The internet has provided an opportunity for your customers to sit behind their keyboards and air their grievances (or compliments) to the world. This can have many business owners grumbling, as it is assumed that a bad online review is a poor reflection of your business. But here is the truth:

  1. Poor reviews do not mean that your whole business is bad…and consumers know this.
  2. A bad online review can provide a unique opportunity for improvement.
  3. Handling bad reviews can be simple and effective.

No Business is Perfect

And, in fact, businesses that have perfect reviews are perceived by customers as being inauthentic. A 2013 Harvard Business School study revealed that consumers trust reviews that provide more of a mix of pros and cons of an establishment.

Customers use online reviews to guide their purchase decisions, which results in an increase in customer satisfaction.

For example, if your restaurant has received a bad online review which states that the caesar salad is a bit strong on the anchovy side, and a customer loves anchovies, she may order the salad based on the bad review and be very pleased.

Another example is when a product review states that a dress runs on the small side, a consumer can take that negative review and be successful in ordering an appropriate size.

Disappointment occurs when expectations are not fulfilled. Negative reviews can guide the purchase decisions of future customers and adjust expectations about specific products.

So, now that you understand that a negative online review is not the end of the world, what can you do to turn it around?

1. Don’t Freak Out

Think of the review as a new piece of information to assist you in the improvement of your business or product offerings. Remember that consumers do not expect perfection, but they do expect response and honesty.

2. Publish the Bad Online Review

Many online review forums allow the owner to remove negative reviews. Resist the urge. Every business has unhappy customers. Consider that Thermomix has been a successful kitchen appliance since the 1960s, in spite of the fact that unhappy customers have created an entire Facebook page just to complain about them.

Showing that you have nothing to hide, by publishing both good and bad reviews, reveals the human element of your business and consumers appreciate that.

3. Respond to Bad Reviews Publicly and Individually

Demonstrating that you are paying attention to negative feedback and responding to it shows integrity. Respond to the review publicly. Do not offer excuses, offer solutions. Allow the unhappy customer to become a part of the solution by soliciting solutions and following through with them.

Contact the unhappy customer personally, also. Let them know that you take customer satisfaction seriously. Either offer them a gift card or product…something that will encourage customer retention. In addition, follow up to let them know how you have addressed the issue.

4. Learn From the Review

Avoid becoming defensive about the content of the review. Use the bad feedback as a tool to review systems, products, employees, etc. If you find that you have received several negative reviews about one particular product, maybe it is time to remove that product from your offerings or revise the description to reflect more accurately.

If the reviews are consistently about the same employee, perhaps it is time to retrain the employee using a training tool like Call Informer or Secret Shopper. Whatever the complaint addresses, it is an opportunity for improvement.

5. Actively Seek Positive Reviews

The best way to combat negative reviews is to outweigh them with positive reviews. Encourage customers through social media or discounts to post their feedback on Yelp and social media sites. It is part of human nature to speak up when disappointed. Encouraging your happy customers to speak up, as well, will eventually drown out the bad review and get your business back on track.

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