From Rant to Rave: How to Turn Negative Reviews Around

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October 16, 2018
From Rant to Rave: How to Turn Negative Reviews Around
True or false? There’s no such thing as bad publicity. 
Trick question. The answer is both true and false. Negative reviews on, Yelp, Google, Facebook, or any other social platform have the power to make or break your business. 
Research indicates that 85 percent of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family, which means customer complaints are more powerful than ever. Reviews on carry more weight, as each one undergoes a validation process before being posted—meaning you have the assurance that reviews about your business are from legitimate customers. Likewise, consumers can rest assured that what they are reading is authentic and came from a real customer.
Simply shrugging off negative reviews or waiting too long to resolve an issue can harm your hard-earned reputation, bringing your overall star rating down on your BBB Profile and other review sites. Facebook recently announced it will ban businesses from advertising that have too many unfavorable reviews. With careful customer experience management, however, you can use this seemingly bad publicity to convert an unsatisfied customer into a brand advocate. 
The information gleaned from unfavorable reviews can also be used to improve your internal processes to make sure similar situations don’t arise. Research shows that only one in 26 unhappy customers actually complain. The other 25? They take their business elsewhere without saying a word.
Responding to Negative Reviews
Better Business Bureau® strongly encourages Accredited Businesses to monitor and respond to customer reviews on and other online platforms. It’s easy enough to type a quick note of appreciation to a person who is praising your products or services, but it’s more difficult to articulate a response to a ranting customer. Why? Every person is different. Every problem is different. Therefore, every response should be different. Instead of sending a canned or generic response to an unsatisfied customer, use these universal guidelines to lead the conversation in a positive, professional manner.
Remember it’s not personal.
You work hard to ensure the success of your business. Negative reviews are reflective of interactions or situations, not you personally. Even the most successful companies constantly receive unfavorable reviews despite their popularity or impressive reputation.
Respond quickly . . .
Once a customer posts a negative review, you have a short window of time to make things right. The speed at which an issue is handled can largely determine whether a customer stays or goes. Your response time is an opportunity for your business to impress them and win their loyalty.
. . . but not too quickly.
Read the review in its entirety before you start forming an opinion or formulating a response. Angry customers often write things in the heat of the moment that they normally wouldn’t say in person—don’t make the same mistake. Take the time to contemplate how they are feeling and what they are saying. Investigate the situation if necessary by speaking to your employees, reviewing contracts, etc. Then, read the review again before responding to make sure you haven’t missed anything. You may discover an underlying problem that isn’t specifically addressed. 
Empathize and apologize.
When people are upset about something, a little bit of empathy goes a long way. Whether you are responding in writing or in person, describe the situation to let the customer know you understand what went wrong and why it was upsetting to them. Don’t deflect blame; instead, own the mistake. Retaining customers requires showing them you are always willing to take responsibility for your actions. For example, if you were unprepared for a late-afternoon rush, you might write:
“Thanks for your patience yesterday while waiting in line. I’m sorry that our scheduling error inconvenienced you and made you late for your movie.”
Avoid using phrases like “I’m sorry, but . . .” as it reads like an insincere apology filled with excuses.
Explain your action plan.
Let the customer know how you intend to remedy the situation, and when it will be resolved. Use it as an opportunity to educate them on your company policies, as well as review your internal procedures. Explain what you will do in the future to ensure something similar doesn’t happen. In some instances, it may be beneficial to offer the customer an incentive to show them this isn’t an ongoing problem. Ideas for incentives include:
  • A discount on the purchase of future goods or services
  • Extra reward points in a loyalty account
  • Bonus upgrade on products or services
  • Free related product in addition to replacement of a defective product
Express your appreciation.
Remember those other 25 customers that left instead of complaining? Thank the person who did speak up for bringing this to your attention. Depending on the situation, you may even consider asking the person to revise their review or add a comment letting others know that everything was resolved. While the process for doing this varies from one site to another, customers can withdraw a review on at any time by emailing BBB with the same email address used when submitting the review. The customer can also update the information in the original review.
Handling Formal BBB Complaints
Customers may choose to file a formal complaint with BBB in certain situations instead of leaving a negative review about their experience with a business. They may not do both. In order for a consumer to file a complaint with BBB, they must be seeking a resolution from the business. BBB works with both the business and consumer to resolve the issues and BBB reports the details of that process. While reviews don’t affect your BBB letter grade, complaints and their outcomes may.
If your business receives a complaint, it’s not the end of the world. Open communication is the key to resolving the issue amicably and favorably. When a customer files a complaint with BBB, Accredited Businesses are either notified via email or the postal service. You are then required to provide a written response within 30 business days that includes:
  • Your perspective of the situation, addressing all issues in a professional and productive manner.
  • Your suggested resolution, if different than the consumer’s desired resolution.
You can use the same guidelines outlined above to write your response. Additionally, it’s a good idea to keep a record of transactions, guarantees or warranties, and important customer communications. These can be digitally attached to your response, lending more credibility to your case.
Improving Future Reviews With Customer Experience Management
There is always an opportunity to learn from unfavorable reviews or complaints and improve your level of service. Customer experience management, often referred to as CXM, refers to how a company tracks, oversees and organizes ongoing interactions throughout the entire customer lifecycle. It’s not based on a single review or event; rather, it’s a series of interactions between customers and your brand. The goal of CXM is to create a customer-centric environment that breeds loyalty. To accomplish this, you need to:
  • Understand the needs and behaviors of customers, and segment markets accordingly.
  • Identify touchpoints throughout the customer lifecycle, anticipate interactions, and solicit feedback. 
  • Develop emotional connections with customers through live chats, email, social media, online reviews, and other outreach platforms.
  • Track customer feedback and responses to enable continuous improvement.
Every customer interaction matters. Creating and maintaining a CXM strategy builds relationships and encourages customers to leave positive reviews—68 percent will leave a review if asked. Monitoring and responding promptly to any negative reviews you might receive shows customers that you care, making them more likely to continue doing business with you.
Contact your BBB rep for more sage advice on turning unfavorable reviews into favorable opportunities for your business. BBB Article August 2018
Denise Sprague, Business Relations
(419) 578-6000