How to Deal with Negative Online Reviews
Whether it's personal or business-related, negative online reviews hurt. I know because this recently happened to me.
At first, I just wanted to lash out with an angry reply. In years past, I probably would have retaliated like an angry bear that had just been poked with a sharp stick - maybe even using some passive-aggressive or sarcastic comments.
I know that it's only natural to feel hurt or angry when someone posts negative comments about you or your business. But, I had to put my feelings aside and deal with this like the professional that I am.
I kept my cool. I consulted my wife, my attorney and trusted employees to help me deal with what felt like a total betrayal.
They suggested that I take few days to calm down before I responded.
I followed their good advice.
When I did reply to the past employee's comments, I wrote a very measured and polite response. I even acknowledged her points without disputing the ones that I thought weren't warranted.
Why did I do this rather than tell her what I really thought about her comments? Because this negative review was not only harmful to me, it hurt my current employees who work so hard to promote the reputation of our business, and I had to think about them.
This was a very humbling but a good experience for me, and I'd like to share some of what I learned.
With online sites like Glassdoor and Yelp, it's easy for anyone to post anonymous, hateful reviews – and some even use curse words to vent their feelings. I'm sure many would never say these things to your face. The anonymity of the Internet leaves the door open for some really nasty rants. Seemingly civilized people can come up with some really hurtful language.
But remember, no matter how angry or hurt you feel, an aggressive or flippant response from you will only damage your reputation. And, you could cripple your business' reputation permanently because this information stays on the Internet forever.
Don't add fuel to the fire with an angry response. Rather than biting back like an angry bear, try to stay calm, consider what was expressed, that it might be true, and, if so, take it as constructive criticism. If the problem is with a customer complaint, insisting that they’re wrong would be a big mistake.
Whatever you do, don't respond immediately, even though it would certainly feel good to do so. If you do, you'll likely regret this later. Take some time to reflect and prepare a civilized response. Anything you post online is there for everyone to see. Take a few days, get advice from trusted friends or a lawyer, and think it through.
You don't want to wait too long before writing. The person who wrote this is waiting for you to respond. They may keep on "poking the bear" and trying to upset you until they receive a reply. You must formulate a response without making excuses. If you don't, their statements could get churned up into a rumor mill, and your business will suffer even more.
Reply with politeness and professionalism. You should always respond to both negative and positive reviews. As the boss, it's your responsibility to take this on yourself. Don't use boilerplate responses. Thank the individual for his or her review and deal with the issues raised with calm determination. If you prefer, and the venue allows, you can respond privately. Many business owners approach negative reviews in this manner.
Keep your response short and sweet. Let the reviewer know that you're sorry for their displeasure. It's possible to do this without admitting that you or your business have done anything wrong. If the reviewer is complaining about a product or service, ask them for more details so you can resolve their issues. You might want to offer some form of compensation, like a discounted product or service. Even if you’re convinced that the problem was on their end, you should acknowledge their issues. Talk about the steps you're taking to address their concerns.
Don't fake it. When faced with a number of negative reviews, some business owners pay people to write positive ones. This isn't recommended, and if you get caught, this will only hurt your reputation further. The major customer review sites have ways of detecting fake reviews, so keep this in mind.
Don't be an ostrich. Some people cower like an ostrich with its head in the sand when hit by negative reviews. They end up doing nothing hoping the problem will go away. All this does is show the individual and others that you don't care about them or your business's reputation. Address the problem in a professional manner.
Monitor your reviews. To take action against negative online reviews, you must be aware that they exist. Monitor your social media pages so you can respond to concerns. Be sure to also monitor the major consumer review sites like Yelp to see what people are saying about your business. You can set up Google Alerts for anything that shows up with your business name. It's free and easy to do. This way, if you or your business are mentioned anywhere online, you'll know about it. And if you find any comments that aren't serious or use abusive language, ask the review service if they can be removed. Review sites offer a way to flag or report reviews that violate their terms of service.
Whatever you do, don't let negative reviews squash your dreams and ability to execute them. And don't consider the negative reviews as failures–they're an opportunity to learn and grow.
Why not solicit more reviews? Whether it's your staff or customers, consider asking them for constructive feedback – both the negative and the positive. As the boss, you make sure your employees are reviewed periodically, right? But who's doing this for you? Maybe you should consider these online comments as your performance review.