There’s no doubt that online technologies have dramatically improved our lives. For example, we can use our phone to call a taxi, have our groceries delivered, reschedule an appointment, take a language lesson, or even trade a commercial asset. But just as easily, an unhappy customer can post a negative review of your business.

Reviews have become a big part of gaining new customers and can have a big impact on our business. How we react to negative online reviews will make a difference in how customers see a business.

How Important Are Reviews

It seems everyone reads online reviews today, checking the star ratings and gauging the validity of the reviews. Almost any kind of business can be found with online customer reviews. And shoppers read them carefully.

In 2016, 90% of shoppers read at least one online review before making a decision. And 94% of these shoppers said that a negative review can convince them to shop elsewhere.

Business owners need to understand that they need online reviews to drive customers to their business. Customer reviews can build your brand. If a company has no reviews or no place for customers to leave a review, it can look like they’re hiding something.

It doesn’t matter if a business is a local store or an online business, most shoppers will look to online reviews when deciding to buy a product or use a service.

Having online reviews makes a company look trustworthy. And we know that customers are usually smart and suspicious. Most shoppers can distrust businesses with ratings below 4 stars, and some shoppers might wonder about a business with ratings above 4 stars.

It appears that companies with 4 stars are more likely to get customers and sales. Of course, there has to be a decent amount of good reviews to go along with those 4 stars. Why would a customer be suspicious of 5 stars? Because they might think it is false. But if there are enough well-written positive reviews to justify the 5 stars, customers will usually believe the high rating.

Reviews are a way to get customers talking about your brand. Harvard Business Review found that online reviews have a big influence on a company’s bottom line. And reviews are a company’s conduit directly to their customers. They give a business a way to actually see what customers think, a way to thank them, or a way to discuss any problems a customer might have. 

A few statistics can show just how important online reviews are to a business:

  • The majority of customers will trust an online review as much as a personal recommendation
  • Customers can spend as much as 30% more with a business or on a product with good online reviews
  • Positive reviews will make shoppers 72% more likely to trust a local business
  • A large majority of shoppers will use a local business if it has at least a 4-star rating
  • A one-star increase on Yelp can lead to as much as a 9% increase in revenue
  • There are almost 27,000 reviews posted on Yelp each day
  • One negative review can cost as many as 30 customers

Who Posts Online Reviews and Where

Shoppers can find reviews all over the internet. Some of the most common places to find reviews include:

  • Yelp
  • Google Business Reviews
  • Facebook
  • Amazon
  • Yellow Pages
  • Better Business Bureau
  • The company’s website.

Anyone can write an online review. And sometimes it seems that only the angry customers are the ones that write the online reviews. If someone is pleased with a service, they might either take it for granted and not write a review or not get around to it. And those customers that are angry for some reason will instantly write a negative review.

Sometimes a business owner will get friends and family members to write positive online reviews. That can backfire as customers might recognize many of those types of reviews as fake or phony.

Family and friends can certainly write a good review if they have used the business before, and then it won’t appear made up and fake. Fake reviews can scare potential customers away just as fast as a negative online review can.

Some businesses might pay people to write positive online reviews. This is unethical, and shoppers will still detect this. These kinds of reviews can even be worse than a negative review if shoppers feel they are being deceived.

Shoppers can tell if there are too many positive reviews in a row, especially if they all sound the same. The best way to earn new customers is to have honest reviews.

How to Avoid Negative Online Reviews

Getting negative online reviews is inevitable, but there are some things that can be done to avoid getting too many of them.

Be Available

One of the most frustrating things for customers is when they cannot contact the company. Customers have questions or problems, and when they try to contact the company, they hit brick walls. Customers might be treated to unanswered emails, canned replies, or unanswered phones. Being available and personable to all customers can help avoid many negative reviews.

Be Professional

Above all else, when replying to a customer complaint over the telephone or email, be professional. Do not try to argue with the customer, even if they are wrong. Find out exactly what the problem is, and calmly try to rectify it. Treat every customer as if they are the company’s most important customer. In doing this, you might turn what would have been a negative review into a positive one.

Be a Customer

Perform regular tests of your company. Make sure the service or product is as expected. Make sure the website is operating properly. Make sure that customers have a way to contact the business. Go through everything as if you are a customer.

Respond Quickly

Making a customer wait for a reply back to their problem only adds to their frustration. And frustration leads to more negative reviews. A quick and personal response is what customers are looking for. A canned or useless reply could quickly get a company a negative review.

Encourage Customers to Leave a Review

Angry customers are more likely to leave a review than a happy customer is. That is one reason we might see more negative reviews than we do positive ones. Research has found that 77% of customers will leave a review if they are asked. By asking customers to leave a review, you will find many more positive reviews than negative ones.

