Reputation Management – Responding to a Negative Review
The Formula for Successful Reputation Management
When you think of Reputation Management, you often think of removing negative reviews before all else. The entire industry of Reputation Management was formed around this model and even though it’s still an important aspect of your company’s web presence, it is by no means the most important.
Review sites like YELP and FourSquare have become household names and consumers are trusting reviews more and more like personal referrals these days. It is critical that your business has a stellar web presence within all of the major review sites and what’s even more important is that your business has very few negative reviews. Even one negative review is enough to bankrupt a small business if not handled properly. I always recommend that business owners hire a professional when it comes to responding to negative reviews because often times your response is what you’re being judged on. Responding to these negative remarks yourself is almost reckless because it’s nearly impossible to check your emotion at the door and reply subjectively and cordially to someone who just tore your organization apart with a barrage of cold hearted negativity. You don’t have to hire a professional if you utilize this formula for responding.
The Reputation Management approach that we train our managers to follow is this:
First you must Isolate the reviewers objections and concerns so it’s very clear that you understand why the review was posted in the first place. Your overall objective in Reputation Management is to resolve the issue, not to win the argument. When the first sentence of your response isolates the reviewers true complaints, it not only shows the reviewer that you listen well, it also shows future readers that you aren’t deflecting or passing the buck. A good example may be, “[name of reviewer], first I would like to apologize for your awful experience in our restaurant, and second I wanted to let you know I can truly understand how you felt our service was inadequate by the way we neglected your desire for a refill on your coffee for more than 10 minutes.”
The second part of our approach, to agree, is arguably the most important aspect of the entire response. After you’ve isolated the true concern of the reviewer, you must let that person know it is reasonable to feel this way. Even if you don’t believe it is acceptable to defame a business for something you may feel is insignificant, it will come across as deflecting the blame unless you let the reviewer know it was okay to proceed this way. A good example would be, “When I go to a restaurant I feel the same way. If my drink is empty, I shouldn’t have to ask for a refill, instead I should be offered a refill before my drink is finished to insure that I’m not left without a drink for any period of time.” Another good thing this accomplishes is when future readers see this, they see your personal side and opinions on this matter. This shows people that you are not afraid to admit when you are wrong and that usually carries a lot of weight with future prospects.
The third and final part of your response should be utilized to attempt to rectify the problem. This is where you can be creative and nurturing to the reviewer in hopes that you will, a) get the review deleted, or b) win back the lost customer, or c) both. I like to recommend that you offer to meet with the reviewer if at all possible. If you own a restaurant, offer to treat the person to a lunch in your restaurant where you or your staff can chat face to face with this person and show them that you are truly sorry for their negative experience and willing to do what you can to make it right. Many businesses won’t go this far to rectify a negative review and by doing so you are setting yourself up as a business owner that truly cares about your customers experience with your company. A good way to close your response would be, “If there is any way we can make this up to you we will. I’d like to meet with you personally over lunch and discuss the ways you feel we can improve our customer service. We value our customers experience above all else and would take your suggestions to heart. If you’d like to meet up, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can choose a time that fits both of our schedules. If you’d prefer to call, you can reach me at 123-123-1234 between the hours of 9am – 7pm Monday through Friday. I look forward to chatting with you and improving all of our customers dining experiences through your valued suggestions.”
Offerring a free lunch and face to face meeting might not be an option for you, in which case your best bet is to open dialogue off-line through an email or phone call. You have to decide what you’re willing to offer the reviewer in return for a shot at getting the review deleted. You cannot under any circumstances mention that you wish the reviewer would remove the review in your response. That has to be mentioned once your off-line dialogue has been established.