If I assumed that you check online reviews every time you want to purchase a product or a service would I be wrong?

I don’t remember the last time I bought something (especially online) without checking the reviews. But I do remember when I wanted to buy something and the reviews were so bad that I just gave up. 

If you care about what you do, a negative online review from a customer may seem like the end of the world. It is a dissapointment to see that your product has caused such a bad experience. On top of that, you also have to handle the situation, which can sometimes be hard to do.

💡 Read Crisis Management 101: How to Save Your Business When a Crisis Strikes

If it’s any consolation, you are not alone. Every business will face negative reviews at one point or another. Sometimes it’s your mistake, and on other (rare) occasions, a customer just might be out to get you.

Whichever it is, it is important to remember that even the worst situation can be resolved.

The secret is to keep a cool head and have a proactive approach.

Here are 10 steps you can take while managing negative online reviews.

1. Find (negative) online reviews

As we all know, customers won’t write their reviews only on your Facebook page or website where they’ll be easy for you to spot. 

They’ll probably use their personal social media accounts and express their opinions there. 

*Tip: Don’t turn off the customer reviews option on your Facebook and/or website. It may seem like you’re hiding something, and potential customers won’t get all the information needed for them to make an informed purchasing decision.

A lot of Twitter users will also complain without directly addressing you with an @company or sending a direct message. With a media monitoring tool, you’ll make sure that you capture even those conversations, and respond on time.

Take a look at this tweet, for example. The customer complained but didn’t tag the company in the post.

As you can see, there’s also no response from the company. It may be due to the fact that they weren’t tagged and they missed the post. Imagine how many posts of unsatisfied customers may go unnoticed.

In the long run, not tracking online reviews is not the best strategy.

Even though we’re focusing on negative online reviews in this article, chances are that your reviews won’t be all that bad. Some are even saying that negative reviews are good for your business! 

Online reviews in general are a perfect opportunity for you to establish communication with your customer and build a stronger relationship in the long run.

If you’re going to manually search for all brand mentions, you’ll waste your time, money, and human resources.

With media monitoring, you can find online reviews in a matter of seconds. Finding reviews like this early on will provide you with enough time for a well-thought response.

Negative online reviews tend to go viral if there are other customers who had bad experiences with your product or service. That’s why it’s important to find (negative) online reviews and react – the sooner, the better!

Read Bad PR Examples

2. Get notified about every online review out there

Remember that 59 percent say online reviews are as trustworthy as a review from a friend.

Customers search online for experiences from other people before they opt for a purchase. Many will come and check out your site or Facebook fan page or google company + review, but you never get to hear from them.  What they see will impact their decision on whether to buy with you.

That’s why it’s important track your online reviews.

Here’s how Determ can help.

The tool will track online reviews and you’ll be able to see them in the feed. Also, by using Automated actions, you’ll be able to tag them and have them sorted in one place.

Furthermore, one of the most important Determ features are real-time alerts

With real-time alerts feature you can change settings depending on your preferences. Alerts notify you every time your product is mentioned online. That way you’ll be able to react fast.  Also, you just might stop the potential crisis in the making.

There are two types of Alerts available in Determ: smart and spike alerts. Smart alerts are notifications for every mention, and spike alerts are usually a signal of virality, since they’re sent out to you once there’s an unusual increase in the number of mentions of your keyword within a specific period.

There’s also an option of setting up a Spike alert email. It not only notifies you of trending topics but also highlights posts that may have triggered the increase in mentions. This feature provides immediate context, empowering you to take action or refine your strategies. In addition, the Spike Alert dashboard comprises a range of informative graphs and a concise Synthia summary for an in-depth analysis of the situation.

Alerting spike-alerts dashboard

3. Make sure the customer knows you’ve seen their negative review

You can significantly reduce the initial frustration if you let them know, as soon as possible, that you have heard their feedback and appreciate it.

Particularly on social media (where customer expect a fast reply), your first response can even be on the lines of:

“So sorry for your experience, we are looking into what happened and I’ll get back to you with more details”.

Then proceed to investigate and offer clarification as soon as you have a full story.