Provide Great Service

This might seem obvious, but providing great service and taking care of business is the simplest way of avoiding negative reviews. Always keep the customer in mind when dealing with every aspect of the company.

How to Handle Negative Reviews

Since getting negative reviews is inevitable, there are ways to handle them and ways not to handle them. Handling negative reviews in the wrong way can make one negative review much worse.

Don’t ignore negative reviews. That makes it look like the company doesn’t care about its customers or complaints. By properly replying to negative reviews, you can gain the trust of shoppers who read the replies to negative reviews. This can also boost your company’s image.

A study that looked at hotel reviews on TripAdvisor found that hotels that responded to customer reviews had 12 percent more reviews and an average rating increase of 0.12 stars. That might not sound like a lot, but it adds up to more positive reviews.

When reading a negative review, the first thought is to defend the company, which can get personal or nasty. And that usually turns off other shoppers who are reading these reviews and replies.

Responding quickly to negative reviews is important. The longer a negative review goes without a reply, the worse it can look to other shoppers. Replying to a negative review might not be a pleasant task, but it is something that needs to be done as soon as possible.

Reading a negative review can teach a company about some aspects of the company that are not running smoothly. Take this opportunity to discuss this with the reviewer in an honest and thoughtful way. Customers and potential customers love honesty above all else, especially when a company takes the time to listen and reply in an honest manner.

Keep the replies professional and appropriate. In this day and age on the internet, online conversations can get out of hand quickly. Don’t let that happen. A company will gain a great deal of online respect when they reply in a mature and professional manner.

Make all replies custom replies. We’ve all noticed canned replies from companies when reading reviews. They are not even worth taking notice of. And it gives us a feeling that the company really doesn’t care what their customers think. By taking the time to write a custom reply to each review, it will give customers the feeling that this company does care about them.

If possible, take it offline. Sometimes, a customer’s negative review is best settled offline. In the reply, ask the customer if there is a way to be contacted so the complaint can be resolved. If they don’t feel comfortable giving out contact information, give them your contact information. This again will give shoppers the feeling that this company does care.

If the situation warrants, offer the customer some type of compensation. This might not happen very often, but when it does, you can take advantage of the situation and show your goodwill towards an unsatisfied customer.

Don’t respond to nonsense reviews. Sometimes there are going to be negative reviews that make no sense. These reviews could be trolls, fake negative reviews, or fraud. Even though we might feel like defending our company or arguing, these types of reviews are best left alone. Shoppers are not stupid and can spot fake reviews for themselves.

By responding properly to negative reviews, we can actually turn those negative reviews into positive reviews. Many times a customer that has posted a negative review will come back to edit it and turn it into a positive review.

Turning Negative Customers into Positive Customers

Years ago, Disney came up with an approach to deal with angry customers, known as HEARD. Any business can use this approach to turn negative comments into positive online reviews.

  • Hear: Listen to customers explain their position without interrupting. Sometimes all it takes to turn a negative review into a positive one is to listen.
  • Empathize: Show the customer that you completely understand their frustration. The empathy has to be sincere.
  • Apologize: Even if you’re not at fault, apologize to the customer. Make them feel like they’ve actually been heard.
  • Resolve: Resolve the customer’s problem quickly. All employees should be empowered to resolve customer issues.
  • Diagnose: Without blaming others, figure out where and why the problem occurred in the first place, and correct it.

Removing Negative Reviews

Positive reviews can help a business gain new customers. Since negative reviews are a part of all businesses, it is important that negative reviews are handled properly. Shoppers pay attention to the company’s replies just as much as they do the actual reviews.

Once in a while, there will be negative reviews that are not about the same company, or fake reviews from a disgruntled former employee, or a number of other reasons. In cases like these, they can be removed.

To make things easier, make sure to claim your business on review websites. If there are fraudulent reviews, this will make getting them removed easier. Review websites like Yelp, Google Business Review, and others have specific procedures to follow. Each website has guidelines for the removal of fraudulent reviews.

Summary

All reviews, especially negative reviews can teach us about our business. They can help us find flaws that can be corrected, and in some cases give us great ideas on how to make our business even better.

By encouraging customers to write online reviews, a business can get more positive reviews, which can overshadow the few negative reviews. If handled properly, negative reviews and complaints can be turned into positive reviews, all great ways to increase business.

Never argue on a review website, take it offline so the complaint can be handled properly. Don’t use canned replies. Write personal replies to a negative review, since that shows that a company cares about its customers.

Online reviews will always be a part of business. By taking advantage of both positive and negative reviews, any business can boost their brand and profit if the reviews are handled properly.