No matter how impressive your business is, or how much effort you spend making customers happy, eventually, you’ll run into bad reviews. Fortunately, with the right strategy, you can quickly and easily track down these bad reviews – and turn them into something positive for your business (or at least mitigate the damage from them).

The Importance of Online Reviews

Most modern business owners realize that online reviews are important. But it’s easy to underestimate just how important they are.

When most customers search for a product or service online, one of the first steps they take is researching the companies offering those products and services. For example, if you’re shopping for office furniture, you’ll probably look at reviews for office furniture companies. You want to be assured that you’re buying from a trustworthy, reliable vendor – and that you’re going to get your money’s worth.

Accordingly, reviews affect your business in several ways:

  •         First impressions. Reviews are often the basis of new customers’ first impressions of your brand. A bad review can turn them off of your brand forever.
  •         Lasting reputation. A stream of reviews will eventually sculpt your brand’s overall reputation, cementing it as a positive, customer-driven force – or something much worse.
  •         Search visibility and more. Getting lots of good reviews can help your business rank higher in search engines (and get marketing visibility in other channels as well). Bad reviews can compromise your results.

How to Find Bad Reviews

Your first step is to find the bad reviews (and good reviews) for your business. To do that, you’ll want to sign your business up for any mainstream business review platforms you can find, including things like Google My Business, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Facebook. Once set up, you’ll be able to receive notifications when your business gets new reviews (and reviews that meet certain criteria). It’s also a good idea to check back periodically in case you’ve missed something.

It’s also important to set up automatic alerts for social mentions. Whenever someone mentions the name of your business on social media, you should know about it.

How to Handle Bad Reviews

So what do you do if you encounter a bad review?

  •         Remain calm and polite. First, make sure you remain calm and polite throughout the process, even if the reviewer is deliberately trying to antagonize you. If you lose your temper, or if you’re disparaging to the bad reviewer in any way, it’s going to reflect poorly on you. You have time to respond, so write out your message and check the tone carefully before posting.
  •         Leave the review up. In some channels and platforms, you’ll have the option to remove the bad review entirely. However, this is a bad idea; the bad review may be incentivized to be even more aggressive and vocal about their experiences (a manifestation of the Streisand Effect). And if it comes out that you deliberately removed the bad review, it could make your business seem untrustworthy.
  •         Respond directly and publicly. If possible, respond to the reviewer directly and publicly. Oftentimes, you can make a direct comment on the bad review, starting a miniature discussion thread. Doing this directly to the reviewer shows accountability and doing it publicly makes it visible to everyone who sees the bad review initially.
  •         Apologize. Even if you feel like your company has done nothing wrong, apologize as sincerely as you can for whatever you can. Something like, “I’m sorry you had a bad experience. We want to make it up to you,” or “I’m terribly sorry for the error,” is perfect.
  •         Show that you understand. Take a moment to make sure the reviewer knows you’ve actually read their review. If you spam the same generic message, like “Sorry, we’ll do better next time,” to every reviewer, it’s going to come off as insincere. Be personal and prove that you truly understand where they’re coming from.
  •         Clarify and provide additional information, if you can. When possible or appropriate, try to clarify and provide more information. For example, you might be able to elaborate on a misunderstanding and offer your side of the story; or you may provide a reason why this customer’s order was delayed.
  •         Try to make up for the bad experience. Finally, do what you can to make up for the bad experience. Can you offer them a refund? A free replacement product? A discount on their next order? Any gesture you make is going to be valuable if it’s a sincere attempt to make up for the negative experience.

If you take this approach with every bad review your company receives, you’ll be in a much better position. You’ll make the bad reviewers happier, you’ll improve your company reputation, and eventually, you’ll win more customers as a result.