How to handle negative online reviews professionally

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As a business, your online reputation can be your strongest asset or biggest liability. So while you glow over good reviews, do your best to turn bad reviews into positive feedback.

Everyone loves to post online about what they ate or bought, or where they travelled to. For businesses, it is a bonus when a lovely review comes your way.

In fact, such positive endorsement is critical. A survey by SEO specialist BrightLocal last year found that 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

But what happens when you receive that dreaded bad review? How do you fight the fire and respond in a way that will turn that dissatisfied reviewer into a contented customer?

If you don’t, it could affect your business. According to Moz, companies could lose 22% of their business when potential customers find one negative article on the first page of their search results. More bad reviews just means less business.

To prevent this, here are five steps that can help your business bounce back from a scathing review and turn that negativity in your favour.

1. Respond. And do it fast.

The likes on Facebook and Instagram are instantaneous. Likewise, your reaction to a negative comment has to be swift. The rule is, respond – fast.

Content marketing and customer service expert Jay Baer once said in an interview: “A lack of response is actually a response. It’s a response that says, ‘We don’t care about you very much’.”

ReviewTrackers, a customer feedback software company, revealed that 52% of customers expect to hear a response within a week. A good practice is to respond within one to two days of a negative review.

Shangri-La Hotel Singapore, for instance, makes it a point to respond in 48 hours to any review. It pays off, with an increase in customer booking when it responds to online reviews efficiently.

So be sure not to miss out on any review. Use platforms like Google Alert to keep yourself in the loop.

2. Plan for Plan B… and C.

Consider every possible worst-case scenario your business may encounter, and have contingency plans for all of them.

This means preparing official statements and general templates to ensure quick and efficient replies that will make customers feel that their feedback is valued.

For instance, ecommerce company Lazada Singapore has crisis management plans for each social media channel and every event that they host.

The plans include following protocols for response times, determining which review needs customised action, and when intervention by higher management is necessary. These measures prevent bad situations from escalating into full-blown crises.

3. Show that you care.

Be personal in your responses – customers want to know that they are being addressed as individuals. Sound as authentic as you can, and keep the business jargon out.

The initial response should also be made public so anyone who reads the review can get a complete context of the situation. But if possible, take the rest of the conversation offline.

Take the extra effort and reach out to the reviewer personally to resolve the issue. It reflects sincerity on your part, be it over a private email or phone call.

Pizza Hut Singapore has developed this practice of reaching out to customers privately on their Facebook page whenever there is a negative review. It helps takes grievances off air so that the situation can be settled amicably in private.

4. Be tactful in your response.

We have all read about businesses and reviewers getting at each other’s throats. Even if you feel the comments are unjustified, remain professional about it. Getting into an online spat with unhappy customers who have left you bad reviews makes you look petty, invites more criticisms from others, and is a sure way to turn off potential customers.

The golden rule is to be calm and polite, which can be done in just a few key steps.

  1. Thank them for their opinion

  2. Apologise for the inconvenience

  3. Encourage them to send a private message

Scroll through the reviews on Starbucks Singapore’s Facebook page and you will note that every response is professional and respectful, and every negative feedback acknowledged.

5. Don’t fall off the radar. Always follow up.

After you’ve made the initial response on social media, do a quick follow up with the reviewer within the next few days and make sure you have fully addressed their issues. It shows that you value their opinions and put their needs first.

Once the customer is satisfied with your solution, you could also possibly request for an update to their review. It is essential that there is a conclusion to the situation, and that you’ve successfully addressed the issue at hand.

Ultimately, negative reviews aren’t all doom and gloom for your business – as long as you are able to make them work for you. See them as an opportunity to react, improve your business, and better serve your customers. If addressed correctly, a negative review might even be a stepping stone for better things ahead.

Maintaining service standards is integral to any business, but perhaps even more so for ecommerce businesses that live and breathe online. A reliable platform like Shoptiq takes care of the administrative details of your ecommerce business so that you can focus on other more important aspects, such as keeping your customers happy. Get your 15-day free trial today.

Everyone loves to post online about what they ate or bought, or where they travelled to. For businesses, it is a bonus when a lovely review comes your way.

In fact, such positive endorsement is critical." data-share-imageurl="https://www.shoptiq.com.sg/sites/default/files/rsz_customer_review.jpg">

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