7 Deadly Sins of Responding to Negative Reviews
In our recent book, “Five Stars: Putting Online Reviews to Work for Your Business,” we showed some examples of painfully poor business responses to negative online reviews on Yelp, Google+, and other online review venues. With the right response strategy in place, business owners can see negative reviews as an opportunity rather than a source of lost sleep!
Here are seven deadly sins we’ve found when looking at business responses to reviews; are you guilty of any of them?
Deadly Sin #1: Ignoring online reviews
The first rule of online reviews is pay attention to your online reviews. Ignoring them will not make them go away, it will just ensure that your business is not part of the conversation. We recommend that every business develop a sustainable process for monitoring online reviews. This can be as simple as having a staff member visit review sites on a regular basis, or as advanced as using a sophisticated monitoring tool such as Revinate or Brandseye.
Deadly Sin #2: Not publicly responding to reviews
In our research for our book, we heard from more than one industry insider that responses to online reviews – both positive and negative reviews – help prevent future negative reviews and give readers a good impression of the business. Most major online review venues, including Yelp, TripAdvisor and Google, allow businesses to respond to reviews. Don’t miss this opportunity to get your own words in front of future readers.
Deadly Sin #3: Having no process for making business changes based on reviews
In our research, the businesses with the best online reviews management system included a systemic, integrated process for their business to learn from its reviews. One hotel included TripAdvisor review discussion in their daily operations meetings. Why miss out on this free market research? As long as you don’t overreact (see Sin #4), online reviews can help you iron out some of your flaws, get ideas for improvement, and give credit where it’s due.
Deadly Sin #4: Overreacting and taking it personally
Especially for small businesses, a negative review can feel like a punch in the gut. Small business owners pour their heart and soul (and no small portion of their personal fortune) into their business, and a negative reviewer may callously discount all that with a click of a mouse. If a business owner tends to react emotionally to negative reviews, a more dispassionate replacement should be in charge of monitoring and responding to reviews. And remember: a single negative review doesn’t need to result in a massive overhaul of your business. Changes are needed when you’re seeing a pattern of reviews that show similar or consistent complaints.
Deadly Sin #5: Responding in haste
Feeling a bit upset by the unfair negative review you just received on Yelp? Give yourself at least a 24-hour cooling off period before responding. Just wait a bit. Really. Otherwise you’re going to end up with Sin #6…
Deadly Sin #6: A defensive or angry response
When dealing with negative online reviews, it’s important to remember that the target audience for your response is not the reviewer you’re responding to, it’s future readers of the review. Don’t use this space to argue with the reviewer, use it to make yourself look great to future readers by doing the following:
- Apologize for the bad experience
- State what you’re doing to make things better
- Correct factual errors but don’t argue about opinions
- Remain utterly and totally cool. Nobody wants to go to a business where the owner seems ready to explode due to a bit of criticism.
- Include your contact information or a way for them to follow up
We provide more details on the best ingredients for negative review responses in Chapter 7 of our book.
Deadly Sin #7: Missing removal opportunities
If you think a review will get taken down just because it’s a load of hogwash, then you’re out of luck. That’s not going to happen. However, there are some reasons for which you may be able to legitimately get a review removed. For example, if a review is filled with secondhand information, or includes inappropriate language, it may violate the terms of service of the venue on which it is posted. Most venues such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google+ allow a business owner to flag a review and leave a note explaining the problem – if you think the review violates the venue’s guidelines, we say, go for it!
We hope this has been a helpful list! If you think we missed any sins, please let us know in the comments!