While we hope this never happens to you, the reality is that every business, at one point or another, is going to receive poor reviews or negative comments from less-than-satisfied customers.
If you’re a good and reputable business, this shouldn’t happen very often. But even if you’ve braced yourself for it, your heart will still sink when you see that negative review. The key is to take the review seriously but also know how to pick yourself up off the ground so that it doesn’t negatively impact your business and services going forward.
Ready or not, here’s your crash course on handling bad reviews!
Monitor your Brand Mentions
Before you can respond to any negative review, you need to know they exist! Monitor all your websites and social media accounts, and have alerts set up for brand mentions outside your website!
You can use Google Alerts to notify you when a specific term is used on ANY website, anywhere. This is a FREE service from Google. Just make sure you put your brand in quotation marks, otherwise you’ll get tons of notices of unrelated content.
By being up-to-date in your brand mentions, you will not only be able to keep up with negative reviews, but you can also see if your marketing tactics are working or if you need to up your game.
Repeat after us: Don’t panic!
Anger and defensiveness are expected when you first stumble upon a bad review or negative comment. Hey, you’re only human! You’ve worked incredible hard just for someone to come along and slag it off… who are they to badmouth you?!
But the reality is, that’s not a productive attitude.
If you need to vent, do it privately. Make use of a punching bag at the gym or scream into a pillow if you really need to… but don’t let any colleagues or clients see you sweat!
After you’ve taken a breather and have calmed down, it’s time to take an objective look at the situation. Remember, being defensive doesn’t help you here. You need to approach the situation with the understanding that you may have done something wrong—you have to be open to that possibility.
Learn as much as you can about the person who’s making the complaint. Is she a past or current client of yours? If so, you should have records of all dealings with her. If there were any incidents that could have led to this review, let’s hope you took careful notes during the fact. These will come in handy now.
Uncover the Facts
If the person is not a direct client (past or current), then you need to learn a little more about them. Without being creepy(!), check them out on social media and try to figure out what their beef is with your brand. Are they someone who simply likes to complain in order to get free stuff? Or did you truly offend them in a way that requires an apology?
Note: Often times, if a non-customer complains about you it will have something to do with your marketing. They could be offended by something you’ve posted on social media, or about an ad you put out in front of your studio, etc. In this case, it’s important to remember that for every person who complains, there are probably a hundred others who were equally offended but didn’t bother letting you know about it!
Once you have enough information, it’s time to respond. Ideally, this is done very quickly—you don’t want your clients to think you’re not taking their complaints seriously! In a perfect world, you’ll respond to a negative review within hours of it being posted. At the worst… 24-48 hours, tops.
Never respond to a review when you’re angry. Your anger will inevitably pour into your response… whether you mean it to or not.
Be polite and courteous. Always start out by thanking the reviewer for his or her comments. Whether you agree with it or not, they took the time to inform you of what they consider a serious problem, so you should acknowledge that.
Be professional, but be authentic. There’s nothing worse than a corporate, boilerplate response to negativity these days. People see right through them. Take the time to write something from the heart and be sincere. Trust us, people can tell the difference!
Always respond publicly. If they gave the initial review publicly, don’t just post the generic response, “Thank you for your feedback. We have replied to you privately to discuss the situation”. You want those who stumble on this negative review to be able to see the carefully crafted response that you left to resolve the conflict. Remember not to give out any private information about the reviewer in your response, though!
If it was an honest and fair review…
Acknowledge the review and explain how you plan on taking the necessary actions to remedy the situation. Apologize directly to the reviewer, and if there’s anything you can do to help them further, offer that as well. It can be hard to change someone’s attitude about your brand, but your exceptional customer service and sincerity might just do the trick!
You don’t have to shell out money!
Many people think the best way to shut a complainer up is to offer them a refund. While this is true and likely the easiest method, it’s not always the best tactic because it doesn’t show that you truly care. Instead, try offering the customer a sincere explanation, and perhaps a revisit once the issue has been resolved.
If the Review was Unfounded…
Sometimes clients will make a negative review out of frustration even though they have no basis for the accusation. This can happen especially if there are additional fees for the services you provided, or if something unexpected took place that was beyond your control—such as discovering fleas on the dog and having to give them a flea bath!
Be professional, calm, and courteous, but if you feel like you received an unfair, negative review, you are allowed to tell your side of the story. Apologize to the client for his/her reaction, but don’t apologize for your actions if you did nothing wrong. Instead, address it in a cordial but firm manner.
Try to be objective when looking at your own response. If you came upon this review as a pet-owner searching for a professional groomer, and then read the response, would it seem like the groomer handled the situation with grace and decorum? Would you feel like s/he was in the right?
If the answer is “yes”, then it’s a good response!
If a Reviewer Starts a War
Whether they’re in the right or not, there are some nuts out there who just want attention. If the client continues to harass you once you’ve responded and dealt with the situation, then it’s time to take further action. You can warn them that their behavior is unacceptable and if you need to, you can get a lawyer involved. 99% of you will never experience this type of negativity… but if you do, just remember: the absolute WORST thing you can do, is to get into a fight with a client over a bad review. Regardless of how much the person grinds your gears, always remain polite, courteous, and objective.