Turn Negative Reviews Into Positive Experiences With These 5 Tips

Turning a frown upside down has never been as simple as it sounds. Not in person, not online (and not even in art class). In a previous post, we discussed how user-generated content influences consumer behavior. Online reviews on sites like Yelp, Google, Glassdoor and Angie’s List – even your company’s Facebook page – can be especially swaying. People like to research a business before trying and buying, so crowd-sourced reviews can make or break your opportunities with prospective clients.

Like it or not, everyone will get a few negative reviews here and there – some deserving, some completely undeserving (Thanks, trolls). Don’t be discouraged. With the right strategies, you can start getting the good reviews you want and even turn negative reviews into positive ones. Here are a few tips to help you handle these reviews:

  1. Set Clear Expectations. One way to avoid complaints is to make sure you’re very clear about what your customers should expect. For example, prior to my glamorous career in PR, I worked as a bartender at a Thai restaurant. Our menu had a ranking system of chili peppers to specify how hot each dish was – Pad Thai had zero and my favorite, the Yang Tuna, was ranked with five (and was literally slathered in diced Thai chili peppers). As straightforward as the chili pepper ranking system seemed, some guests would still complain about spiciness. I noticed that many customers were often too engaged in conversation to pay attention to the peppers on their menu – so I found it helpful to double-check with them before placing the order. This helped prevent a lot of fires (in their mouths).The same principle applies in other settings – if you spot a potentially problematic issue, it may be wise to warn customers. “In order for this calendar to look its best, please upload images that have a resolution of 640×427 pixels.” “This product is custom-made to order, so please allow an extra week for this one-of-a-kind item to ship!” Don’t assume their expectations are the same as yours. A quick “heads up” can spare customers from a lot of disappointment and complaints.
  2. Be Proactive. Don’t wait for them to share their frustrations with all of cyberspace. Often, disgruntled customers turn to social media and post negative reviews as a last result. If you happen to notice that a customer seems upset or if you know something went wrong with an order, take an opportunity to address the issue before they turn to the internet. Accidents are going to happen, but you can anticipate them and prepare strategies to swiftly handle unpleasant situations before they escalate. Make sure people leave with smiles on their faces and you can guarantee to see less negative reviews.
  3. Respond with Tact. Sometimes you may get reviews that are downright nasty. You may be tempted to fight fire with fire. But before you man the battle station, stop and remember that potential customers will be reading your response. A cold, vindictive response will only further damage your reputation. Calm down and think carefully before typing.It may also be tempting to ignore the negativity, but no response is almost as bad as a spiteful one. On a positive note, a recent study by Medallia shows that businesses that responded to 1-10% of their reviews enjoyed a growth of 3.2%. Businesses that responded to over 50% of their reviews grew occupancy rates by about 6.4%, which is more than twice the rates of those who ignored reviews.The LAST acronym is very helpful for addressing complaints:
    • Listen – Pretty self-explanatory. Listen to their problem, pay attention to key details about the problem.
    • Apologize – Regardless of who’s to blame, apologize for the situation and any trouble it has caused. Own up to your mistakes and give a sincere apology.
    • Solve – Take steps to correct the problem. If the damage is irreversible, try to find an appropriate way to compensate the customer for what’s been done. Try to make amends by offering something to them – a discount on a future order, a refund or a gift card to come back and try your business again.
    • Thank – Again, self-explanatory. Thank them for their patience and for bringing the matter to your attention.

    It may be wise to steer the conversation off of the internet and onto a more appropriate channel of communication. A response like this can be very helpful: “I’m so sorry to hear about this! I’d like to discuss this with you, one-on-one, as soon as possible. Please call/email me or let me know how I can get into contact with you.”

  4. Encourage Reviews from Happy Customers. Keep in mind that people are more likely to turn to review sites to complain than to sing praises. They come to your business expecting to leave satisfied, so when they receive the good service they expect, it’s nothing really to write home (or on Yelp) about. Getting good reviews can be like pulling teeth – you really need to “wow” your guests to get those five stars!When you get some good verbal feedback from a client, use it as an opportunity to ask them for an online review. “Thanks so much! I’m so glad to hear about how happy you are with your experience. Would you mind giving us a good review on our Facebook page?” Send follow-up emails and ask customers to share their experiences. Just a simple, “How did your order come out? We would love to hear about it. Would you mind taking a few quick minutes to review us on ____?”
  5. Be Realistic. No one likes to be criticized. Seeing a review with one lonely little star can ruin your whole day. It’s important though, to be realistic. Remember, you can’t please everyone. Even when you do everything right, someone could just be in a bad mood one day and take it out on your business. Your style just might not click with theirs. Just remember the big picture and keep in mind that these reviews can be a blessing in disguise when there is truth behind them. If you can take the feedback and make changes to reflect the reviewers’ recommendations, you’ll see those stars go up in no time.

For more information, check out these Best Practices for Responding to Online Reviews.

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