Whatever the scenario, ignoring negative online reviews won’t help and could make things worse. Ask John* from Auckland what he did wrong when his food product was under attack online from a consumer, and he’ll say not responding damaged his reputation even more.
It was two years ago that a customer decided to target his range of specialty snacks, accusing him of labelling them as organic and vegan when they weren’t.
“I knew my ingredient details were absolutely correct, but the customer involved didn’t listen,” he says now. “She continued to bad-mouth my products online but I didn’t respond because I thought she would go away. Then other customers started questioning the validity of my claims until, in desperation, I called the police. They couldn’t do much for me and, thankfully, the woman eventually stopped posting. But the damage to my brand is still affecting sales after all this time, and I wish now I’d been more proactive.”
So how do you react in the face of online attack? There are eight steps that could help your company straight away:
Build up good reviews to dilute the bad. Probably the most important step you can take to improve matters, as you have control over diluting the bad reviews with positive ones. Be careful, however…soliciting reviews is banned on most sites. Link your online reviews on your website, such as a post-purchase thank you page. Prominently display the sites where customers can comment, and email subscribers direct links to positive reviews.
Do you actually need to fix something? You’re feeling annoyed and touchy about the bad review and it can be easy to go on the defensive immediately. But is there an air of truth to the review? If the commenter is frequently on other sites, their feedback might be valuable. Or they might be just a hater. Take a minute to honestly evaluate.
Respond…always. It doesn’t matter what you think of the review – good or bad – you should reply to all. The impact goes far beyond how that particular customer thinks of you and, while only a handful of consumers leave reviews, hundreds or thousands are scrolling through the reviews. Not responding means you don’t care about your reputation, or you aren’t monitoring the reviews, or you’re trying to hide something.
If you don’t have enough positive reviews. It’s sometimes hard to find enough positive stuff to make a difference, so it might be time to shift your efforts elsewhere. Google your business and see what other review sites pop up. Focus on building up positive reviews on them, to dilute the negative reviews in the search engine results.
Don’t allow free shots. Whether your critics are active on social media or on review sites like Google, don’t allow anyone a free shot. Always be respectful, obviously, but don’t lay down with your legs in the air and let the criticism go unattended.
Go offline as soon as you can. Respond to every review, but don’t get into the dirty details – keep your response brief, avoid discussing specifics and move offline immediately. An immediate response could be ‘We are so sorry to hear you had such a bad experience with our product. Please reach out to us at ….so we can discuss it further. Give us a call and ask for Frank’.
Don’t use automated responses. If you’re going to cut and paste all your responses, don’t bother responding at all. Dissatisfied customers want to be taken seriously and responding authentically means you are doing just that.
Turn that customer around. There’s no larger fan and advocate than a customer who has complained the loudest and been happy with your response and actions. Always try to salvage a relationship, as you can turn them into a repeat customer. Sometimes that’s impossible, but a respectful and generously worded public response can make YOU look better, while at the same time discrediting the reviewer.
Negative reviews might sting, but they aren’t the end of the world. A few negative reviews shouldn’t irreparably harm your business, so long as you take customer service seriously. However, if negative reviews are outnumbering good ones, listen to them. Fix what’s broken in your business and then deal with fixing your reputation.
*John’s name has been changed for anonymity.