By @TheMarkDalton

Negative reviews of your business can be painful both emotionally and financially. You put hard work in, you put yourself out there and you want to have great success. However, the customer has a stronger voice than ever before thanks to review sites like Yelp! and social media platforms. So how do you handle a negative online review?

There is no way around it. This is business, bad reviews are going to happen. You are going to get one star reviews, you are going to get people telling you that your product sucks.

With the comfort of being placed behind a keyboard, customers can really let rip at you and can say pretty hurtful things that they wouldn’t say face to face. It sucks. You want to make your customers happy so when someone blasts you publicly online it can be hard to take.

However, there is something you can do about bad reviews. It probably isn’t what you are thinking of right at this minute, but I’m going to show you how to look at them in a different light and what you can do about them.

A bad review doesn’t mean you are bad

First thing we need to get out of the way is that negative reviews are not to be taken personally. Even if the person reviewing is being a complete jerk about it. You will get different types of reviews, the person who leaves a bad review but they are trying to help and are polite about it. The person who just cuts to the chase when leaving a bad review with little sentiment and finally the grade A jerk.

As your business grows you are going to see more negative reviews over time. If you have 100 reviews, 10 of which are bad and you let those 10 get to you then how will you cope with 500 bad reviews out of 10,000?

You need to try and look at negative reviews from several different standpoints.

1) Your business is just not right for the customer
Your business won’t provide a solution for every single person under the sun and your product, as wonderful as it may be to you, will not be the answer for everyone.

Just as someone may find your product a solution to their problems, for someone else it could be the wrong solution. That is not a reflection on you or your product, it just means that what you were offering was not right for the customer.

And that’s okay, that is part of business.

2) A chance to flip the script
Shit happens. Mistakes are made and things go wrong all the time. However when that happens there is a chance to forge a stronger relationship with a bad reviewer.

If you can leverage and recover well from a mistake, be humble and offer a solution while listening to the customer, then you can forge a stronger bond than before.

Customer service is not about being perfect, it is not about eliminating mistakes and trying to be a shining light to every customer. It is also about leveraging the opportunity of holding your hands up, admitting to a mistake and then providing a solution.

3) People have bad days
We all have bad days. I have bad days, you have bad days…your customers also have bad days.

When we have a bad day we lash out and we take the frustration out on others. Businesses can be an easy target, as a business owner that absolutely sucks. However, that is just the way it is and we have all more than likely had days where we have been that horrible customer.

Take a step back and keep an open mind, it may well not all be about you.

How to respond to a negative review

Negative reviews can come over small things or big things. Either way you need to keep in mind that what may be a big deal to the customer may not be a big thing to you. However, customers are not going out of their way to burn you for no reason. More than likely you screwed up somewhere, that could be on a big or a small issue but most customers will not go out of their way to be jerks just for the sake of it.

Lets start by pointing out what not to do. Firstly, don’t argue with the customer online. It spreads like wildfire, it is contagious and you could quickly find your business going viral for all the wrong reasons. If you start bashing them, even if they are being a jerk, chances are you are going to come off worst from it.

You need to have empathy, understand it is a big deal to them and act respectfully towards them.

Start by acknowledging a mistake was made – even if you don’t entirely feel that is the case – an apology is always a good place to start. Remember, don’t start picking a fight online, if you do down the he said, she said route it never reflects well on the business. People typically side with customers, that sucks but its the way it is.

The offer to put things right, either offer to fix the product, provide a new product or a refund. If they take you up on the offer it will generally lead to a positive review. Even if they don’t take you up on the offer it is a gesture of goodwill which reflects well on business.

Many negative reviews will hurt personally but won’t affect business. However, if you do end up in an unfortunate position where a review is harming business then you better be ready to make a big deal over that customer so they remove it.

Follow up after you have dealt with a customer who has left a negative review, it can go a long way to building bridges for future business.

Every review is feedback

Every review, both good and bad, is feedback. It is a chance for you to improve for future customers and fix mistakes which have been raised to you. Look at the negative reviews and see if there is a theme which you need to address. If they are all saying something similar then fixing one or two small things could go a long way.

Never ever try to get a site to remove reviews. You will be known as the business who deletes anything they don’t like to read. As well as that, negative reviews and how you respond gives you a platform to show off your customer service skills.

The only time where it is acceptable to seek a review to be removed is when you have legitimate grounds to do so such as a competitor leaving a negative review on Yelp! as this is against the terms of service.

Use every review as a way to improve and get better.

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