The internet has completely transformed the meaning of word-of-mouth, and in 2019, you can get thousands of reviews of restaurants, hotels and–yes–even dentists.
So what do you do when you get a bad one?
In Forbes.com article, TrueBlueLifeInsurance.com owner Brian Greenberg gave three tips on how to deal with them.
“Reviews left on Yelp or Google Plus can either boost your business or lead to your eventual downfall,” he writes. “Five positive reviews on Yelp have been shown to boost your business by up to, whereas one really bad negative review can cost you tens of thousands of dollars in business.”
Greenberg goes on to write that negative reviews can impact things social media and web traffic, and he adds that he’s seen businesses change their name and even shut down because of negative reviews.
He then reminds us of the number one golden rule of business:
The customer is always right.
“After several decades in business, I’ve learned to approach reviews with the goal of giving the best possible customer experience even when they’re angry,” he said. “It keeps reviews from becoming the bane of your existence and shows how dedicated you are to delivering a consistent level of excellence.”
Step 1: Apologize
Greenberg starts this step off with a reminder that everyone is human, and everyone is going to mess things up. And, unfortunately, those mistake can lead to negative reviews.
“Take a deep breath, walk off any initial irritation you may have, and try to reach the consumer outside of the review platform,” he writes. Whatever you do, don’t retaliate. Lashing out at customers is a sure-fire way to lose business and ruin your reputation”
If you can’t find a way to talk with them in the real world, Greenberg suggests responding to the review with humility, telling the customer you;re sorry and you want to ensure the best possible experience for them. Then, he says to reinforce your business’s customer services values and how you are going to correct what was done as soon as possible.
“I’ve found reaching out to the customer and reminding them we’re real people is effective in not only correcting the problem with the individual, but in showing potential customers what to expect from our business,” he writes.
He’s also made it part of his business’s policy to send a $100 Amazon gift card with a physical note that says “We appreciate your patience and value your business.”
“Responding to negative reviews lets customers see how you handle a less-than-ideal situation,” he writes. “Statistically, people will read the negative reviews first. If things go wrong, they want to know what to plan for. Show you’re capable of continuing to deliver excellence even when things aren’t perfect.”
Step 2: Fix It
Just apologizing isn’t enough–the issue actually has to be fixed.
“Putting actions behind your words online helps the customer trust your company more,” Greenberg writes. “They’ll feel you’re being transparent in your solutions and general business accountability, which can only build positive things for your reputation.”
One of Greenberg’s company’s biggest problems has to do with billing. As soon as a customer signs up for insurance, the funds come out of their account, which sometimes leaves them with insufficient funds and overdraft penalties. Greenberg deals with the issue by refunding the overdraft fee, even if it happens multiple times to the same client.
“Knowing we’ll always fix something that’s gone wrong for our customers helps them to trust us and to know they can always contact us with problems,” he wrote. “Building trust cuts down on the need for them to post reviews in the first place, because they know if they contact us directly they’ll be heard and their issue will be addressed.”
Step 3: Follow Up and Ask for Removal
Now that you’ve sincerely apologized and corrected the issue, Greenberg suggests reaching back out to the customer and asking them to remove the negative review.
Asking the customer to take down a negative review can also be a great moment for follow up, Greenberg writes. By checking in with the customer, you’ll make them feel cared for, and they might even change their negative review to a positive one.
“I like to think about it this way: when I’m writing my own reviews, I have an expected outcome that I hope for” he writes. “I want to see the business own their mistake and then correct the issue. If that happens, I’ll most likely take down the negative review. So when it’s time for me to be on the other side of the review process I try to remember what it’s like as the customer.”
What if the plan doesn’t work?
While Greenberg has had mostly positive experiences with getting his customers to take down negative reviews, he admits that it’s not always going to be the case.
“What matters is you’ve demonstrated to the customer, and to anyone else reading the reviews, that you’re apologetic and dedicated to resolving mistakes as quickly and professionally as possible,” he writes. “If you make one customer feel heard and valued in the review section, then other customers will trust you to do the same for them.”
When doing their research on your business, potential customers will see your positive attitude and consider you trustworthy, Greenberg writes, which is why it’s crucial that you stay on top of them.
“By thinking of the review process as an extension of the customer service experience, you’ll handle it like a pro and your customers will keep coming back—in real life and online,” he writes.