Trustpilot, Google Reviews, Yelp, Feefo, Trip Advisor. Chances are you recognise some of these names, and you’ve probably even used one of them to decide where to eat out, or whether an ecommerce website is trustworthy. You’re in good company, too – since figures from Trustpilot show that 77% of UK shoppers consult reviews before making an online purchase.
For businesses, online reviews really are make or break. They help consumers to form opinions before making a spending decision, and they can attract new custom as the public flock to top rated retailers and restaurants. Positive reviews are a hugely powerful business tool, but things can quickly turn sour and firms can be left in the dark by just a handful of negative customer opinions.
This is exactly what happened to a garage owner in Braintree, Essex. As reported by the BBC, a car salesman told of how he felt “helpless” after false reviews were posted about his business online. Using anonymous names and leaving one-star ratings, digital saboteurs had damaged his business’s reputation overnight – and it was hard to see a way forward when the platform hosting the reviews refused to take them down.
Whilst negative reviews are disheartening and often quite upsetting, there are things you can do to safeguard your business and even to respond more effectively. With this in mind, here are some of the best ways for firms to deal with poor online ratings.
1. Prevention is the best cure
No business is immune from bad reviews, and it’s impossible to please everybody all of the time. That being said, making sure that you provide the very best customer service as consistently as possible is one of the greatest preventative steps you can take when it comes to negative online reviews.
Consumers who feel that a business has done its best are less likely to leave a scathing report online, and you can nip frustration in the bud by addressing issues promptly as they arise. In many cases, legitimate negative reviews reference issues that have arisen from poor business processes that make it harder for staff to provide a winning customer experience.
To combat this, business owners should go back to basics and ensure that they get them right. This includes providing adequate staff training, creating clear and fair policies for returns and exchanges, and investing in reliable and effective payment solutions. For an even simpler solution, businesses can turn to the eCommerce payment gateways and in-store card machines provided by UTP Group. These not only make life easy for staff but ensure that customer transactions are completed quickly and efficiently – leaving customers with no cause for complaint.
2. Don’t get defensive
If you do find a bad review online, you might be tempted to go on the defensive and dive straight into why the reviewer is wrong. The simple advice? DON’T DO IT!
It’s only natural to want to defend your business, particularly if you feel that a complaint is unfair. Unfortunately, doing so could leave you worse off as angry owner responses frequently become the subject of viral interest and could actually put off future customers who might feel that you’re unwilling to address concerns.
Instead of clapping back at the reviewer, try to issue a measured response. Aim for an apologetic tone, and remember that even if their complaint is unfounded, your response will be on display for all the world to see.
3. Acknowledge the issue
More often than not, customers who complain do so because they want their opinion to be heard. Rather than diving straight into problem solving, it will usually be better to empathise with them and apologise for the issue that they’re complaining about.
According to figures from Yelp, 33% of negative reviews turn positive when the business owner takes the time to respond. It even works in case where you really do disagree with the review, since you can be very tactful with your wording. Apologising for the fact that they did not enjoy their experience might be more palatable then grovelling about the quality of your own customer service, so think carefully about how you express yourself.
In all, showing that you genuinely wish that a customer had left you with a better experience looks good and shows review readers that you care about your clientele.
4. Deal with things offline
Taking things offline could be your best option if you receive a bad review. ‘Don’t air your dirty laundry in public’ may be an old adage, but it still rings true in the internet age since your online arguments are now visible to a much wider audience of potential customers.
In this vein, you might find that the best strategy is to leave a well-thought out and sincere public comment before providing contact information for the disgruntled customer to contact you. This shows that you’re willing to handle the situation, whilst also preventing a nasty saga of comments from playing out on the review platform in full view of the online community.
5. Ask for fake or misleading reviews to be removed
Fake reviews are the most frustrating of all. Even if a real customer makes an arguably unfair assessment of your business, at least they spent some money and actually tried you out.
Often marked out by an unusual username or content that clearly doesn’t relate to your offering, fake reviews are easy to spot but not so simple to remove. How you go about trying to do so will depend on the platform that hosts the review, but it will generally involve getting in touch with their team directly. On some platforms, including Google, you can flag a review to suggest that it’s inappropriate – and it really pays to get of your colleagues, friends, and family to do the same.
If you have no luck in getting a review removed, it may be time to call in legal support. Perhaps best reserved for situations where your business’s reputation is truly on the line, a well worded legal letter could help you to take down a spurious write up. In such cases, contacting a specialist reputation protection or defamation solicitor could be your best bet.
Manage your online reputation
Negative feedback is an unfortunate reality in the world of online reviews, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t turn it to your advantage. If you do receive a poor business rating online, use it as a learning opportunity, and be sure to gather feedback to ensure you can bring your offering in line with what customers expect.