think reviews are hugely important, do everything in their power to get them but don't manage to get very many at all.
The problem with relying on reviews is that, no matter how hard you work to avoid bad feedback, at some point, you are going to get negative feedback and there has to be a strategy in place to deal with it. As Mike Blumenthal says: There are two kinds of businesses in todays world. Those that have received a negative review and those that will. It used to be said that an unhappy customer would tell 10 people. Today an unhappy customer can influence hundreds if not thousands of people by leaving a bad review. It is common wisdom that, in the age of the internet, providing excellent customer service is the secret to review success.
Dealing with spammy bad reviews
But there's always going to be the occasional slip-up, no matter how hard you try, as Mike discovered with his jewellery client.
And it doesn't stop at Google Places reviews, a friend was telling me recently about a client's Facebook wall problem - every time someone left a positive review an anoymous but clearly disgruntled ex-customer would make a new facebook profile and direct message the happy customer with a derogatory comment about the company before deactivating the fake account or blocking the person they had contacted so it was impossible to even report abuse.
Dealing with negative reviews generally - a marketing opportunity
It's very hard to deal with that type of sniper attack but, in general, the best way to deal with a negative review is sympathetically and quickly. If it is possible, fix what went wrong. As Deborah Meaden says in her book 'Common Sense Rules': "Complaints are actually a huge opportunity. If the company sorts one out, the newly satisfied customer will undoubtedly tell everyone how their complaint was quickly resolved and how absolutely brilliant the firm is. When someone complains, it opens up a relationship with the company. Now, they have an emotional connection to the company that mucked them about. It is up to the company that has sparked that emotion to turn it from something negative into something positive. If that business can turn that customer round and impress them in a personal way, that customer will be an ambassador for the company like no other."
Certainly that was my feeling after my encounter with the customer services department of Aviva.com on Twitter.
Deborah also reminds us that everyone gets something wrong occasionally and if a company is not receiving any complaints, then it does not have an adequate complaints procedure. Her view is that complaints are feedback and handling them so that they are resolved quickly without escalation is the best way forward. This may mean that your Customer Services team may need to have sufficient autonomy to be able to put things right before the drama becomes a crisis.
Another thing to remember is that there are always going to be 'trolls' or 'flamers'- people who go out of their way to be unpleasant for whatever reason of their own. But, sometimes it is people who advocate a different course of action or highlight that there might have been a better way of doing something and they may have a point. In this case, it is better to acknowledge that there might be two schools of thought and your reasons for pursuing your own viewpoint. It may be hard work but a respectful discussion constitutes engagement rather than a slanging match. And, if it becomes apparent that you, as a company, may be in the wrong, far better to hold your hands up and admit to the fault and offer some form of compensation than try to tough it out and hope to get away with it. That type of stance is never going to wash when conducted in full view of the rest of the internet.
The get more reviews approach
If you do find a negative review online and it is impossible to resolve it successfully, leaving you stuck with something bad about your company on the front page of Google for one of your search terms, you have several options to deal with reputation management. You could ask the webmaster to take it down or, if that is not possible, you could link from your site to a series of positive reviews. Bookmark them and share them on social sites because the more links those positive testimonials have, the higher they will rank of the SERPs and so could overtake the offending review, hopefully, pushing it off the front page. Better still, ensure that your own site tops the organic list on that front page so that people don't need to scroll down the page past any possibly detrimental remarks to find you.