Dealing with Bad Reviews
by Michael Waite, Bonefrog Creative
Bad internet reviews...they stink. They sting. And they can stay up for a long time, depending on the review venue. The good news is that they tend to get buried by the load of information that is being published online month after month. The bad news is there's rarely a way to remove them—nor do you want to. Making your bad reviews disappear smells of hiding something.
No matter how hard you try to provide great products and service, mistakes happen, and bad reviews can follow. The net is thick with places for consumers to voice their opinions and pin-up critiques. Maybe even on your own website. Your business isn't perfect, nor can you make all the people happy all the time. Not to mention those that live to complain, or pick apart and burn down the reputation of others. So can do you do when you get a bad review?
—If you're not a fault, then take a deep breath and remind yourself that consumers in general understand no business is perfect and stuff happens. They also know that the world has plenty of negative people who live to complain and will do so no matter what...so they take a few nasty reviews with a grain of salt...until/unless they're seeing too many of them, from too many people. Then they sit up and take notice.
—If you are at fault, do what you can to make it right with the customer, then take the needed steps to make sure it doesn't happen again.
—If it's a matter of a bad match between your product and service and the customer and his or her expectations, take a hard look at your marketing materials. Are you promising too much? Reaching too far? Trying to be all things to all people? You simply can not be. Focus your marketing efforts on those customers that are the best match for what you offer. Be transparent and up front about what your product or service can and cannot do. Be concise and clear about your company policies and restrictions, and make them easy to find.
Are you assuming too much about what customers may know and understand about the process or the set-up or the service? Sometimes a few word changes on the policies or gentle reminders in strategic locations on key policies are all it takes to avoid misunderstandings and blown-up expectations. But there must be a balance. If you have too many rules and regulations and limiting polices, you are less attractive to do business with; perceived as too much trouble, or too hard to work with. Sometimes a simple, positively-written explanation as to why a particular unpopular policy might exist can make people aware of it and get them to understand and buy-in, even if they don't like it. The FAQs and polices pages on your website are great for such things. The more concise information you provide, the more comfortable people will be doing business with you.
Once your've got your business house in order, do this: cultivate good reviews from happy customers. That is the single most effective bad-review medicine you can apply. Good reviews on various webpages are good for business, drown out the few sour reviews, and boost your stature overall, especially if people will also include a hot link back to your site.
Cultivate a pile of good reviews by simply asking for them. If you get an email or phone call or positive comment in person, kindly ask the person if they wouldn't mind posting they're comments and positive experience online somewhere. Be prepared with a handful of review sites they can use (make it easy for them), specially those in your industry as well as general places on the big-boy sites like Google and Yahoo! (The local search area of Google, called Places, allows customers to post reviews about you if you have a listing). Consider having these review resources printed on a small thank you card and hand them to happy customers upon conclusion, inviting them to post a detailed review, explaining how much it helps your business and how deeply you'd appreciate it. Ask for them and you'll get them. More than you will if you simply let nature take it's course. You know how it goes: your basic happy customer may passively tell a few others, whereas those seeing red go out and start a big nasty stink-fire. So you've got to invite (even incentivize) your satisfied customers to go online and light some cheery, marshmallow-roasting fires. Lots of them. Everywhere. And especially on the sites holding the bad reviews. You may show them where, or how, just don't tell them what to say.
—When you get a bad review, take action by going to the forum where the review appeared and post a follow-up comment. Most if not all review-type sites allow comments to be posted as followups to the original post/review. In you follow-up, identify yourself as the company being hammered on and very calmly and politely (and briefly) state your position, policy, and what you tried to do to rectify it. People understand that company policies exist, and that some people don't like being told no, but rules are rules. In the case of a mistake, admit to the mistake and state that steps were taken to avoid the repeat of such mistakes.
—A bad review can be immediately dog-piled by contacting some of your loyal, long-time repeat customers and asking them to go specifically to the review site where you have the negative review and post positive ones...honest reviews about good experiences and that they have used your services or products for X number of years...those kind of reviews are powerful mojo.
—Set up a Google Alert (or similar service) for your company name. That way, when reviews pop up out there, both good and bad, you'll know about them. It never hurts to send thank you emails or cards to those who take the time to sing your praises. They'll sing them even louder next time if they know you appreciate it.
Of course, this bury-it-with-praise tactic is only viable if you have your business and customer service processes up to praise-worthy standards—too many bad reviews should send you on a mission to first correct the problem. And stick with it: that warm, net-filling shine of the good word is built over time. Start now.
phone: (208) 776-5210
© Michael Waite • (May be reprinted as long as contact information is included)