4 steps to turn around a bad customer review

Depending on their efficacy and quantity, reviews can make or break a business. True Local general manager Robert Tolliday shares his tips for turning a bad review into a positive experience for your customers and your business.

Whether negative or positive, reviews enable businesses to reach new audiences, build a strong online reputation and gain invaluable real-time feedback to help improve services or products, and distinguish themselves from competitors.

Review sites give businesses a trusted platform to create two-way communication with consumers. More than ever before, trust is the greatest asset a brand can build; it can take years to build and just seconds to lose, if not handled correctly.

Negative online reviews are not always a bad thing, as new research from True Local reveals that the majority (66 per cent) of Australians don’t trust businesses that have only good reviews.Businessman giving a thumbs down

At the end of the day, bad reviews can’t be stopped, but the insight provided can change a business for the better. Being agile, adaptive and putting the customer first is the only way a business will survive in the long term.

If a customer goes online to rate and review your business negatively, this isn’t always avoidable. However, True Local research found that Australians are more than prepared to forgive a negative review and acknowledge that businesses and people can have a bad day.

Research conducted in 2016 into consumer behaviour and the use of review sites showed that nine in 10 people had used a review site in the last year. The majority also claimed to read at least five reviews before making a purchase decision. Review sites are like word of mouth, where many people go to seek advice from others about a product or service, looking to be informed about what an experience could be like.

Beyond reading the feedback, many business owners are unsure of the appropriate next steps when responding to negative reviews (visible to both existing and potential customers), and in some cases responses have broken the trust between a business and customers, doing more harm than good and further escalating the problem.

What not to do

The worst thing a business can do is be defensive and suggest that the customer is in some way wrong.

Artfully avoiding an apology also won’t garner any respect from customers.

What you should do

When responding to negative reviews, there are four crucial steps to take:

1. An introduction goes a long way: The person responding on behalf of the business should provide a name and business title to show customers that real people work there – this will make the process more personalised and conversational.

2. Thank the reviewer for providing feedback.

3. Apologise to the customer for the fact that the experience didn’t meet their expectations. Acknowledge the issue and let the reviewer know the business will attempt to rectify the situation to ensure it doesn’t happen again in future.

4. Take it offline: To stop the issue from escalating in public, provide a direct email address so that the customer can email privately to discuss the matter further.

A negative review online can be unsettling for many businesses. While there’s no doubt that having positive reviews will help to attract new consumers, the most important thing is not to be scared of a bad review. As the world becomes more digitally focused, businesses must adapt and change attitudes towards engaging with customers online.

Robert Tolliday is the general manager of online local business directory True Local.

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