It’s an unfortunate reality that, if you ever hope to experience some kind of success online, you should expect a negative review. They’re not the end of the world. Sometimes they can be helpful. Sometimes, they can highlight an issue that you need to address and provide an opportunity for growth that turn a negative reception around into a reversal that wins over new customers.
In other cases, however, they can do serious damage to your reputation and your likelihood of gaining new customers. Here, we’re going to look at why online businesses get bad reviews, as well as what you can do to manage them with as little damage done to the brand as possible.
Why you get bad reviews
You might think that the question of why you get bad reviews answers itself. Simply read the review and you’re going to see the motivation behind it, right? Not always. There are a host of motivations and circumstances behind negative reviews that warrant a closer look at. Here are a few of them:
- Service problems: The most common source of legitimate negative reviews is down to service, whether it’s someone who was rude on the phone to neglecting to respond to customers on social media. On the whole, these are the easiest to address with an apology and amendment.
- Product problems: If someone genuinely dislikes your product or service, it can be harder to turn it around. In most cases, making it right with a refund or credit is the best way to go.
- Policy problems: People are paying a lot more attention to the policy of a company, from how employees are treated to different rules for how your service can or can’t be used. A lack of clarity on policy and reasoning behind it can be a common source of complaints.
- Negative SEO: Just as you use search engine optimisation to grow your visibility and improve your brand’s reputation, you should be aware of bad actors that use it to do the opposite. Some black hat SEO teams will employ bad reviews as negative SEO to try and make the worst news about your brand the most visible information, aiming to damage your business.
Don’t take it personally, see the customer’s side
If a review feels particularly unfair, it can be tempting to let your justified anger take over. Never let that happen. The reviewer isn’t responding to you personally, but rather to their experiences with your products, services, and brand. Put on your professional business owner cap and take a few moments to yourself to get any of that lingering anger out of your system.
You’re much likely to see a better outcome if you make the conversation a collaboration with your customer rather than a direct contradiction. See how their situation impacts them, empathise with them, and offer a resolution. The customer is always right isn’t always true, but it’s always a helpful mindset when dealing with them.
Seek feedback where possible
It’s wise to respond when possible to bad reviews, but how do you respond? It’s always good to start off with an apology, whether you think that it’s warranted or once. It’s a good way to disarm some of the hostility that might come with a negative review (and the experience that motivated it) and publicly frames you in a better light.
From there, you should restate the problem they had, whether you understand their complaint right, and a means to resolve it. However, rather than simply offering a fix to the problem, you should consider asking them how you can improve your services in future.
Some brands have found great success in turning bad feedback and experiences into a case study that shapes new iterations of services and shifts in their policy, which can offer a great deal of positive attention that far overshadows any negative impact left by an initial review. More importantly than anything, your customers want to know that they’re being listened to and their experiences and opinions are valued.
Preventing negative SEO attacks and removing lies
We’ve talked about the right way to approach legitimate bad reviews, but what about those that aren’t motivated so honestly? Negative SEO strategies will seek to impact your search engine marketing by calling attention to bad reviews that are often dishonest. Disgruntled ex-employees and competitors may also leave their own negative reviews out of spite.
Reputation management platforms can go a long way in helping you find, target, and address bad faith reviews. Most social media channels also have a means of flagging reviews. You should err on the side of caution if you can’t tell that a review is in bad faith, and address most as if they were genuine, but if they’re clearly fake, you should try and remove them.
Let it be (in some cases)
How can it be wise to not try to get rid a bad review that could potentially damage your reputation? Because, sometimes, bad reviews can actually be helpful. If a review is actively targeting the business as part of a bad faith campaign, like negative SEO, or is spreading lies about the business then you should aim to have it taken down when possible. If there’s a clear route to resolution, you should aim to resolve it.
However, if it’s a difference in opinion and a fairly justifiable (if somewhat benign) reason to leave a bad review, you should leave it. Bad reviews are a natural part of the online ecosystem and, if your business has none, it can actually make it look a lot more suspicious. You want the balance of reviews to be in the favour of the positive than the negative, of course, but that doesn’t mean you should seek to completely eliminate the negative. You should always respond, when possible, but you shouldn’t aim to remove it entirely.
Dealing with bad reviews
It’s important to be aware of the different motivations behind bad reviews, and to deal with them as objectively and humbly as possible. Be aware of negative SEO practices and bad actors, but don’t jump to that conclusion (at least publicly). Bad reviews can be hurtful, but it’s important to handle them professionally, no matter what. Hopefully, the tips above give you plenty of strategies that can help you do just that.