Bad reviews may actually be the best thing for your business. Nobody wants to hear that, but it’s true.
The thing about bad reviews is that they actually expose holes and problems in your business that you probably wouldn’t see otherwise. You can’t be everywhere within your business, and there are bound to be blind spots that you can’t see. Even the ones that you normally can see, you probably turn a blind eye too after you just get used to them (like the dead outlet in your house that you meant to fix, but got so used to it being out that you don’t even think about it anymore). These bad reviews actually turn into a blessing of sorts, as they quickly remind you of the problems that exist which are likely costing you customers and, ultimately, money.
When most people see a bad review, the first thing they try to do is either fight the review, try to get it taken down, or get a whole bunch of new reviews to counteract it. This is not a good approach.
Fix your problem, not your perception.
While you should respond to bad reviews (do not ignore them), and lend a sympathetic listening ear, the first thing to do is assess the core issues.
Assessing the Situation
The first thing you need to do is assess the situation. Bad reviews can be costly. They’re even more costly when you don’t know what’s really happening. Don’t just look at the star rating – look at the data behind the rating. Your customers are literally telling you what the problem is. You are just digging a deeper hole until you understand that.
And bad reviews don’t just deter customers. They also also prevent existing customers from returning, costing money in multiple directions.
We recently did an analysis for a business with over 50 locations and a very large staff. Most people were very happy with the product they were receiving, but the staff and processes were a significant issue. Getting appointments, return phone calls, and wait times were major issues. Using very conservative figures, it was estimated that bad reviews (and the issues behind them), were costing the business over $1.2 million per year! All of these are easily fixed problems, but they caused customers to leave negative reviews, comment on social media posts, and never return to the business.
Addressing the Issues
When issues aren’t addressed, and customers are asked for reviews, what kind of reviews are going to come in? Though some positive reviews may come through, negative reviews will come in even more and the low ratings become even more cemented in. The issues need to be addressed. The steps here are as basic as they come, but it’s astounding how many companies just aren’t doing them and are drowning in a sea of complaints.
Your customers are literally telling you the things that make working with you difficult, the things they would change, and what would make them happy. The typical response by most business owners is “Yes, but…”
- The customer was rude first
- They don’t understand how our business works
- We were really busy
- This isn’t normal
- We didn’t know
You can’t make excuses. They really don’t matter. You need to honestly listen to your customers and find out what is bothering them. Whether or not you believe it is legitimate is irrelevant. This is how your business is perceived, or exactly what happened, and it needs to be addressed. If you ignore customer concerns, they will never be addressed and the cycle will continue.
Solve the Problem
Once you know what the problem is, you can work on fixing it. Get feedback from your customers, find out what the biggest issues are, and then prioritize addressing the issues that are affecting the most people (if there are some very simple fixes that can fix minor problems, it’s okay to fix them first, but don’t ignore the big issues – though often daunting, they’re the most important). Most often, the solution to your problems is one of the following:
- Customer service training (your employees may be good people, just not equipped to handle various issues they encounter)
- Fix your website (especially in e-commerce)
- Change your processes (this is big in healthcare – patients have a hard time getting appointments because of a bad phone tree, don’t get phone calls back, or have long wait times due to poor scheduling and procedures)
Address the Reviews
There are two ways that you need to address your review issue. First is to respond to negative reviews. No, you’re not highlighting them. Don’t be afraid to engage with customers that have had a bad experience. In fact, most people doing their research and coming across bad reviews appreciate seeing that the company cared enough to respond and tried to make things right. Some services like Amazon even let the customer change a review, so you may actually get some precious stars back. You do need to be careful in how you respond to reviews:
- Don’t be confrontational – this is your change to apologize and make things right, not prove them wrong or escalate the issue
- Offer a way to make things right, if possible
- Make sure the customer feels heard
- Offer a way to contact you to help rectify the situation
- Ask to have the individual contact you so you can make sure their concerns and issues are addressed – this gives you an even better opportunity to try to make things right with the customer
Once this issues are addressed and you’ve begun responding to reviews, you can try to gain more reviews. At this time, the issues should be resolved, so you can address your average review score. There is software available to help increase positive reviews, but be careful – many of them violate website guidelines (Google, Yelp, etc.). You can’t ask for a positive review, only an honest one, and you can’t filter people out that you think may leave a bad review – you have to ask everyone. In order to obtain more reviews, we recommend doing things like:
- Signs in your office asking people to leave reviews
- Buttons on your website that take people to review pages
- Ask via FB posts
- Auto-generated email follow-ups with customers to ask them to review
- Enclose a card with product packaging
Let Us Know if You Need More Ideas or Help
If you need more ideas for your business, let us know and we’d be happy to give you some specific ideas that would apply. There are ways to honestly not filter out people likely to give bad reviews as well in a way that does not violate service guidelines (for example, if you ask for a review in a general FB post, the people that see it are likely those who have liked your page, and those people probably had a good experience).
Too many companies ignore reviews, expect a magic bullet, and never address the core issues. Unhappy customers are probably giving you the best honest feedback. Listen to them and let them help your business. If you need help getting started, assessing the situation, training staff (yes, we do that!), or need any other help, let us know and we can set up a call to help you figure out what your best steps are!