Simple Tips for Handling Negative Reviews
By Salman Hannan
A negative review can be a difficult thing to deal with. However, those seemingly harmful reviews may not be so bad after all.
Below, MINDBODY reveals tips on what business owners should and shouldn’t do when faced with negative reviews, and how they can take negative feedback on board to turn an unhappy customer into a happy customer!
What you SHOULDN’T do when faced with a negative review
Don’t get defensive. Getting angry can be a natural response when someone complains about your business. But, refusing to accept criticism is not a good image to give off to current/prospective customers. Take time to gather your thoughts before responding to the review to ensure you don’t make a heat of the moment reply, driven by emotion rather than logic.
Don’t ignore it. Nearly half (45%) of consumers say they’re more likely to visit a business if it responds to negative reviews. This shows that by providing a response you not only show the reviewer, but everyone else that you care about customer service. By ignoring a bad review, the person will feel frustrated that you’re not addressing their issue, and you will send out a message to prospective customers that you’re not engaged with keeping your customers happy. Equally, don’t instantly respond to the review, as you’re unlikely to yet have all the facts to make a logical conclusion about what happened.
Don’t get drawn into a tit-for-tat online exchange. Sometimes, there are online trolls who continuously complain. If your interaction with them keeps escalating, this can end up in name-calling and no resolution being achieved. Therefore, reiterate that you are more than happy to resolve the issue, and ask the person to make contact with you offline, this will show everyone else that you are being reasonable in a professional manner.
What you SHOULD do when receiving a negative review
Do acknowledge the issue and apologise. Many people simply wish to be heard when making a complaint. Before offering a solution, try to empathise with the reviewer and offer a sincere apology without placing any blame. Show genuine regret that the person did not have a positive experience in your gym/studio. Apologising and resolving/explaining an issue often helps to change a customer’s mind and turn them into a happy, long-term customer.
Do be authentic. Don’t make it look like you’re copy and pasting a stock response that you use for every negative review. Carefully read the review and try to understand the issue from the reviewer’s perspective. Explain your job role and offer a direct contact number/email. Research reveals that 80% of consumers believe that a business cares more about them when its management responds to their reviews1; this can be especially advantageous for small gym/studio owners as they can respond with more authority than a customer service executive from a bigger gym corporation who may not have first-hand knowledge of the location in which the issue occurred.
Do review what happened. Do your best to figure out what led to the negative review. Speak to staff who were in the building that day to see if they can offer any insight into what happened. If possible, review your business’s transactions and software to identify as much about the service the reviewer chose as possible: date, time, staff name, class size, session duration, anything that can help you to better understand the situation from an objective point of view.
Do use negative reviews as a learning experience. Sometimes it’s just a bad day at the office, but if you receive several negative reviews with the same or similar issue, then it’s likely the problem wasn’t a one-off. Negative reviews can provide invaluable feedback on how to improve your offerings, make sure to address the issue and mention how you will learn from the feedback. If you make changes to your service based on someone’s feedback, consider inviting them back for free to see if things have improved, this is a great opportunity to receive honest feedback and potentially turn an initially upset customer into someone who has helped to improve your business.
Lorna Fraser, Senior UX and CRO Analyst at Epiphany Search, comments: “Users are massively influenced by what other people are saying about their experiences with products and brands (97% of consumers will read online reviews before they buy, which is not surprising) so it is crucial that we don’t ignore reviews, both positive and negative, and utilise them as much as we can.
“I’d definitely suggest that businesses respond to all negative reviews in a positive and professional manner, regardless of whether the company agrees or disagrees with the review, as this will demonstrate to other customers that the brand cares and it will help the business win respect and credibility from prospective customers.
“I’d also say that although a negative review might seem alarming, there are a lot of advantages from negative reviews as we can use this feedback from real customers to learn about areas of the product, the website or the brand that can be improved. We should encourage brands to look for common themes and pain points and use this feedback to learn and improve the user experience.
“Lastly, if a brand has 100% positive reviews/all 5-star reviews, then this can appear unrealistic to users and therefore actually decrease credibility for some users (so less glowing reviews do have their advantages!).”
Zachary Pardes, Director of Advertising & Communications at Trustpilot also adds: "Nobody is perfect. If you own, run, or manage a business, it's not a matter of if you're going to get a negative review, it's when. Don't worry - this is an opportunity, not something to fear! Not only can replying to negative reviews win back previously unhappy customers, but you can also win respect and credibility with hundreds of other potential customers who see how you interact and problem solve in real time. Use a negative review as a chance to showcase your excellent customer service and demonstrate that you care about your customers. In fact, our research indicates more than 80% of unhappy customers will come back and give you a second chance if you aim to make things right."
Commenting on the research, a MINDBODY spokesperson says: “It’s natural to feel dispirited upon receiving a negative review. However, these reviews offer a great opportunity for gym/studio owners to take on board honest feedback and improve their offerings.
“With almost half of consumers stating they are more likely to visit a business if it responds to negative reviews, even the simple act of acknowledging a complaint and apologising can go a long way to showing your gym/studio cares about customer service.”