How to handle bad customer reviews

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While customer reviews are an essential part of running any business, you are going to get some bad ones – sometime justified, sometimes not. What can you go to handle them?

While it is hard to not take all criticism personally and go on the defensive, in such a public arena as the web, social media or on your own site it is very unwise. And, if dealt with properly, negative reviews can become something useful to your business and even can be converted to more sales.

So what do you do if you get a stinker?

Don’t get personal

The obvious human reaction to a negative review is to go off  the deep end and hit back at the ‘haters’. But this is ALWAYS the wrong thing to do. While you may not be able to take it on the chin, you have to look objectively at the caustic review or reviews and assess what they say and what they mean.

Calm down and assess the situation and the comments before you do anything at all.  Sending out a reply telling the complainant that they are “fat, disgusting losers” as Amy’s Baking Company in the US famously did in 2011. It turned a couple of bad reviews into an international news story. Not good for business.

Understand the complaint

Before hitting back, then assess what the complaint is saying.

  • Is it one in a sea of overwhelmingly positive ones?
  • Are there many similar negative reviews?
  • Is it the same complainant every time?

Once you have ascertained it’s a one off, then you can look at how to tackle that particular issue with that individual – ideally offline and out of public view.

If you find that there is a spate of bad reviews for the same issue from a range of different people, then you need to look very closely at the cause of this issue and, again deal with it individually with each complainant, but also if its warrants it, you may need to take very public steps to tackle the issue and rectify it.

Handle it with good grace

When dealing with individual complaints and bad reviews, you must take a deep breath and explain that you understand the complaint and be polite and assume that the complainer is in the right.

It takes inner strength, but dealing with things civilly and politely can often diffuse a situation and take the sting out of the other party’s anger.

Once you have achieved this then you are half way to turning a ‘hater’ into a ‘lover’. How you handle complaints and bad reviews can often be the making of a huge brand advocate when handled correctly.

Take it offline

Don’t get into a slanging match on the review site or on the comments page of your own site. Its as simple as that, just don’t.

Be proactive

You can often avoid negative reviews altogether if you follow up a sale with an email asking there and then for a “how was your experience today?” email. This can often illicit any negative responses on a personal, offline basis and so you don’t end up with a stinging review online.

It’s not all bad

Remember, 30% of people don’t trust a site with no negative reviews. You may not like what people who say negative things say, but their reviews are as valuable as all the positive ones.



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