Reviews are a critical part of your online branding and customer service strategy. When you receive a glowing one, it feels fantastic: That positive comment is going to be seen by potential customers researching their transportation options, distinguishing you from the competition while encouraging them to make a booking.
But what about that inevitable negative feedback? Isn’t that likely to harm your business for the very same reasons that positive reviews could help it? Here’s the good news: If you handle the situation well, you can turn a service failure into a learning lesson—and win over a new, loyal customer.
Here we unpack the reasons why negative reviews might happen to good businesses, how you should respond, and why the situation is really not as bad as it might seem.
Why might I get a bad review?
It’s a fact that most good businesses will end up with some form of negative feedback. You can do everything right, but it is inevitable that somewhere along the line something will go awry and lead to a less-than-perfect customer experience. It may even be something that was beyond your control, like traffic snarls or delayed flights, but that won’t stop a customer from going online and writing a vicious review that could damage your reputation.
Even if nothing really goes “wrong,” some customers just want to be disgruntled, some are naturally hard to please, and others are simply angling for a refund or free ride in the future. You just have to accept that these types of customers do exist and negative reviews will occasionally happen, often through no fault of your own.
It is also more likely that customers will write a review if they have had a negative experience than those who had no complaints. In fact, recent research suggests that a consumer is 21 percent more inclined to leave a review after a negative experience than a positive one. Negative reviews can therefore appear out of proportion with the actual overall customer experience—while many satisfied customers will simply just move on with their busy lives.
How should I respond?
The most important thing is to take a moment to read the feedback carefully, try not to take it personally, and not respond in the heat of the moment. You might be tempted to completely ignore negative reviews, but this can result in a missed opportunity. Research has suggested that 45 percent of consumers are more likely to visit a business if it responds to negative reviews in a constructive way, and 80 percent believe that a business cares more about them when management directly addresses their reviews. TripAdvisor also found in a recent survey that 79 percent of readers of negative reviews feel reassured by seeing responses from business owners.
So now you know that you should respond, the following are a few tips on how to go about doing it effectively.
"It’s a fact that most good businesses will end up with some form of negative feedback."Always begin by thanking the reviewer for their feedback
After all, they have taken time to write a review, even if it is negative toward your business. Be polite, calm, and understanding in your tone. Apologize that the service they received wasn’t what they were hoping for, and be sincere without invalidating their reaction and feelings. Sincerity is critical.
Don’t make excuses but DO be proactive
Customers don’t want to hear the myriad reasons why the service they received wasn’t on par with what they expected. That is inconsequential white noise to them, and can insult to injury: This is about them, not you. You need to focus on practical steps that will make their negative experience right. Don’t make excuses and don’t get drawn into a public argument about the particulars. Simply own the problem, and present a solution.
Consider making the conversation private...
Depending on the topics raised by the reviewer, it is often best to suggest you talk privately, via email, web chat, or the phone. This will avoid a stream of messages being posted to the review, which will be impossible for other customers to understand (but won’t stop them from muddying the waters with their own responses anyway), and could lead to more problems than it solves.
...but go back and respond publicly afterward
After you have resolved the problem with the customer who left the negative feedback, go back and add a comment to the original review so that others can see it was successfully settled (i.e., “Per our phone conversation earlier...”).
Don’t necessarily incentivize
You need to think carefully before going back to a customer with an incentive, such as a discount off their next booking. It may be appropriate in certain circumstances, but can ultimately be seen as rewarding negative feedback. It’s possible other customers could pick up on this and run with it, too, which may lead to future passengers fabricating grievances for a free ride. Exercise caution as well as common sense.
"Having a few negative reviews is actually a good thing: In this day and age of fake reviews left by obvious bots or plants, customers tend to be suspicious of businesses that have only ever received lavishly bestowed five-star reviews."Why it’s not all bad news
You might have received a bit of negative feedback, but it’s not all doom and gloom. Having a few negative reviews is actually a good thing: In this day and age of fake reviews left by obvious bots or plants, customers tend to be suspicious of businesses that have only ever received lavishly bestowed five-star reviews. In fact, reviews that highlight a few less-than-stellar points are actually seen as more genuine and can lend even more legitimacy to the positive ones. Negative reviews also allow you to see patterns emerging in the types of topic they raise. You can then deal with these issues swiftly within your business, heading them off before they get out of hand.
By responding to reviews effectively you can actually earn more loyal customers, too. It is not unheard of for customers who have previously been critical of a business to become loyal fans due to the quality of the aftercare they received as a result. It has been known for these kinds of customers to jump in and defend businesses from other negative comments online if they perceive them as unjustified or unfair, and countering this with their own positive experiences.
Whatever you do, remember that bad reviews happen. But by responding to feedback quickly, respectfully, and productively, you might be surprised at the positive effects they can have on your business. [CD0219]
Valerie Levay is the Director of Marketing for DriveProfit. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.