Stressed out man is staring at laptop.

Not responding to a negative review is worse than receiving one

No surprise here. There really isn’t a safe place on the Internet from strong opinions, including ones about your business.

Negative customer reviews on Facebook, Google, Yelp or any other site may seem like the end of the world — or in this case, your company’s reputation — especially in smaller markets such as Bluffton SC and Savannah GA. However, negative reviews can become a marketing opportunity if they are handled right.

Did you recently receive a negative review? The first step is to relax. It’s impossible to please everyone in the modern marketplace and in life in general. Many times those who are angry or even disappointed by a service or a product might make their dissatisfaction known while they are in the heat of the moment. In many cases, if you take the time to respond to the negative review thoughtfully, carefully and timely, you can repair the relationship, show off your great customer service and even promote your business all at the same time.

So, how should you respond to not-so-nice feedback online?

Acknowledge with Empathy

Don’t wait too long to respond to a negative review. The more time a negative review is left in cyberspace without a response, the more time it can fester into potential worse problems for your business. When you respond in a timely manner, that shows the reviewer and the rest of your audience that you care.

The next step might be difficult especially if the comment appears to be coming from a fake Facebook or Google profile. It’s easy to get angry and fire back, but avoid getting emotional or defensive. Instead, meet the complaint head-on by acknowledging the poster’s feelings of dissatisfaction. Let them know that you not only hear them but you understand their position. This is a good opportunity to focus on company mission and to establish the company’s goals on a format that all potential customers can see.

Don’t be afraid to apologize for a professional misstep. At the same time, don’t over do it with the “I’m sorry” either. Everyone understands that some customers or clients will not be satisfied with anything. Some complaining parties are trying to inflict damage on the business.

Remember: It is the potential new customers who need to be reassured they are making sound buying decisions.

Be a consultant, first and always

It’s a good idea to respond with tact publicly and also privately. After you acknowledge the complaint, stress a sincere desire to repair the issue by offering to help. What “help” looks like largely depends on your business. Sometimes, this could be a discount or a full or partial refund. Other times, it’s a simple opportunity to follow-up on the communication medium of their choice.

However, there are always the Negative Nellies who are belligerent and over-the-top offensive. Nothing you say will console them. Always be professional and error on the side of compassion by letting them know that you appreciate the feedback. If they persist in their public attacks of your company, it’s better to issue a thoughtful, heartfelt response one time than to go around in circles with someone who will never be satisfied.

How to solve problems with media relations:

When to contact a reputation management professional

For larger companies, monitoring online reputation and managing complaints are regular parts of business operations, often incorporated in an official capacity as company policy.

Sometimes, reputation management is best accomplished with guidance from a professional agency with reputation management experience — an individual or company that understands how to protect the company’s market share while keeping  top-of-mind awareness front and center when new customers evaluate a business.

There’s only one opportunity for a first impression. Hire a professional to coach your staff on how to respond to negative reviews while promoting your business at the same time. If hiring an outside company is not an option for you, develop your own action plan for responding to unflattering comments.

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