Even when a customer doesn’t follow up, make sure you do – because other customers may come across and wonder what happened with the issue. If they don’t have a conclusion, they might think you did nothing.

Remember, you are not writing only for the complaining party – you are writing for everyone who might see it.

4. Always maintain a polite tone – other customers are watching

Never argue or accuse the person that they are wrong, even when you know for a fact that they are.

Remember that many other people will see your response, and that may be their first contact with the brand. Maybe the negative review was from an ex-wife, a jealous competitor, or a downright bully. It doesn’t matter.

You know that, but people who are watching don’t.

Anything other than a polite and calm response will come off as rude, even if that was not your intention. Customers won’t think you are passionate or standing up for yourself.

More likely they are going to say “If they got angry at that person for complaining, maybe they’ll get angry at me as well”.

5. Remember to explain the situation to other customers, as well

Before you post, take a moment and read it from the perspective of a person who doesn’t know anything about the situation you are facing.

Will they be able to decipher what happened looking at your conversation?

If there was an extraordinary situation, like a power outage due to maintenance, make sure to explain it, and let everyone know that you’ve taken measures to prevent this from ever happening again.

6. Try to move the discussion to other channels

If there is a problem that can be solved via a phone call, a visit to the store or a return policy, ask the customer for permission to contact them and resolve it offline. As much as you can, don’t try to troubleshoot complicated issues on social media directly. It is exhausting for everyone involved.

More issues can be solved in five minutes of talking to a real person instead of three days of back-and-forth tweeting.

PR Crisis Management Ebook

7. Follow up with the customer on social media after the situation was resolved

You want your other customers to see that the issue was resolved. Once it is, don’t hesitate to ask the customer if they are now satisfied. It leaves a good impression.

In one instance, Innocent drinks forgot to do that after a complaint about mould inside of a cap of one of their products. While they contacted the lady and offered an apology and a gift certificate, the thread on social media has no indication that they even saw her complaint.

What they could have done is first tell the customer that her problem will be solved, and then follow up asking if she received the certificate.

Most users are glad to leave a positive review after that.

8. Prevent further criticism by changing business practices

If a customer had a late delivery or their product was faulty, or their hotel sheets were messy, it’s time for you to conduct an investigation.

Contact the person in charge of that particular part of your business to see whether this was an isolated incident or a regular occurrence.

9. Archive complaints for future analysis

When you have a list of all negative reviews in one place, you’ll be able to identify recurring issues.

While you know you should be monitoring and analyzing all complaints, it’s a good bet that you are not. Presumably, because you don’t have the time. On the surface level, this may seem like the truth, but often this answer is just a more polite way of saying “I don’t see what good can it do”. The truth is, when marketers think something is important, they make time.

Think about the last three-hour meeting you attended on the appropriate image to put on a banner without getting to a conclusion. You made time for that, but not for actual analysis of one of the most important aspects of your business: customer feedback?

10. Work on rebuilding reputation by incentivizing fans to leave positive reviews

This is also one of those aspects that people often forget. Once you resolve a symptom, it’s time to cure the illness.  Because online reviews live online, the antidote to your future customers getting a bad first impression is to work on getting reviews from customers that are genuine fans of your product. Don’t be afraid to ask; research shows that 70% of customers will leave a review when asked. Use that to your favor.

The truth of the matter is that, even when you’ve made a mistake, customers will give you a benefit of the doubt if you communicate properly, with respect and on time.

It is important that you remember that nobody is out to get you. People are too busy with their own problems to actively hate a company. When they complain, it is because they have a problem and they want it to go away, not because they are spiteful or secretly hate you.

If you look at things from this perspective, it becomes easier to see that your main focus should be on how to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.

To sum up

You should be open to criticism as much as you’re open to praise. Even though it is hard to read negative reviews, look at them as an opportunity to grow. Sometimes you’ll find that customer reviews can contain constructive advice that you can actually implement and make your product or service better. 

When it comes to online reviews, media monitoring tools are your best allies. Wasting time on googling and searching for reviews is unacceptable. Plus, you probably wouldn’t find half of the reviews that way.

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