At some point in your small business career, it’ll happen. You log on to your website, drop your company name into Yelp, or get a notification from Google Alerts, and there it is: Your first negative customer review.
Or your fifth. Or hundredth. Each one still hurts, no matter how many you’ve gotten.
Handling negative comments is just one aspect of the entrepreneurial life. A product that never gets a negative review is a product no one uses.
I experienced my first bit of negative feedback when I launched my original Freelancer’s Club earlier this year. Some people raved about it, but others sent me nasty emails and bashed me in the forum.
While your first negative review should be a point of pride — finally, you’ve created something worthwhile that people feel the need to complain about it — it’s often less pride and more pain.
What do you do when people keep maligning your product, service or company?
What do you do when you are the company, and by complaining about your consulting service or writing skills, people are actually complaining about you?
There are a few options, each with its own pros and cons. And before you jump to respond to your next negative reviewer, consider each of these.
Option 1. Ignore Bad Reviews
The first step, and one popular with many entrepreneurs, is to simply disregard the negative feedback. It’s a basic human response, developed in childhood when your mother told you to ignore bullies.
Some people hire assistants or VA’s to ensure they never see a negative review, while others simply refuse to click on Yelp, Amazon Reviews, or other online review portals.
It’s basic and simple: Stay away from the negative by ignoring bad reviews. This allows you to devote your full energy to developing your product and service, and prevents the stress associated with unwarranted criticism or negative comments.
But it comes at a price — you never know what is troubling your customers. Yes, some reviews are simply cranky rants, but others have useful criticism about your product or service.
Ignoring reviews completely means potentially ignoring ways to improve your business.
Option 2. Interact and Engage Nasty Commentors
Get an angry email? Respond instantly with a suggestion to improve the issue. Got a string of nasty blog commentors? Reply inline to every single one.
This strategy attempts to make each negative reviewer feel heard, and attempts to build your reputation as a person who will do anything to satisfy a customer.
The problem though, is most of the time, it doesn’t work.
Yes, there are always the handful of customers who will appreciate your quick, personalized response, but the majority of negative reviewers won’t return to your website to see that you’ve provided a solution to their complaint.
Sometimes, interacting with customers is simply feeding trolls.
How do you know whether you should interact with negative reviewers or leave them alone? Here’s a good test. Respond personally to negative reviewers who have:
- Purchased your product/service
- Attempted to use the product/service
- Commented in a polite, respectful manner
If you get a negative review from a polite person who tried your service, respond quickly and equally politely. Suggest options to improve the user’s experience, or offer to fix the problem.
On the other hand, don’t interact with people who want to complain about your product but haven’t ever tried it. These people are just a waste of time.
Option 3. Erase Negative Feedback
What happens if you get a string of trolls working to flame your product with bad comments?
These kind of negative commentors come out of nowhere and can trash a reputation. Everyone expects a few negative comments online, but hundreds of negative comments mean fewer purchases and fewer profits.
In this case, sometimes you simply have to get those negative comments erased. Brand.com shows how to remove negative comments and re-adjust your search results so the positive reviews appear at the top of searches.
When should you use a professional reputation company? When you have a spate of bad reviews for no good reason — or when you have a spate of bad reviews for a very good reason.
If you had a flawed product that got bad reviews but you successfully fixed the product flaw, it’s time to erase bad reviews from search results to let the new, improved product take center stage.
Option 4. Change Your Strategy
This, of course, brings us to the last method of handling negative reviews: Change.
This type of change can be anything from disabling comments on your website — or moderating comments, a popular alternative — to using the information from negative comments to improve your product or service.
At some point, if you have too many negative reviews, something has to change — and the only person who can change things is you.
Negative reviews can cost your businesses money. And the more negative reviews you have, the less likely a new customer is to buy your product. This means that you have to change strategies, and change them fast.
How to Handle Negative Reviews
Whether you change the method through which people submit reviews, change your strategy for interacting with customers, or change your product or service itself, you need to find a way to curb the negative feedback and set the stage for more positive interactions.
This, in the end, is the best way to solve large amounts of negative reviews.
Bonus financial fact: Although negative reviews of an established product decrease sales, negative reviews of an unknown product can increase sales by up to 45%! Sometimes it’s better to be complained about than not to be discussed at all.
How do you handle negative reviews? Share your thoughts in the comments.