Every business has disappointed customers that leave negative reviews. Here is a step-by-step formula for dealing with negative reviews online so that you remain looking good to potential customers.
Every interaction with a customer has the potential to become a negative experience. No matter how much effort and planning went into your customer experience. Or how much 'effective communications' training your front desk staff completed. Where humans meet, miscommunications and conflicts happen.
The only way of dealing with negative reviews
Customers who had a positive experience tend to remain quiet. Unhappy customers, however, leave negative feedback. Your first instinct might be to remove the negative comment under your Google listing, however there are many benefits of responding to these reviews instead.
Can you even delete it?
Unless the reviews go against community standards, usually, you cannot delete them. Examples where reviews can be deleted are:
Reviews that use profane language
Reviews that contain discriminatory language
Fake reviews (but, this often turns out to be difficult to prove)
If the review is negative, the chances to get it removed are next to non-existent. Some platforms like Facebook allow you to hide negative comments. We don't recommend doing this. In essence, you will disable reviewing for your page. Reviews provide social proof and help to build trust with your target audience. There is a better course of action.
Turn a disadvantage into an advantage
Instead of censoring an uncomfortable option, try to use it to your benefit and reply to it. Responding brings the proverbial ball back under your control. A business that has none or only positive comments and five stars is suspicious to customers. But one with negative reviews and replies - builds trust. It means there is a human behind the screen who cares.
Here is a formula to follow:
1. Look for negative reviews.
At least once a week, check your listings on Google, Yelp, and others, for reviews. Don't forget to also look at big review aggregators like Trustpilot.
2. Address the customer by name.
Everyone loves to hear their name, so do unhappy customers. Personalize your reply. If your response feels copy-pasted, the result will be even worse than no response.
At this step, it does not matter if they are right or wrong. A short: 'We are very sorry that you had a bad experience' goes a long way to mend a relationship. You could even win them back. Your customer was angry and needed to vent. Don't we all, sometimes?
4. Address the issues raised by the customer.
If the customer complaint is legitimate and something went wrong on your end, admit it. Then apologize and offer to make up for it.
'We are sorry that your unit was double booked because of a technical issue. A customer service agent will contact you within 24h.'
You have to follow through with it. Contact the customer as promised, repeat your apology and offer a discount. Most customers will come back. Additionally, this is an opportunity to move the situation offline and solve it face to face.
5. What if the comment was not truthful?
Some customers will make 'adjustments' to how the situation unfolded. As a business, you don't have to put up with lies, but be diplomatic about it. Take this situation: A customer gets upset and impolite. Later she leaves a review accusing the front desk staff of rudeness.
'Dear Karen, we are sorry that you felt rudely treated by our front desk staff. We take such feedback seriously. Our staff frequently undergo training on effective communication. Politeness and courtesy are the foundation of good interaction. We will investigate your report, and a customer service agent will contact you within 24h.'
Note how the reply does not take the blame. It even implies that the customer should also remain polite. From here, it is the same as in step 4 – contact the customer offline and propose a resolution to the conflict.
6. Mistaken Reviews
Sometimes, customers make a genuine mistake and review the wrong business. You have an excellent opportunity to try and win them over. Highlight how you are better than the competition.
'Dear John, we are very sorry that you had a negative experience with ABC-Storage. It seems you reviewed the wrong business. We are XYZ-Storage. Our customers have 24h access to their storage and enjoy top-notch security. Plus, we are currently running a campaign for new customers – the first six months are 30% off. Why don't you check us out?'
Don't forget the positive ones
Don't forget positive reviews! Happy customers often are quiet customers. But when they do rate, thank them for it! The rules are the same as for negative reviews:
Search for them, address by name, be original:
'Dear Rachel, we are happy that you enjoyed our services! Seeing a happy customer puts a smile on the faces of our team! Our customers’ possessions are as important to us as our own, that's why we invest in the best security measures.'
Positive reviews are also a channel to highlight your business's strengths. Use them to convince new customers to book your self-storage. Sprinkle reasons why customers should choose you into the responses.
The bottom line
Always respond to reviews, and especially the negative ones. Accept that you will receive negative feedback – it's part of the business. Use it to your benefit:
Identify problems in your process that cause frustration and improve them
Regain unhappy customers
Create social proof and win over new customers