February 19, 2014
3 tips to help your business keep negative reviews from hurting its reputation
Almost every business will receive negative online reviews, and there is nothing wrong with that; it’s better to get some kind of feedback so you can improve your products and services. Plus, those bad reviews also add credibility to the positive reviews. However, mishandling negative reviews can do long-term damage to your company’s reputation. If you have received negative reviews or want to proactively make a plan to handle those reviews when they arise, read these tips and don’t let your reputation take a hit.
Carefully respond to negative feedback
There is no better tactic than directly responding to the customers who have complaints. Sometimes the complaints are about real issues that could be affecting many more people. These customers should be engaged so that the root of the problem is exposed and addressed. Many customers will happily change the negative review or become customers again if offered a simple heartfelt apology and a coupon or gift for the inconvenience that your mistake caused.
Never fake positive reviews
Faking positive reviews is a black hat technique that many companies utilize. While making fake positive reviews would theoretically cancel out negative reviews, it just isn’t that effective in real life. This is mainly because the average customer can see right through the trickery. What seems like a clever fix for a problem to a company is a painfully obvious attack on trust to the customer. When customers realize that some reviews are fake, it causes them to not only question all of the positive reviews, but also the ethics of the entire company. The reputational damage that stems from this can be catastrophic, especially if your company has multiple competitors. Many customers will gladly pay more for a product made by a trusted company.
Some companies think they won’t get caught if they use an outside person or company that specializes in making fake reviews. While this is a possibility, it is still risky. Also, having fake reviews offset the negative reviews doesn’t actually solve the problem. More negative reviews will continue to come unless the issues are fixed. This is most easily addressed by responding directly to the disgruntled customer.
Take the complaint to a private medium
Complaints on social media always carry the possibility of producing a “snowball effect.” It isn’t uncommon to have other customers or social media users jump into conversations and join the attack on your company. Some of these people have real complaints and others might just be strangers looking for attention. Regardless, this can lead to multiple complaints and insults piling on you with no possible way to make everyone happy. Plus, giving away coupons to people publicly can motivate others to complain because they think they might get something for free.
The most effective way to counter this effect is to take the conversation to email or the complaint’s original platform’s messaging service (like Facebook messages). However, don’t mistake the private conversation as an excuse to abandon politeness and company policies. Threats and unfair treatment can easily be copied and pasted (or worse, screencapped), which means they can easily find themselves back in a public forum, which would make everything infinitely worse. If that happens, the negative reviews and reputation damage are probably unfixable.
Just like every problem, a negative review is best solved strategically. There is no room for panicking or making rash decisions. Communicating with the customer is almost always the best approach, and these tips should help.
Are you worried about your company’s online reputation? Give us a call at Axia Public Relations or read our e-book, “Online Reputation Management.”
We would also love to read any opinion or insight you have on the matter in the comment section.
– Marty joined Axia in summer 2013 as an intern and is now a blogger for the company. Marty has written for the University of North Florida’s paper, The Spinnaker, and interned at Clay Today and Folio Weekly prior to coming to Axia. While at school, he was also able to blog for The Huffington Post as well as write a front-page story for The Florida Times-Union. Marty is a graduate of the University of North Florida with a Bachelor of Science in multimedia journalism and production and hails from Middleburg, Fla. Connect with Marty on Twitter at @MartyFNemec and Axia Public Relations at @axiapr.