If you’re doing business in 2015, then you have a good chance of receiving a bad review every once in a while. As an agency owner that helps brands manage their reputation, we’ve discovered that negative reviews are inevitable for any company that is operating at scale. It’s bound to happen, even to the best companies. But how do you protect your company and your brand’s reputation from the damage a negative review can cause? And how can you actually use bad reviews and turn them into a positive experience for you and the disgruntled customer? I’m glad you asked, because here’s how you do it!

Mitigating Bad Reviews

Let me just start with this piece of advice: Never, ever, under any circumstances, write fake reviews for your company. It’s first off illegal, and it just causes more headaches down the road. Now, with that out of the way, let’s discuss how you deal with the damage of a negative review.

There are many review sites out there that companies need to be aware of. The three we’ll be discussing today are Google, Yelp, and Facebook. There are others that deal with specific verticals and industries but by and large, the strategies I’ll outline for the three major sites will work on almost any review site. I’ll also touch on social interactions that can be viewed as reviews.

First, let’s all take a deep breath and understand that negative reviews are a fact of life. You cannot control the experience that every single one of your customers will have at your business. And as you grow and become more successful, your exposure to negative reviews increases. So, when you finally do receive that dreaded negative review, don’t panic. Instead, you’ll want to develop a plan of action and then work on reversing the effects of the review.

Is It Real?

The first thing you’ll want to do is identify if the review is a real customer. This should be done by going through customer records, reaching out to the reviewer, and discussing it with your staff. Do not dismiss the review as a fake until you’ve done all the homework possible.

But if you have done your research and you feel confident that the review is in fact a fake review posted by a competitor or a disgruntled employee (two of the main sources of fake reviews) then you will want to dispute the review with the website that the review is hosted on. Most review sites have a way for companies to dispute reviews. Just know that you’ll be expected to provide evidence to support your claim.

Okay, It’s Real. Now What?

So, you messed up. Or rather, your company messed up and didn’t give the highest level of service or quality to a certain customer. That’s okay. You’ll initially want to use the negative review as a training exercise with your staff. The goal shouldn’t be to sweep the review under the rug, but rather to learn from the review and ensure that it never happens again.

Once you’ve done that, the next thing you’ll want to do is reach out to the reviewer. Most review sites will allow the business owner to either offer a rebuttal or reply directly to the reviewer. But this isn’t an opportunity to argue your case with the disgruntled client. If you go into the rebuttal with the intent of proving that you weren’t wrong, you’re going to lose.

If someone felt strongly enough to leave a negative review, then they are pretty certain that they’ve been wronged and they want validation. And that’s the key to turning negative reviews around; you have to validate the customer’s feelings.

I’m a big fan of Dale Carnegie. I’ve read his books a dozen times and I always refer back to How to Win Friends and Influence People. And one of the biggest lessons to take from that book is how to validate another individual’s feelings. This doesn’t mean that you’re saying they’re right or even having to admit you’re wrong. But rather, you need to let that individual know that you understand why they’re upset, and that they’re validated in feeling that way. Once this is done, the healing can begin.

So, you’ll want to reach out or respond to the customer that left the negative review and apologize for the experience they had. But you also need to take steps to fix the problem. You’ll do this by asking them how you can make this right. They’ll usually give you a set of demands. If the demands are completely unreasonable, then you need to work on a compromise. Again, referring to Carnegie’s book in this situation will help you immensely.

Once you’ve been able to come up with a solution that solves the problem, it’s completely reasonable for you to explain how the negative review can damage your company. And if the customer feels the issue has been resolved, it would mean a lot to you if they’d remove the review. I’ve rarely encountered a situation where a receptive customer has not agreed to take down the negative review or in some cases change it to a very positive one.

They Won’t Respond!

Alright, so the negative review is going to stick. Either the customer is too angry to be reasoned with or they are non-responsive. If this is the case, you need to fight fire with fire.

If you’re dealing with a star rating system and you have three reviews and, for example, one of them is a five star review and the other two are one star reviews, you’re going to have a bad overall rating. And this is a typical occurrence. People will leave reviews when they feel very strongly about something. So, if you give most of your customers a pretty good experience, they’re not likely to leave a review because “pretty good” isn’t something you’d want to call home about. But people always feel strongly about a perceived slight. So, you’ll often see more negative reviews, even for good companies, if the company is not actively nurturing their customer base.

What do I mean by nurturing your customer base? Again, great question. You get a gold star!

If you want positive reviews to help dilute the effects of the negative reviews, you need to ask for them. It’s just that simple. Make an effort to ask your customers for reviews and you’re likely to have some of them agree to help you out.

To do this, you’ll want to have reminders throughout your location, if you run a brick and mortar establishment. Signs at the checkout counter that say, “Don’t forget to review us on Yelp,” work great as a trigger for people to pull out their phones and leave a quick review.

If you’re an online establishment or have a digital presence, then you need to leverage the power of email. You should be collecting emails for every single customer you interact with (and the ones that aren’t your customers, from a marketing perspective). And once you’ve identified a customer that’s had a great experience, you should immediately reach out to them and ask them to summarize their experience with your company. You’ll want to do it quickly, while the positive emotions are still running strong through their veins. This will increase the chance of them doing it for you. Plus, you’ll want to make it easy for them to leave the review. So, provide links in the email to the pages where they can quickly leave a review.

Go Mining For Positive Reviews

But you shouldn’t wait for a negative review to pop up before you do something about it. Instead, you’ll want to be proactive about gathering positive reviews , so that when the negative reviews come, they’re just a drop in the proverbial bucket.

A quick and easy way to find positive reviews from your existing customer database is to send out a survey. This can be done quickly and easily by using a service like SurveyMonkey or Qualtrics. You can send the survey via email as well as posting it on your social media pages. Then, based on the results you receive, you can send a follow up email to anyone that scored high on their survey asking them to leave a review.

You can also follow up with the low scoring customers and see if you can address their concerns before they become exacerbated and end up in a bad review.

“We didn’t realize we had hundreds of customers who were willing to share with the world their experience,” says Morgan Slain, the Founder of SplashData and TeamsID, two companies that provide password protection for individuals and businesses. He continues, “But once we reached out to our customer base, we were overwhelmed by the response we received. In fact, many of our customers went above and beyond what we’d asked and left reviews on multiple sites and on social media.”

Morgan’s results are not atypical. Many companies are sitting on a gold mine of positive reviews and just need to start digging to discover the riches.

Social Media: The Unwritten Review

Now that you know how to manage review sites, I just want to take a quick moment to discuss the importance of managing your brand mentions on social media. A lot of customers will interact with companies on Twitter and Facebook. They feel that it’s a real-time method for them to vent their frustrations and bring to light their experience.

If you’re not listening for these discussions, you have no way of fixing them or giving your side of the story. So, to help address this, you’ll want to set up some social monitoring tools like Mention or Nuvi. Then assign someone, or spend some time yourself on monitoring the conversations and chiming in whenever you’re needed.

Alaska Airlines is a great example of a brand that is proactive on social media and has made social media monitoring and social customer service a focus. Their level of attention has garnered them a lot of praise and has helped them avoid many messy situations.

Check out another perspective on dealing with negative comments.

 

This article was written by Mike Templeman from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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