Four Knee Jerk Responses to Avoid When you Get a Negative or Malicious Online Review

As the saying goes, “you can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time.”

Negative online reviews happen. But what about a particularly malicious, dishonest one, given by a totally unreasonable customer who wants to stick it to you where it hurts? And your appeals to Google, Yelp, Facebook et al go ignored. It doesn’t seem fair.

In this situation business managers often react counterproductively. In the effort to salvage their reputation, they draw more attention to the negative review. While you shouldn’t be relegated to sitting back and turning the other cheek, there are a few common reactions you should avoid:

1. Don’t Ignore it. Instead, have your own voice. If you don’t post responses to your positive and negative reviews, you are allowing others to define your brand in critical social touchpoints. Your Google My Business profile, Facebook page, and Yelp profile belong to your business. They are digital brand assets. Make sure your voice is the one that shines through.

negative online reviews2. Don’t defend yourself on public forums. Instead, keep it professional. Remember that your primary purpose for responding to a negative review is to counter negativity with professionalism. Consider yourself as much speaking to prospective customers as you are to the negative reviewer. The best approach is to simply acknowledge the issue and invite the user to contact you for a resolution. You can apologize if you feel it is appropriate, but an apology can legitimize the reviewers claim, which you should avoid if that claim is malicious or dishonest. Empathy is the better approach: “I understand that your expectations were not met…” or, “I understand that you feel treated unfairly…”

3. Don’t respond more than once. Instead, take it offline.  The next part of your response (after empathizing) should be to invite the reviewer to take the conversation offline. This can take the form of, “…I’d be happy to discuss your concerns. Please contact me at xxx-xxx-xxxx.” Or, “…it sounds as if there may have been a misunderstanding, please call me to discuss.” These statements accomplish two goals, (1) put a close to the online discussion, and (2) show other prospective customers that you are engaged, caring, and professional.

4. Don’t focus your reputation management strategy on mitigating negatives. Instead, emphasize the positive. One of the worst things you can do to your online reputation is to be reactive. Every business gets occasional negative reviews. In fact, products and services with 5-star reviews sometimes have a believability issue. It’s a numbers game. Your goal is to get far more positive reviews than negative ones. The challenge is that people who are upset have motivation to leave a review, while delighted customers don’t.

The solution is simple: proactively solicit reviews from your best customers. If this is done immediately following a positive interaction, and the customer experience is low-friction, response rates will skyrocket and you’ll get significantly more positive reviews than negative ones.

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