How to Respond to a Negative Review

As small business owners, we work hard to offer something unique to our local communities, to provide quality products and services to our customers, and most importantly to keep our businesses operating, so that our employees continue to have jobs.  We work hard to make sure that our employees can provide for their families, and that we can also provide for our own.  Owning and operating a small business is a labor of love that can feel very much like raising a child.  For this reason, reading a negative review can feel like a personal attack.  

In an ever growing age of social media, online reviews can also have an impact on a small business's success.  The economy hasn’t fully recovered, competition is ever-present, and we struggle to make sure our small business is growing and profitable.  We have fewer dollars for marketing, but we do the best we can.  What do we do while we’re dealing with all of this and then we get a negative review?

1.  Don’t do anything right away.  

Seeing a bad review can hit all of your stressors.  It can make you imagine that you are losing business and seem like every second counts in responding.  Keep in mind that it is very likely that at this point you are emotional.   Wait until the review has had time to sink in and you have had time to calm down.  Perhaps there are insights within the negative review that a calm mind can use to improve your business.  Even if there are not, once you’ve calmed down, ask yourself, “Is there a reason to respond?”  Yelp advises that the best response to a negative review is to thank the customer for their feedback, and leave it at that.  The last thing that you want to do is get in a public online argument with a customer.

2.  Customer service rules still apply online.

When we receive negative feedback from a customer in person, we don’t ignore or argue with the customer, we engage them.  We try to address their issues, validate their complaints, and explain our perspective.  This applies to negative feedback received online as well.  Try to win over your critics.  Address their issues and offer to resolve the situation. Provide apologies, discounts, and rewards as necessary.  Take the time to explain the situation from your point of view.  Do this without trying to invalidate the customer’s feeling or perspective.  This is best done in person, but providing a few compelling details through correspondence can help to get the customer to give you a second chance.  Many times if you can get an unhappy customer to return to your shop, and make things right, you have created a loyal customer for life.

3.  Build your online reputation.

A vital way to market your shop online in to take ownership of your company profiles, and the encourage positive reviews.  Even if your current Yelp or Google+ profile only has negative reviews, your business has loyal customers and fans.  It may surprise you how many of your customers are active on review site communities.  Consider offering rewards for their time and efforts when they act as a reference for you.  Encourage them to leave positive reviews, in their own words, when a customer compliments your products and services.  It is okay to ask for a good review from satisfied customers, but it is important not to set rigid standards or ask for too much.  You certainly don’t want to come across to your customers, or potential customers, as desperate or insincere.  Obviously scripted reviews can do more harm than good.

Another advantage of improving your reviews is that you will dilute negative review by increasing your rating.  New customers that rely on review site communities may evaluate new shops from mobile apps on their smart devices.  In the mobile app, your small business’s rating (star rating for Yelp and number rating for Google+) is far more prominent that the text of your reviews.  Increasing a Yelp rating from 1 star to 4 stars is a good step to improving your review marketing, even if there are long winded negative reviews.

As we have mentioned before, AutoBiz Software’s built in Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) can help to encourage positive reviews.  Our CRM is also an excellent tool that can be used to let customers who give positive feedback in your shop find and review your profile on social media sites like Yelp and Google+.  If you would like more information on how to use our CRM, or would like help in leveraging AutoBiz Software to improve your online ratings, please contact us.  Our sales and support staff will be happy to assist you.

Adam Irby