Seven steps to restoring a tarnished image 

By Isaiah Rendorio, Podium

The following article by Podium is reposted here with permission.

Today, most consumers need to see a healthy average star rating and a few of your most recent reviews to be convinced of a company’s credibility.

In fact, 88% of consumers form an opinion by reading between one and 10 reviews. With that said, it’s incredibly important to ensure you have positive reviews, and a lot of them. This helps increase your average star rating and decrease the odds of potential customers fixating on a single negative review.

But it’s not always that simple. Negative reviews are, at times, inevitable. Each day businesses that don’t deserve negative reviews receive them. Sure, there are businesses that do deserve negative reviews, and there are times when companies with good intentions mess up. The point is: Bad reviews happen to even the best businesses. 

If and when your company comes to that point, it’s crucial to know when those reviews surface and how to properly respond. That’s why we’ve put together a quick guide to responding to negative reviews.

Step #1: Know when a negative review goes live.

This step may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many businesses aren’t aware of new reviews they receive, or aware that they have any reviews at all.

Also, it’s important to know when these reviews go live so you can respond and alter your business processes to ensure the mistake doesn’t happen again.

The easiest way to ensure you’re aware of new reviews is to employ an online review management platform. For example, Podium (our review platform), aggregates reviews in real-time from sites across the Internet, making you aware the second a new review goes live.

This is, undisputedly, the first step in combating and responding to negative reviews. After all, if you don’t know the negative review exists, how can you respond?

Step #2: Report false and inappropriate reviews.

Not all reviews are written by actual customers. Some people write fake reviews as a way to promote or slander a brand. If you suspect a review is fake you can often report it. A few signs a review might be fake include: 

  • Spammy, grammatically incorrect content. 
  • Content that is irrelevant to your business. 
  • Posted by a questionable account with a sketchy name and/or email address with loads of suspiciously similar reviews. 

If you’ve determined that a review is fake or contains prohibited and restricted content, the best course of action is to report the review. To do this:

  • Go to your reviews.
  • Click the three dots to the right of the questionable review. 
  • Select Report review
  • Select your reason for flagging the review. 
  • Submit your removal request. 

Step #3: Respond to the negative review as quickly as possible by reaching out to the customer directly.

If the negative review is legitimate, reach out to the upset customer as fast as possible. Try to understand their concerns and get any other relevant details about their negative experience. Address any issues they have and offer creative ways to make it right. This can often lead to the customer removing or editing their review.

If possible, make sure the person responding from your business is disconnected from the situation of that particular negative review. For example, if it’s a negative review regarding one of your salespeople, that particular salesperson might not be the best person to resolve the issue. That being said, we know that not every business is in a position where someone disconnected from the situation can respond. If this is the case for your business, it’s not the end of the world. Just make sure the respondent stays cool, calm and collected. 

Step #4: Respond to the negative review publicly.

Responding to reviews publicly, both positive and negative, can set your business apart from your competitors. Responding to negative reviews allows you to address your customers’ concerns and show prospective customers that you genuinely care about customer interactions. To do so, follow these steps:

  • Apologize (“We’re sorry to hear…”).
  • Approach the review with a calm and collected response (cushioned defense).
  • Offer a proactive way to right their wrong (“We’d like to do what we can to change that”).
  • Ask to continue the conversation privately. That should lead to a statement similar to this one: “We’re so sorry to hear that your experience was a negative one. We’d like to do what we can to right any wrong. Please contact our customer service manager so we can resolve your issues. We’ll also reach out to you in the next day or two to discuss how we can resolve your issue.”

Need help streamlining the review response process? Review management tools like Podium can help you easily respond to reviews from multiple review sites from one convenient platform.

Step #5: Provide exceptional customer service.

The customer experience matters. Eighty-four percent of customers say their experience with a company is just as important as the products and services offered. The key to preventing bad reviews is to make sure that all your customers have a great experience when they visit your business. 

Exceptional customer service can also help turn unhappy customers into some of your most loyal customers.  In fact, research shows that 78% of consumers will do business with them again after a mistake — it’s all about handling the situation correctly. By apologizing for the inconvenience caused, addressing the concerns voiced in the review, and offering an appropriate remedy, you can show your customers that you value their feedback — and you might just win back their loyalty.  

Step #6: Drown out the negative review.

High Google ratings make customers 38% more likely to visit your business. The numbers don’t lie; the more positive reviews your business has, the less impact a negative review will have. Improving your average star rating takes time and consistent effort, but the impact will be well worth it.

Consider making it a part of your routine to regularly encourage customers to leave positive reviews. This can be as simple as requesting a review via text message after serving the customer, which can be easily done using review management tools like Podium.

Step #7: Rinse and repeat — learn from that negative review.

Nobody likes to read a negative review of their business, but there is a silver lining. Negative reviews give businesses an opportunity to learn and grow, as they can be used to identify what aspects of the business need to be improved. It is important for small businesses to use negative feedback as a way to understand what their customers’ needs and wants are so they can better adapt their products and services to meet those needs. 

Negative reviews can even help businesses determine which areas need more attention, such as marketing, customer service or product development. Additionally, responding professionally and thoughtfully to negative reviews provides an opportunity for small business owners to showcase their commitment to customer satisfaction and demonstrate how they handle difficult situations. By showing that they care about their customers’ experiences, small businesses are more likely to earn the trust of potential customers and build a loyal client base over time. In short, negative reviews present an invaluable opportunity for small businesses to improve their operations and offer better products or services.

We call this step the customer experience feedback loop, and it’s a process that has the potential to transform your business as it has for hundreds of our customers.

The process is simple:

  1. The transaction takes place and an online review is left for the business.
  2. The business takes note of the online review (positive or negative) and responds if needed.
  3. If the online review is positive, the business reinforces existing processes or performs optimization. If the online review is negative, the business alters existing processes to improve customer experience.

From that point, the customer experience feedback loop continues to provide insights and the business owner continues to alter or optimize processes.

Many savvy business owners take heed to the customer experience feedback loop due to the inexpensive alternative to paying tens of thousands of dollars, if not millions, for Net Promoter Score (NPS) or survey software that provides constrained and static data. Also, those same surveys tend to bring decision makers dated information since the business doesn’t get to the data for weeks or months after the incident.

So, kill two birds with one stone and increase your online presence while gathering inexpensive data that can be invaluable to your business.

In Conclusion

Negative reviews can be challenging for any local business, but there are ways to work with customers and potentially remove such reviews. By reaching out directly to customers, responding to reviews publicly, providing exceptional customer service, and encouraging customers to leave reviews, a business can work to mitigate the impact of negative reviews and protect their online reputation. 

While not all negative reviews can be removed, and not every customer can be pleased, by using these tactics and focusing on delivering excellent customer service you can minimize the impact of negative reviews and maintain a positive online reputation.

Manage all your communication — from reviews and website conversations to text marketing, payments and more — with Podium. Click here to start a free trial.

Isaiah Rendorio is product marketing manager, campaigns, for BrandSource partner Podium, a premiere marketing and communications platform for local businesses.

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