A negative online review can be distressing and potentially damaging for a small business. Here’s what to do when it happens to you. There’s nothing worse than looking online and finding that a disgruntled customer has written a bad Google or social media review about your business.
A bad review can be worrying for a business owner, and with good reason. A survey of hundreds of Australian shoppers found 98% of Australians read online reviews before they make a purchase, and 94% believe them to be trustworthy.
The good news is there’s lots you can do to counter bad online reviews. We asked a digital marketing specialist and a business adviser for their top tips on how to handle them.
1. Respond – quickly
The golden rule for responding to reviews (both good and bad) is to do so within 24 hours, says Tom Adam, director of business consulting at Curious Growth.
However, he also says not to dive in before you’ve done your research.
“Get the full picture of the person’s interaction with the business and the staff,” he says. When you look at the interaction, take stock of what went well, what went badly and what has the potential to be better.
2. Be factual and leave emotion out
The most important thing when responding to reviews is to calm your emotions and keep the response factual, says Remi Audette, founder and director of Sunday Best Digital.
“Even if the customer is in the wrong, if you respond harshly it can actually damage your reputation,” she explains.
“The only exception is if your brand personality includes humour or sass, in which case injecting a bit into the response might be okay.”
Adam says to remember you’re not writing the response for the person who wrote the review but for other customers. This means you can be witty, but not insulting.
“Use prose that will serve the audience reading it, but don’t put the person down,” he advises.
“Literally don’t lie about anything, there is no point – if things come out in the press your reputation will be impacted further.”
3. Say sorry and thank you
When responding to a review, always apologise for the experience – but be careful with your words so as not to put yourself in line for any legal liability.
“This acknowledges their feelings without admitting to any faults,” says Audette.
“Always end with an invitation to discuss the issue further with a manager/owner. It shows that you’re wanting to improve and are willing to work through things,” she adds.
Adam also advises saying thank you.
“Yes, even the most obnoxious person needs to be thanked for taking the time,” he says.
4. Deal with fake reviews carefully
If you suspect the review is fake, then it’s still important to respond. Approach this by mentioning that you don’t seem to have worked with them before and you think they might be mistaken.
“Invite them to contact you,” Audette says.
5. Counter with good reviews
To counter a bad review, make sure to send out a request for good reviews to existing and past customers.
“One bad review won’t damage a business if the rest are good,” Audette says.
Where to get help
When it comes to responding to reviews or any online or social media activity, then it’s important to have strong policies in place, such as these social media and internet usage ones available on My Business Workplace.
And if you need more help in dealing with business challenges like this one, then have a look at My Business Workplace, which includes hundreds of affordable contracts and policies plus phone advice backed by award-winning lawyers.