“DO NOT USE THIS COMPANY.”
That’s the first sentence of an actual online customer review for a security company. It’s apparent that the reviewer shared their experience in an effort to deter potential customers, but is a negative online review really an effective way to achieve that goal?
The short answer is yes. A study conducted by SearchEngineLand.com in 2012 revealed that approximately 72 percent of consumers surveyed said they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Not only are more consumers doing online research before making purchases, but more customers – both satisfied and unsatisfied – are sharing their experiences with companies on review websites such as Yelp.
With more than 36 million reviews, Yelp is one of the most popular review websites, but it’s not the only place consumers can spill the beans. They can pen reviews on Angie’s List, Google, Yahoo, MerchantCircle and even on your company’s social media pages. Not all reviews are bad; in fact, Yelp reports that 80 percent of the reviews posted on its website are positive (three or more stars on a five-star scale). But even good companies fall victim to the dark side of online reviews.
While your products and services may be truly exceptional, at some point you’re likely to encounter a customer who is less than thrilled with your company. Every business – even Zappos.com, a company widely recognized because of their stellar customer service – gets a poor review occasionally.
So what do you do if your company gets a negative review? The best way to counteract naysayers is to address them. Here are three steps to help you handle negative comments about your company in a professional manner.
Transparency is key
The painful truth about online reviews is that many popular review websites don’t let business owners delete or change reviews from consumers. Business owners are only permitted to provide a response.
Social media pages are a different story, however. Since you have complete control and can easily monitor what is posted about your company, it’s tempting to delete negative comments. But unless the post contains vulgar or derogatory language, don’t delete it. Social media is all about transparency; accept the criticism and move on to the next step.
Read, read and read again
The first time you read a negative review, you may take it personally and get angry. Instead, take some time to cool down, then read the review again. Make sure you really understand why the reviewer is upset, even if that means reading it a third time. By reading the review multiple times, you will be able to see the situation from the customer’s point of view. In addition, you will be able to spot spam reviews and bogus comments left by bitter former employees or competitors. Those reviews aren’t worth the time or effort it takes to respond.
Respond with respect
After you have assessed the situation and determined it’s a legitimate complaint, it’s time to respond. When you address the criticism, always speak to the reviewer and future audience in an honest, empathetic tone. An acceptable response is made up of three parts: an apology, steps to improvement and an offer to follow up offline. Remember to speak like a human and personalize your response to each review.
Here’s an example:
“Hi, Mary. Thank you for taking time to share your experience with ABC Security Company. I apologize that we did not meet your expectations. It shouldn’t have taken so much time to troubleshoot your security system. We are taking the necessary steps to improve the problem and make sure that it doesn’t happen again. I regret the inconvenience, and I would like to make this right. Please contact me so we can discuss the situation further. Our number is 555-555-1212; ask for Richard. I hope to speak to you soon.”
Never argue with a customer and don’t make excuses for the problems they experienced with your company – it could result in an additional negative review. If you offer to take the discussion offline, be available and ready to deliver a better experience.
While you can’t control what your customers say about you, you can control the way your company reacts. Respond to and learn from your customers’ critiques. It could change the way your potential customers view your company and that can have a big impact on your bottom line.
This article originally appeared in Security Nation, 2013, Vol. 2.