How to Handle Negative Criticism Online

Five more positive customer reviews on your Yelp and Citysearch business profiles. The day can’t get any better than this, right?

But just as you’re packing up to close shop, you catch a negative review, and it ain’t pretty.

“I’m very unsatisfied with the service here at XYZ Company. I’m never coming back again, and I highly encourage customers to do the same.”

Such a review can leave a business owner feeling frustrated, shaken, angry even. Online reviews are one of the most powerful ways to promote a business; in fact, 84% of Americans trust and rely on customer reviews when deciding to buy.

A negative review or two can leave a significant dent on your business’s reputation, and it’s up to you, the business owner, to make things right.

Monitoring the Buzz

hand on mouse monitoring

It is ideal to have an effective strategy that will allow you to monitor and manage reviews your business receives.

You can build a social media team that can take care of customer engagement through sites like Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest. On the other hand, Kermit Pattinson, author of New York Times article “Managing an Online Reputation,” suggests doing a vanity search of your business name to see how your are perceived and where your business stands in terms of local SEO results.

Strategy would differ from business to business, with systems available at a monthly to yearly cost. Corporations take advantage of customer relations management systems to monitor and handle large databases of customers, with tools for social engagement.

Whatever may be your option, it is important to take some time to create a solid plan that will allow you to monitor and manage your online reputation.

Participate in the Review Process

The key to managing negative criticism online is to actively participate in the review process, and the first step is to accept that negative reviews are a part of it.

Quoting from “How Small Businesses Can Manage Negative Online Reviews,” every small business “should accept that negative reviews are sometimes a part of running a local business, and should develop a strategy to effectively manage them.”

When customers see that you are listening and responding to their comments, suggestions, and feedback, you establish trust and loyalty, and such a response can convert even the hardest critics into loyal customers. Engagement also allows you to see faults and areas of improvement, thus empowering you to build a better business.

More than an increase in sales, you build solid relationships with your customers.

How to Respond to Negative Criticism

angry client

A negative review can turn into two things: a positive learning experience that benefits both you and your unhappy customer, or a negative memory that will haunt and trail behind.

Every business owner would want their angry customers to come back with renewed trust and interest. Some would respond to every review, good or bad, publicly for transparency; others would respond to negative feedback privately in order to address the customers concerns on a personal basis.

Whatever may be your approach, the goal is to address the issue and provide solutions to the problem. Here are some great tips successful businesses would do when responding to negative feedback:

  • Don’t respond just yet. If you’re feeling emotional about the experience, give yourself time to feel it. Once it simmers down, gather your thoughts and attempt a professional and sincere response to the customer.
  • Ask advice from fellow business owners. They may be the best people to turn to when you’re in need of sound advice on how to handle negative criticism.
  • Read the customer’s review. You can pick out important points from the review and address each one carefully in your response. Doing this will also allow you to determine if the criticism is justified or if it’s just an attack on you and your company.
  • Maintain professionalism and kindness. Such a response from the CEO or the management can actually disarm the customer, convincing him or her to go back and edit the review. Always let them know that you are listening and are willing to make things right.
  • Deliver as promised. By far the most important move to make, always follow through in your promises to your customers. If your policy is a 30-day money back guarantee, give it the moment the customer requests for it.

You may notice that the negative review sounds bogus or unwarranted. It may be from a competitor trying to ruin you with foul play, or some other individual that just wants to troll around with your business reviews.

You can take it to the higher ups and have them remove them (with proof to show), or you can privately message the person in order to ask for more details and to defend yourself. It may seem unfair, but rest assured knowing you have done everything you could to alleviate the problem.

Prevention: Keeping Your Customers Happy

We’ve come to the most vital part of building your online business’s reputation.

It’s keeping your customers happy. Ultimately, it’s giving them reason to come back, and the best way to do this is to focus your efforts on good, quality service. You want to build and maintain a healthy and positive online reputation for your business, and so you need to always keep your customer’s best interest in mind.

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and think about the things that would really draw a positive response. Is it timely responses to support tickets? Stable online payments and order management? Is it delivering the products on time and with a smile? At the end of the day, the question that will drive you is this: what else can you do that will satisfy their needs?

While you can’t always serve what is being asked, focus on the more important aspects of the customer experience. That way, your business will build the kind of trust, loyalty, and enthusiasm that grows and lasts.