It is a truth universally acknowledged that a business in possession of an online presence will inevitably receive a bad review at some point. Whilst it is perhaps very tempting to ignore a bad review and instead sing “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me!” at the top of your lungs, burying your head in the sand is counterproductive.
So, what do you need to do?
Monitor your online presence
First things first, you need to monitor your brand’s online presence. If you aren’t listening out for the reviews, you won’t hear ‘em - if a tree grumbles in the middle of the woods and no one is around to hear it, etc. etc. Google Alerts are great for this, likewise Hootsuite and Mention. Regular and systematic monitoring of the platforms that your customers are using will allow you to identify bad reviews when they happen so you can reply promptly.
Before jumping straight into a conversation, take a look at the reply. Does it look authentic and legit, or spammy and troll-y? You can flag inappropriate or spammy posts on most platforms, but this function should only be used for troll posts, not just any old bad review.
What exactly is the problem your customer has experienced? What are the action points needed to resolve this? What timeframe would these actions be completed in? Before composing a reply, plan what the best approach is to tackle these individual questions.
Respond! Reply in a friendly and professional manner. Remember that these people are already customers, so you’re going to want to keep them on board.
Stay on brand in your reply. If you’re generally formal and informative, keep to this tone of voice. Likewise, if you are chatty and charming, stick to that. Most importantly, do not get defensive – it is unprofessional, childish and will do more damage to the situation. It is far better to be accountable for your customer’s complaints than to dismiss them.
Respond on the same platform on which they have approached you. If they have tweeted you, PM’ing them just reads as cowardly (and a bit creepy). Additionally, it won’t just be the original commenter looking at your comments, other chaps will be using reviews of your business to inform their decision. It’s vital that these prospects see the conclusions to bad reviews as well.
And as with all customer service, be consistent! Don’t favour the easily-solvable cases. Your customers need to feel equally cared for and valued.
Or rather, don’t get personal. This goes back to being accountable and avoiding being defensive. Instead, personalise your reply by calling them by their name (or handle) and engage with the complaint itself. A generic reply is as effective as putting a damp flannel on a raging fire. Reply from your brand’s account for authenticity, but with a personalised (AKA human) sign off, e.g. ‘Jim-Bob at NLM’.
Embrace that silver lining
Whaaat? Hear me out.
If all of your reviews are 5 stars and contain comments like “amazing!”, “this made my life!”, or “I’d give 6 stars if I could!”, it’s hard not to read these as manufactured or faked. A few bad reviews speckled amongst the good can authenticate your business in the eyes of any prospect.
As a rule, best practice for engaging with bad reviews is to follow the LEARN principle:
Listen to the complaint, and make it clear to your customers that you are paying attention. Replies, ‘have a suggestion?’ pages and surveys are all good ways to demonstrate your business’ willingness to listen and improve.
Empathise with the customer’s frustration. Their complaints are legitimate and deserve to be treated as such. Having your complaints listened to and understood helps take the sting out of the situation, and this will aid in easing a successful conclusion.
Apologise in order to demonstrate both accountability and that you’re listening. Do this with sincerity – a sarcastic ‘there, there’ won’t cut it.
React and action a solution! This could be sending out a replacement product, amending some copy, or adjusting how a particular service is carried out.
Notify your customer! Let them know that their complaint has contributed to the business. This can act as a conclusion to the interaction, a ‘happily ever after’, if you will. And, of course, inform your team on these changes so as to not repeat the situation!
Seek out reviews
Finally, seek out new reviews! Keep them coming in - here’s how.
On the lookout for some more tips on how you can turn your website into a shining beacon of digital joy? Then the guide below will be right up your street!