If your customers look like this, you're in trouble...

It’s fact of life in business that many small business owners find it difficult to handle negative reviews in a calm, collected manner. Often we feel personally attacked and our instinct is to simply ‘wrong’ the reviewer and share our ‘right’ side of the story.

Evidence of this could be seen clear as day in a recent Channel 4 edition of ‘Cutting Edge’ wherein the producers looked at how small guest houses and hotels were affected by the reviews shared on the now infamous Trip Advisor.

We were introduced to a small selection of business owners who were unable to detach themselves emotionally from negative reviews. Even with regards to a review that was largely positive, the business owners focused on the few negatives and ignored the overall positive reception.

So how should you handle a negative review?

Never take it personally – even if they mention your name. Most of time, the review will not reflect yourself but even if it does, taking the comment personally will only ensure that your handling of the issue is adversely affected.

Respond – Needless to say, this is the most important point as in most cases, not responding is the worst thing you can do.

Of course, a large chain of hotels that receives a few bad comments amongst the hundreds of good reviews can probably let things slide, but if you’re a small business a single bad report could be the one that dissuades a potential customer from using your service or buying your product.

You can choose to respond either publicly or privately – If you do choose to respond privately it’s a good idea to leave a public note stating that you have contacted the critique in question. This shows that you do care and you are doing something about the issue.

When responding; accept responsibility, apologise for the issue and provide a solution. For instance, if the issue was mould around the shower of a hotel room, state that you will ensure this gets fixed and that you will make sure your cleaning team pay special attention to the area in future.

Once the issue is resolved – kindly ask the person in question to update their review and state that they are now satisfied with the situation. Don’t ask them to remove it. If someone was ‘watching’ the review, they may think you deleted it yourself; something you should never do.

With regards to the hospitality industry specifically – some establishments choose to invite the writer of a poor review back for a free meal or complementary night’s stay. While in serious cases this may be the only solution, it isn’t always necessary and if you simply can’t afford to give things away don’t feel obliged to.

Showing that you have taken the complaint on board and have put in place procedures to prevent a repeat should be enough.

In addition, sometimes the invite to return can be construed incorrectly – it might seem as if you are trying to prove the reviewer ‘wrong’. If you are to use this method, ensure to follow the ‘accept and apologise’ rule while making the free return visit the ‘solution’. Say ‘I’d like to invite you to come back for a complementary meal by way of an apology’ instead of ‘I’d like you to come back for a complementary meal so we can prove to you that our food is great’.

A lesson lived is a lesson learned

Instead of thinking of the reviews as a personal attack, think about what you can learn from them. If you say you’re going to stop something from happening again, then do your very best to ensure it doesn’t.

However – remember that some people will never be happy. As we also saw in Channel 4’s ‘Cutting Edge’; there are some people who just live to complain. No matter how perfect you appear to do everything, these people will always look a little deeper to find something imperfect.

Thankfully, most consumers are clever enough to spot this type of reviewer so instead of getting worked up about it, just take the review with a pinch of salt and laugh it off.

This is a guest post from Amy Fowler, an online marketing executive at SEO agency, Boom Online Marketing. Find Boom on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

If you’d like to contribute a guest post to Unmemorable Title, please read the guidelines here.


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