It sucks to get a bad review but a bad review can actually be good for your business. Seriously. There are essentially only two kinds of bad reviews; a customer is completely wrong and is mad about something or a customer genuinely had a bad experience. Both of these represent an opportunity.
One of the best reasons to own your Yelp and TripAdvisor and Google accounts is that these companies notify you when someone writes a review. You can then go and address the review as all review sites give you a chance to respond to reviews in writing.
What if the customer is Wrong?
The old adage that the customer is alway right is a complete fallacy. In fact, there are some customers who are so wrong they don’t deserve to be your customer. In the future I will write about firing those people.
But there are definitely people out there who are just plain wrong. For example, people who assume that a lube and oil change comes with a free set of tires or that your dinner special is for two people or whatever completely outlandish claim they make. Some people are just wrong, but they still leave reviews.
I’m convinced that some people just are mad at the world and take it out on you on social review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor and Google. These kinds of negative reviews are why a lot of business owners I talk to don’t want to be on these sites, but that’s not an effective strategy.
In fact, you can take advantage of these negative and incorrect reviews.
When we first get these kinds of reviews all we want to do is reach through the computer and punch these people. The next step is to go on Facebook and write horrible things about them and their family tree with its lack of branches. Both of these are bad ideas.
Instead, sit down at wherever you do your writing (or contact me) and go through the specific complaint(s) that the customer had. For example, if they’re wrong about the two-for-one special including a free side trip to Europe, detail out exactly what the two-for-one special does include and where it’s listed in your establishment for their reference.
I’ve seen product reviews on amazon.com where I wonder if the person even was using the same product. There are also lots of these reviews where it’s clear that the customer never ever followed the instruction manual.
Often times these incorrect reviews start with something like “I wanted to like (your business) but…” or some form of positive start. That’s a good point for you to leap off as well.
Tell the customer you wanted their experience to be a happy and positive one as well and that you want the opportunity to make them happy. Invite them to return and tell them that you’ve done (whatever) to make it even more obvious that the two-for-one special does not include a trip to Europe, or whatever they claimed.
Take the opportunity to detail out how you work to clear confusion and, possibly, have even improved how your signage or menu or team training includes making it even easier for a customer to have all the information they need. If you take the opportunity to show how your business operates in the response to their review, suddenly the focus of that review will change.
It’s always good to encourage your customers to write reviews because most people are pretty happy with your product or service. If you have an overwhelmingly positive reputation then you can remind the Wrong Customer of this reputation as well. For example, it doesn’t hurt to write, “it’s unfortunate that your experience wasn’t as good as the 33 other five-star reviews here but we want the opportunity to show you how much we appreciate your business…”
Since everybody who looks at these review sites regularly expects there to be bad reviews (there are bad reviews of Disneyland and it’s the happiest place on earth) then these reviews will be like water off a duck’s back for your business, especially if you’ve encouraged your happy customers to have already written great reviews.
I have also had people who had written a review about the sheets in my resort being cheap or the towels being scratchy. This was an opportunity to brag about the sheets themselves and include the brand of sheets and the same is true of the towels.
So instead of the focus of the review being about cheap sheets, the ultimate final answer was an opportunity to write about how great the sheets are that we use and what brand and that many people have actually chosen to purchase those sheets, turning their negative review into an advertisement for our sheets.
We even had one idiot, er, lovely lady complain on line that our curtains were too long for the windows. I turned this around to detail how thick the curtains were and how they were intended to block out as much light as possible and how others had praised us for how well they slept and how peaceful and dark the rooms were at night. Instead of this negative review, this curtain-measuring broom-flying customer gave me the chance to cite how other reviewers praised us for the environment we created.
Obviously I never talked about her transportation being a broom, that would be foolish, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t think it.
What if the business is at Fault?
Let’s face it - we all screw up. In fact, there is nobody who doesn’t screw up. As much as I try to take a Disney stance and always smile at my customers, I have actually told a customer to get the (blank) out of my business. Yup, a bad day can happen to the people with the best intentions.
Sometimes, even worse, we’re doing things that many customers just don’t like. And it can be something we think is the greatest thing on the planet and, frankly, the customers don’t like it. For example, restaurants using anything other than Heinz brand ketchup.
I once wrote a review of a restaurant where I complained because you could see the kitchen and all they did was take things out of their freezer and deep fry them. That’s it. And this place used to be great with lots of fresh choices. But it was a transition time for them.
While they were working on their new menu, they were indeed using all frozen and deep fried foods. And, in my opinion, the products they chose to deep fry were also the bottom of the barrel in quality.
So when I wrote my review these people had their finger on the pulse of the Internet and were notified of the review. They took the opportunity to respond on that same review site with more information about their menu and to invite me back when the permanent menu was put in place.
This bad review on my part plus the invitation to see how they had corrected the situation made me actually respect them enough to go back once they got the new menu dialed-in and, in fact, it’s become a place I really like. I now like it enough to have written a new review praising the establishment.
When someone calls you on a screw up, if it’s a one-time deal then take the opportunity to invite them back and demonstrate how this was a one-time oops. Often times it’s not whether or not we fail, but how we handle our failures. You can also use this to reinforce whatever procedure is in place to prevent failures.
There was a friend of mine in the advertising business who was working on ads for one of those quick oil change places, so he went to every franchise of their operation over a week’s time. Yes, he had the oil changed in his car something like 17 times in a week so he could see what the experience was like.
During that process, one of the people in the garage screwed-up the drain plug on his car and the chain actually had to affect a rather pricey repair. This actually changed their procedures so that they had a different process for reinstalling the drain plug after this - they now tighten them by hand and never use an air wrench on them.
Had my friend posted a negative review on line about this genuine screw-up they could have responded with a free oil change plus details about how their company has improved training and procedures so that this won’t happen again. Now that negative review has a management response where they took the opportunity to demonstrate how they won’t screw up in the future, reassuring future customers and making this an even better place to take your car.
Stepping up and handling mistakes is something people will really respect your business. Most people recognize that we all goof now and again. Responding to a review that is legitimately detailing a problem at your business with a solution, whether it be an isolated incident or a genuine ongoing issue, is likely to earn you more business.
I wrote a review of a local farm store where the team members were allowed to dress however they wanted. In my opinion, they were indistinguishable from the customers unless you were a regular there. After the review, the owner of that store actually responded to my review and said the team were now going to wear both aprons and name tags. In my opinion this makes the store look better, the response earned my business, and I hope that others appreciate the responsiveness of the owners of the store to a customer complaint.
There is also the thought that one customer’s legitimate negative review represents the opinion of many, many others so fixing a problem that was cited is probably a good idea in the long run. Telling the world how you’ve fixed that problem by responding to the negative review is a great idea in the long run.
Don’t forget that while I mention Yelp and TripAdvisor the most, there may be sites that are specific to your industry that you might also want to keep tabs of. For example, I owned a resort for seven years and BedAndBreakfast.com was a powerhouse of reviews in that industry. Now AirBnB.com is also strong and there are reviews there. Friends of mine in the wedding business keep tabs of their customer opinions on things like WeddingWire.com or TheKnot.com.
No matter where reviews are prevalent in your line of work, it’s always good to keep tabs on those reviews to know how you’re excelling, how you can improve and how some people just need to get off their brooms and shop elsewhere.