You’ve spent lots and lots of time, money, and hard work getting your offerings ready to take to the marketplace. You’ve begun to generate some sales, and revenue begins to flow in. You may even be receiving some positive feedback from customers, have gotten some good online reviews, and are beginning to get referrals from your satisfied customers. And then it happens, as it inevitably will. Someone posts a negative review. It may be on Yelp, on your own Facebook page, or elsewhere in social media or on a third-party review site. It doesn’t matter where the review is posted, nor whether your critic is accurate in their assessment. It’s going to be a shock to see that negative review online.
The Importance of Online Reviews
In today’s hyper-connected consumer world, making sales is almost a completely different process than it was in the days before the prevalence of eCommerce. Long gone are the days in which a salesperson could close a deal “in a vacuum”, as it were. I’m old enough to remember the days when a salesman in a retail store could make wild, bold claims about a product, it’s features, reliability, or even its pricing, with a high comfort level that the customer was not going to call his bluff, and actually fact-check the information he was giving out. That doesn’t happen all that much any more, since almost everyone has in their pocket a smartphone with internet access, that will, within seconds, expose a salesperson’s lies or exaggerations.
Here’s a statistic that brings it into focus: 81% of shoppers do research online before making their decision on a major purchase. That research may include comparing prices on the same product through other outlets, and it also may include reading online reviews. Consider that the largest demographic in the consumer world now is the millennial generation. This generation is generally more tech-savvy than their predecessors, with a particular distinction. For the most part, they don’t even remember a time in which all the information known to humanity was not instantly accessible, from wherever they are. That their lives are almost fully integrated with the internet manifests both in their eagerness to do online research, and perhaps even more so in their willingness to share online reviews, both positive and negative with their friends, and with the public in general. Their good experiences with your company will go far, and will likely help you; their bad experiences will very probably go even further, and could create a setback for your marketing plans.
Negative reviews are inevitable
When you take your products to the marketplace, you enter the public eye. Everything you put out there is subject to scrutiny, and to feedback, either positive or negative. You may have the very best offerings available, unrivaled by your competitors. But that doesn’t mean that you’ll never get a bad review. Inevitably, someone is going to write a negative online review of what you’re selling or your service. It may be a legitimate complaint about the design of your product. It may be a case of someone getting something that wasn’t up to your quality standards but slipped through and made it out. It may be comments from someone who doesn’t really understand the product you’re selling, or how to use it. Or, it may simply be an internet troll, someone who thrives on making provocative online posts, just for the sport of watching the ensuing discord. No matter the cause, the motivation, or the veracity of the comments, sooner or later it’s going to happen. What’s important now is what you do next.
Respond to negative online reviews, every time
In some ways, the posting of online reviews is not so different from the postcards included in product packaging, or left on the desk in your hotel room, soliciting your comments and evaluation of what you just paid for. Don’t allow your online reviews, however negative they may be, to become like the suggestion boxes of jokes and cartoons, inevitably dismissed or destroyed. Just as salespeople are trained to use their prospects’ objections as a challenge to overcome as a part of closing the deal, so must business owners view negative online reviews as an opportunity to manage their reputation.
Never shrink away and hide from a negative review. Don’t delete the comments either, if they’re on your website or social media profile page where you have the ability to do so. Grab the bull by the horns, and deal with the review head-on. The fact that you respond, and the manner in which you respond, will play an important part in the way that people see your company in the online world.
How to Respond
The first thing you should do when you learn of a negative online review posted about your company is --- nothing. Well, to be more precise, wait. Breathe. Cool off. Don’t do anything rash or impulsive. The last thing you want to do at this time is to react impulsively, though the temptation to do so may be great, especially if you feel that the negative comments are ungrounded. Use great caution in this arena. What you do next will be visible in the public eye, and a hot-headed response is likely to do more harm than the review itself.
Customers are looking for humanity, not perfection
Take the time to formulate a cool, calm, thoughtful response. Above all be polite, even if your critic was not. Acknowledge their comments, and thank them for their input. If there’s a misunderstanding, use the forum that has been provided to clear up any confusion. Don’t be defensive, as this will surely make you look worse. Do use the opportunity to point out the positive features of your product.
Chances are that most of your customers are not going to abandon you, nor will shoppers pass you over, strictly on the basis on one poor review. Keep in mind that most people are not looking to see that you and your offerings are perfect. For the most part, they want to see that you’re human, and respond with sincerity and care. And, never forget that, while there are many ways in which today’s world of online business differs from old school methods, the old adage must still hold true: The customer is always right.