How to Get More Positive Reviews (and How to Handle Bad Ones)

Most service industries agree that customer feedback is a great thing, but there will be times when you question if the customer really is always right. This is never more true than when you get burned by a bad online review. Some websites that ask consumers to rate businesses moderate comments and publish only verified data while others allow anyone to post anything, including false claims about you and your team. We’ve provided some tips below for handling a bad review on such a site, but also consider a proactive approach for soliciting customer opinions by enrolling in the Rate Our Business (ROB) program.

Initiate and Moderate Client Feedback

Rate Our Business invites your customers to submit a private form that prompts writers of positive reviews to share their feedback on Google. On average, businesses who subscribe to this service receive significantly more feedback and have an average rating of 4.8 in the five-star system. In fact, some have gone from no feedback at all to over 100 reviews in a few months—something that lends great credibility to their companies and creates a sense of trust among potential customers. The program is great for sharing positive reviews, but it also allows you to moderate and respond confidentially to negative comments. Poor ratings are automatically redirected to your customer service email so you can immediately reach out to a dissatisfied customer to correct the situation.

If you receive a poor review, your first instinct may be to lash back or defend yourself. Stop, take a deep breath, and follow these tips:

  • Address the issue on your end. Many reviews are not based on a product or a service problem, but on a personality conflict. Use these as teaching moments with your staff, and stress that it’s not always enough to do the job correctly—they need to treat people carefully as well.
  • Go to your phone, not your computer. Before you reply, make sure you have all the facts, firsthand. This means foregoing an email or online response and calling the customer directly. This is your best opportunity to get to the heart of the matter and even diffuse a bad situation. In many cases, customers are just venting and will change their tune when they know they’ve been heard. And most will appreciate that you took the time to reach out personally.
  • Respond quickly, but briefly. After talking with the customer and employee involved, draft a response that acknowledges concerns but emphasizes your company’s policies and capabilities. Instead of apologizing for shortcomings, share your commitment to ongoing improvements. “We understand your frustration and will discuss your concerns in upcoming management and training sessions. While we have 97 percent satisfaction rating and have won numerous service awards, our goal is that you and every customer be 100 percent happy.”
  • Accept that some customers will not be satisfied, and learn from it. In a perfect world, your team does everything by the book, and every customer is a happy one. In the real world, some people will have needs or expectations that can’t be met, and arguing with them online only bolsters the position of their post with search engines. In other words, going online to look at your own bad review over and over again, or engaging in an argument online, only makes it more relevant and more likely to be found and read by others.
  • Your goal is improvement, not perfection. A high score is important, but believe it or not, a bad review or two actually make these systems seem more legitimate. It may drop your average just a bit, but better that people feel your 95 percent satisfaction score is real and accurate than to have them dismiss a 100 percent score as skewed.

Pros Like IMA Can Help If Your Image Is on the Line

Some online reviews are easily handled with the right action and a little explanation. Some situations, however, are more complicated. If you feel a matter is escalating to a point of impacting your business, turn to a professional for help. Companies like Image Makers Advertising are experienced in handling difficult public relations issues, and can address matters without the emotion that you, as the owner, naturally feel under fire. A full service agency like IMA also has SEO experts on staff, as well as relationships with representatives of sites like Google and Angie’s List, should you need an advocate in your corner.