The Positive of the Negative—In Marketing, Not Math

by Stephanie LaClair

The Positive in the Negative

Angry customers. We’ve all seen them, heard them, served them, and occasionally (even if we don’t want to admit it) been one ourselves.

Let’s face it- as friendly as your staff might be, timely as your service might be, and low as your prices might be, every business owner is bound to face an upset customer (or a few) throughout the life of their business. In pre-web days, dealing with an angry customer in your store or restaurant would only involve the few other customers that happened to be present, perhaps a few of their friends. But in the hyper-magnified world of the Internet, the dynamics are more complicated, and the effect more widespread.

Whether you’re a business owner or a consumer, we’ve all seen the wrath of an angry customer manifested online. Displayed for all the world to see. But don’t panic, a bad review isn’t all bad.

The Ball Is in Your Court

Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 3.26.28 PMMuch like the beginning of a major fight scene in a movie when the antagonist throws the first punch, the crowd watches and waits to see the response to the injured protagonist. A customer leaving a scathing review about your business is the first punch, and the crowd surrounding the fight, in this scenario, is the slew of people surfing reviews on the internet.

Current and potential customers anxiously await your response to the peeved customer. And this, my knocked-down business owners, is the positive of the negative review. The displeased customer review becomes an opportunity for you, not only to win that customer back, but furthermore, show the thousands of potential customers reading reviews the character of your business.

Just as a person’s true colors are often revealed in difficult situations, the same is true for a business. A negative review puts the eyes on you – everyone’s watching to see how you handle it.

Treat this not as a setback to your online reputation, but an opportunity to display the character you have as a company, as a business owner, and how much you value your customers.  When you reply with a genuine, authentic response, you show other customers that you really do care, and you aren’t just trying to cover your …..…business.

Can I Punch Back?

No. Well, not a punch at least. When it comes to answering this “knocking opportunity,” the first thing is to step away and calm down. Don’t come out, guns blazing, with a defensive response. There are rational tactics to help you answer a negative online review, and to your benefit. Responding without a strategy can be hazardous to your business’ health. Here’s what we discovered.

Handling Negative Reviews with Ease:

  • Respond. Off-line first, then publicly. There are times when a public response will backfire by further angering an already upset customer. Most expert advice is to respond, respond, respond! Reach out to the reviewer off-line first. You may be able to address the customer’s concern and mitigate the negative review. Then when you respond publicly you can provide an account of how you’ve addressed the reviewers’ concerns.
  • Identify the type of reviewer. Responding off-line first will help determine if your reviewer can be reasoned with. Reasoning with someone who is angry of illogical can be difficult, even if you’re doing everything in your power to correct their issue. You may choose to forego responding publicly to their review.
  • Recognize the trolls. Some people are never happy. And some are only happy “poking the bear”. If you’re dealing with a reviewer who leaves a number of low scoring reviews for lots of businesses, engage at your own risk. You may waste a lot of time and energy for a poor outcome.
  • Flag the review. If the review is fraudulent in some way most review sites will allow you to flag the review and provide a reason that it’s not appropriate. Unfortunately, reviews typically only get removed if they contain threats
or personally identify employees. A negative experience with your business is not seen as a reasonable reason to remove a review. So flagging reviews can be hit or miss. Thus, why it’s easier to head off bad reviews by focusing on providing quality products and services. The best defense is a good offense.

There’s more where that came from.

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When it comes down to it, it’s impossible to avoid negative online reviews. In reality, you don’t want a page full of nothing — but gleaming positive reviews (see Tip Sheet!).

And remember – negative reviews (if handled appropriately) can show customers that you are human, and that you care. So take the time to respond to them, and flip the script, to make a negative review a positive opportunity for your business.

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