A century ago, P.T. Barnum declared, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” In today’s highly charged and highly connected world, dealing with a negative review requires the precision of a high-wire act. One negative review can result in 30 lost customers or provide information to improve the overall business. Many retailers will stop at simply trying to stop the bleeding. But there are ways to turn the negative feedback into valuable insight—if you keep going.
Step 1: You Can’t Fix What You Don’t Know is Broken
Sure, there are ways to monitor the physical store to ensure that systems are operating correctly. And most frontline employees probably know what needs to happen to get a burned out lightbulb replaced. But is everyone—especially leadership—up to speed on what’s being said online—and what to do about it?
There are any number of online tools—most at a nominal cost—that can provide this important insight. Not sure where to start? Check out Yext, Reputology, GoFishDigital and Reputation as a jumping off point. These services help you monitor what’s being said, solicit reviews, and track resolution. It may not always be pleasant, but understanding what’s being said is the first step in knowing how to respond to negative reviews.
Step 2: Give Your Team the Benefit of the Doubt
When a customer complains about poor service or an out-of-stock product at one location, the view from the corporate perch may be to drop the hammer. That will provide content for responding to the reviewer. But before you address any disciplinary action, dig into the truth to guide you in how to respond to negative reviews.
Learn how to spot fake reviews and report them to the site on which they are hosted. If you think the review might be fake, respond politely—and publicly—providing a name and contact for the reviewer to reach. If the review is legit, the consumer has someone to help; if not, at least it looks like you’re trying.
When the review is credible, ask your team what happened, then partner with them to determine how to fix it—both for the customer and company. Remember: One bad review can be costly. But a disengaged or discouraged staff can unleash a whole host of problems.
Step 3: Acknowledge the Reviews. Yes, Even the Bad Ones
Your first thought may be to try to remove the negative review. That is difficult on a site like Yelp, but easier to control on your own Facebook page. Resist the urge anyway.
A study by Revoo found that consumers are suspicious if a brand has no negative reviews. And shoppers who seek out negative reviews convert more highly than the average consumer. Other studies report that 85% of consumers—and 91% of those ages 18-29—actively seek out negative reviews.
Why? Author and digital marketing expert Neil Patel has an idea: “Bad reviews give customers a sense of the worst-case scenario. They want to know what can go wrong to understand just how much it will matter to them.”
Your response, then, is an opportunity to assure them that, should the worst happen, you are there. This is why your public response is so critical. Rest assured: Your customers expect you to respond to negative reviews—and within a week.
You can respond directly—and privately—to the reviewer if you’re logged in as business owner on Yelp. But most negative reviews will need a public response, too—because of the values consumers place on them.
It might be tempting to assign this task to a low-level employee. Again, resist the urge to do so, as they might not have the skills or information to know how to respond to negative reviews appropriately. For smaller companies and start-ups, that probably should fall to the founder or owner. Larger companies might delegate this responsibility to the customer care team, marketing department, or even an outside firm.
Best case scenario: the relationship with the offended customer might be saved. As Entrepreneur wrote: “On top of improving your business from the inside, a negative review literally provides a brand with a platform to improve the relationship with the customer. 95% of unhappy customers will return to your business if an issue is resolved quickly and efficiently.”
Step 4: Consider Reviews Intel You Wouldn’t Have Otherwise
No matter how much insight you have, you don’t know everything that’s happening in every store every minute of every day. The right sort of reviews—positive and negative—can be worth mining.
Rude staff, poor maintenance, produce past its prime, and disheveled displays should get your attention—especially if the same complaints keep coming up.
Even one complaint should carry some weight, as research shows it accounts for about 26 additional consumers who feel the same way. A customer who takes the time to complain is a “generous gift that can help you make great changes, and ultimately make a lot more customers happy.”
Step 5: Correct the Problems Described
Knowing how to respond to negative reviews is really just the starting point of using the insight provided to improve your business. As you delve into the issues that the review raised, consider whether it might be the same throughout other stores. If produce is not fresh at one location, is that issue related to the broader supply chain? If one store looks a little outdated, could the same be said of other locations? Are there persistent floor execution issues or stock issues that hinder sales? The disappointment these challenges bring can light the flame of a negative review.
To turn the negative into a positive—for your company at least—dig more deeply into the review to see where customers see value in your products. According to Dunnhumby, improving value perception is key to driving sales and deepening your connections with customers. That means you have to understand what’s important to your customers and where they perceive value.
A Yotpo study of 1.3 million reviews found the most commonly used negative word was “disappointment” or some form of that word. It was mentioned about three times more frequently than “bad.” Disappointment happens when expectations aren’t fulfilled. Brands can use the data collected from negative reviews to better communicate with customers by managing expectations (i.e. notifying them of lag times in product availability, for example).
The Bigger Picture on Bad Reviews
Knowing how to respond to negative reviews can prove another of Barnum’s adages: Every cloud has a silver lining. What initially begins as a negative encounter may lead to a happy customer. It adds credibility for potential customers who are checking out reviews before making a purchase. And negative reviews provide insight that, if you pay attention, will help you fix the areas the reviewer described.
Understand that reviews hold a particular power for today’s consumers—and you have to take the bad with the good. The more reviews you have, the better, since people will read about your business longer—leading to an increased likelihood that they will purchase.
The best way to deliver in-store experiences that keep customers satisfied is to reduce friction. To start, ensure you’re giving shoppers easy access to the products they love most. CB4 uses machine learning and predictive analytics to reveal the products with highest demand at each store in your chain, and sends store teams actionable insights to correct lost sales opportunities. Read how here.