Online Reputation Management 101: What to Do With Bad Reviews

Bill Cosby once said that he does not know the key to success, but the keys to failure are trying to please everybody.  This is something that needs to be taken to heart when it comes to reading online reviews.  Negative reviews will happen, no matter how good the business, product, or customer service is.  It is impossible to please everybody.  But there are things that you can do to manage your reputation online.

It’s impossible to run a legitimate business without running across a few people who weren’t happy with your service. Some of them may be actual lapses in your customer service, but many of them are likely people who wouldn’t be satisfied no matter what you did. The review may even be produced by a competitor.

But a negative review online doesn’t have to derail your online marketing. If you respond properly, it may even help. Here’s a few Dos and Don’ts to help you get past these bad reviews.

Don’t Respond in Anger

The worst thing you can do is make an emotional response to a review. Even if you know who posted the review, and you think they’re a competitor, an obnoxious jerk, or, worse, a blackmailer, don’t respond with language that is angry, condescending, or provocative.

People read reviews to see not only what people have to say about your business but to see how you respond to customer complaints. It doesn’t matter whether the reviewer is wrong or not, if you respond angrily, you will look bad—and rightfully so. Remember, “He who angers you controls you.” Don’t let a reviewer control you.

Don’t Let It Fester

You do have to respond to negative reviews, however. Not responding is almost as bad as responding angrily. People will think you’re indifferent to the feelings of your customers and assume the worst about your business. It may be hard to think objectively after you see a negative review, so ideally you should take some time before you get a negative review to craft a generic response that is respectful and tactful.

If you already have bad reviews, make sure you take the time to cool off before writing a response. If you can’t cool off, have someone with a cooler head write the response.

Do Try to Make It Right

Here’s the best thing about online reviews: they can be changed. Reach out to the customer through their reviewer profile and invite them to give you a second chance or offer them some form of restitution. Turning around a negative review can give you some of your best reviews ever. Even if it doesn’t turn into a 4- or 5-star review, the reviewer’s discussion of your customer service will win over many potential customers.

Also, check into tools that may allow you to challenge or remove fraudulent reviews.

Do Try to Learn from Bad Reviews

This is the silver lining of every bad review: it gives you the opportunity to improve your business and offer a better service or product. Stop fighting and try to see your business as the reviewer portrayed it, then eliminate all the legitimate complaints the reviewer had.

And remember: having a bad review or two makes your other ones look more legitimate.

Do Harness the Power of the People

It’s easy for you to feel trapped by the power of each individual customer to write bad reviews that could impact your business. But look at the flipside: you don’t have to be held hostage by a single bad review. In the past, paid reviewers and food critics held life-and-death power over businesses (for a humorous portrayal of this, see Bob’s Burgers episode “Moodie Foodie”), but today, you can overcome the power of a bad review by getting good ones to counter it.

Talk to new and current customers about writing reviews (but don’t “solicit” them, such as by offering them incentives: it may make their reviews invalid in the eyes of the review site). If you are really doing a good job for customers, they will be happy to write reviews, and the sheer number of positive reviews, combined with a visible attempt to satisfy the disgruntled customer will make your business seem better than ever.