Don’t Cave to Threats of Bad Reviews – Part 1 of 3

Everyone who checks out the reviews before spending their money knows that there’s always “that” one…

Maybe when giving online reviews was a relatively new thing a decade or so ago, it was taken pretty seriously and companies would strive to avoid anything less than top-notch reviews. There has evolved, however, a culture of bad-review guerrillas who threaten and attack your business if they don’t get their way. Now, don’t mistake it, we’re all for clients getting the good services they’ve been promised, but unfortunately there are some who take advantage of providers by threatening to trash their reputation…or [gasp] “take down your business.”  They go online and cyber-attack you in every venue they can think of, demanding their money back. They hurl unfounded accusations and stomp their tiny feet until the owner caves in and gives them the money. Then they leave their negative posts in place and brag on social media how they got their new brows “for free!”   The client got your excellent work, but not only did you not get paid, you now have negative reviews besmirching your good name! This needs to stop!

Don’t be Afraid

One bad review in dozens of good ones simply cannot ruin your business! People understand and have no expectations of good providers being able to please 100% of the people 100% of the time. So why should YOU have that expectation? You shouldn’t! You should do your very best with every client who pays for your skill and remember, sometimes, life happens.  If you’ve done your best, then you can sleep at night knowing that to be true. So don’t be afraid to stand by that good work.

You should get it out of your head that you even want a string of perfect 5-star reviews.  Potential new clients who see only a perfect 5.0 rating immediately take a mental step back–no one is that perfect. It’s more authentic if your average is high…but you have an occasional “opportunity for improvement” which you’ve dealt with in a positive way.

Realize Times Have Changed

You may not have seen this viral post about “that one guy” but there are now many examples of this situation out in the world. Just one of many internet outlets sharing this event, Huffington Post states:

We all know that Yelp can sometimes be a fair-weather friend to restaurants. One day you’re riding high, earning serious praise from citizen reviewers — and then just as fast, your restaurant’s reputation can get hammered by one unhappy customer. We think the tactic employed by Joe Dough Sandwich Shop’s sign-writer is pretty fantastic. Way to make lemonade out of lemons, you guys.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/28/yelp-worst-meatball-sandwich_n_1633755.html

So instead of worrying about the odd less-than-stellar review, own it! Times have changed and no one takes an online review so seriously these days.

Fight Back!

One of the best things about online reviews is that most of them allow comments to be made on the review. You have the right of rebuttal and to tell your side (aka, “the truth”!) When done skillfully, this can actually make you look better than ever. How? Your polished, well-written reply can emphasize your customer service expertise and make your reputation sparkle and shine! Bad reviews, when handled correctly can actually be golden marketing opportunities!

Use the Review

When someone is the type who looks at the reviews, they’ll go by the overall trend. If the business has lots and lots of excellent reviews…they’ll scan a couple, but then scroll on by. All those kind words are never seen by anyone, in most real life cases. Review-checkers do look for the negative ones, and if they see a whole slew of them, the alarms go off. But if there is a single bad review (or even a handful of them, if the business has dozens of good ones) they might go check out that one out of curiosity.  That bad review becomes one that is seen by many more people than all the good ones. So, knowing this, your response should be carefully executed to shed the best possible light on you and your business. Think of it as a magnet, and your bad reviewer has set you up to get your message in front of more people than would normally pause to read about you.

Sometimes Thing Happen

First, we need to discuss when the client might have an appropriate issue with your work.  There are times when things just don’t go well. It happens to the best of us. When you simply did not complete the work as you promised, then there is only one thing to do:  OWN IT.  People often complain because their expectations were not met. Mostly, they just want to be “heard” and get an acknowledgement of “Yes, despite my best efforts, that did not go as we planned.”

The best legal beagles will tell you “never admit your fault” but clients–people you care about and hope to have a relationship with–hate being treated as “less than.”  Now, we are not saying if you have caused bodily damage to someone you should do anything other than completely follow your legal advisor’s gag order.  We are saying that if it’s a matter of taste or something that you can correct, then just say “Oops! I did my best and I’m happy to adjust the work.”  Telling someone their hair is damaged beyond all salvation or their eyebrows are naturally asymmetrical IN PUBLIC is not a good move.  Better to acknowledge their complaint, offer them some options right there in front of everyone to come in and allow you to work with them, and tell them you look forward to making their experience with your business a positive one.

No details should ever be discussed in a public forum. “Come in and we’ll work it out to your satisfaction” should be the only message.

The Response is Everything

Writing a killer response to a negative review is something you can learn to do. There are some techniques you can use in crafting a response that will put you and your business in the best possible light. The basic rules are “Short and sweet, do not air the dirty laundry, and always end on a positive note.”  To read in detail how to create good replies to bad reviews, go to Part 2 of this series.