Nowadays, a company's reputation plays a vital role in its success. What's more, online consumer reviews define a company's reputation these days. The main reason is that 91% of online consumers read online reviews, while 84% of consumers trust reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations from friends and family. That being said, a negative review or several ones can greatly hurt your reputation online and even hinder your future business. In addition, consumers don't hesitate to voice their opinions and if they're unsatisfied for any reason, they make sure everyone knows about it.
However, not all negative reviews come from unsatisfied customers. In fact, some may come from competitors trying to undermine your reputation. Nevertheless, you have to respond either way because the way you do so will determine whether the situation will go from bad to worse or if you can turn it to your advantage and save your reputation in the process. Therefore, here are a few tips on how to handle negative reviews.
Listen to your audience
One of the surest ways to prevent negative reviews is to not give a reason for your consumers to be unsatisfied. Although this endeavor may be next to impossible, especially since you cannot please every customer, you may address major issues or pain points the majority of your customers have. The best way to achieve that is to listen to your customers.
That being said, don't hesitate to ask your customers for feedback. Make sure you ask customers about anything that's relevant and important to them, such as customer experience, service support, product quality and so on. The more information you manage to gather, the more you can improve upon that feedback. What's more, improving your efforts will show customers that you truly listen and, in return, they'll appreciate your business for it.
Use metrics to track reviews
The key to handling negative reviews is to be aware that someone is writing them. In most cases, consumers post about their bad experiences on social media and every business has social media presence these days. You must know what your audience is saying about you if you wish to maintain your reputation online.
By using valuable metrics, such as social listening, you can effectively track conversations where your company name is being mentioned. That way, you'll be immediately notified if someone has mentioned your brand, especially in a negative comment or review. The main reason this is important is that it gives you an opportunity to respond and mend the situation before it gets out of hand. Moreover, it allows you to determine which sentiment your audience usually mentions you in, such as positive, negative or neutral.
Implement a crisis management plan
Negative reviews are bound to happen sooner or later. As mentioned before, you can't ensure the satisfaction of each individual customer mainly because each customer has specific preferences. However, once your company starts experiencing negative reviews, it's important to act accordingly. That being said, having an effective crisis management plan is crucial in such situations.
Planning allows you to assess the situation quickly and determine the best course of action, i.e. how to respond or how to address the situation. That way, you can avoid a disaster by acting quickly and correctly, instead of neglecting the problem or coming up with a response that will make things even worse. The fact of the matter is that you can turn a bad situation to your favor but only if you react the right way and on time.
Avoid making a mistake
There are a lot of companies that have made a mistake when handling negative reviews and they paid dearly for it. A negative review isn't something that can be ignored or dismissed. In fact, you have to respond properly even if it's not your mistake, to begin with. Therefore, don't ignore negative reviews or they will turn into an avalanche of bad publicity. Also, don't hide or delete comments and reviews, and don't block the person who wrote them. If you do, consumers will perceive you as a guilty party.
Furthermore, don't rely on automated responses because they can make the situation even worse, especially if there's a particularly angry customer involved. Instead, respond to negative comments in person and on time, and promise to fix the problem regardless of who's to blame. Also, ask the angry customer to provide you with details of the problem they're having and ensure them that you'll handle the issue. That way, you show customers that even if you make a mistake, you're willing to admit you're wrong but more importantly, you're willing to rectify the mistake and improve customer experience.
In a digital world where information is freely circling the Internet, companies are unable to hide their doings. In other words, if you wrong a customer in any way, the news will spread like wildfire. In such situations, the best course of action is to handle negative reviews instead of ignoring the issue at hand. That is especially true if you value your online reputation.
Written by Elaine Bennett
Elaine Bennet is a blogger, currently writing for Bizzmark Blog. She's a digital marketing specialist, passionate about helping small businesses grow. Follow her on Twitter to find more of her articles.