Nothing personal, it is just business! Said no business owner ever! If you have the misfortune to suffer from self-employment then you know too well what a load of nonsense that statement is. Your business is utterly personal at every level. You have poured your heart into every aspect and spend every available hour driving it forward. You want to be the best (insert title here) you can be! So, you do your best every day.
But despite the lofty ambitions and the best of intentions, it seems that not every day is an A1 day. You, or your team, do not always nail it. Sometimes you let someone down. Sometimes you meet a client who has had a bad day and you are just the proverbial straw. Or worse, you do nothing and some halfwit with a keyboard decides to ruin your day with a bad review.
You cannot always be sure where a bad review came from but if you are in business you know just how personal it is, when someone takes the time to write something negative.
In the interest of transparency this blog was inspired by receiving two such reviews in the one week. Yes, it could be argued that it has taken 12 years and a global pandemic to get a negative comment, but nevertheless, here we are. It provides the perfect opportunity to talk about some of the things you could, should and must do when you get a bad review and who knows? By the time I finished writing it, I may have stopped muttering under my breath.
Move beyond the embarrassment to assessment.
No matter how unfair, undeserved or unjustified (yes, I am venting) a negative review may be, it causes no small amount of embarrassment as you imagine countless potential customers fleeing from your site or business on the basis of that one bad review.
Take a deep breath and remember that one bad review does not outweigh all the good ones nor does it suddenly make you a bad business owner. People who use reviews to make decisions, generally look at the overall business rating before deciding.
Let us answer the obvious question. No, you cannot just delete it. If it is particularly offensive you can report or request that it is removed by the platform administrators (Google, Facebook, Trustpilot, etc) but it rarely works if it is just a critique or complaint. Far better to deal with it than the ridiculous appeal process that may not work in your favour.
The key action to take, once you have recovered from the initial shock, is to assess the review as honestly as possible. Read the review and look at the factors that lead up to it. Put yourself in the authors’ shoes and walk through it. Ask your self (without the ego) is there anything that you can learn from the review, in terms of how you operate or how you communicate. There is almost always something to take away and if that makes you a better business then a bad review can be a good thing.
If it is (as they often can be) spurious or vindictive, then accept that some people are mean and that is not your problem. Move on to the next important step.
Take the time to talk back.
The worst possible response to any complaint is silence. Silence begs to be filled and if you are not going to do it, then you can be sure someone else will. Even if you disagree with the premise of the review, you have to respond. Even if the review has been written by a complete nutter (yup still venting) you must respond. Potential customers reading a complaint will read more about you from how you handle the complaint than the complaint itself.
When you respond you have two options: go with the approach made infamous by the White Moose Café and call bullshit, make it funny and take no prisoners but be careful when you court controversy as it can often backfire. Or go for the high ground and offer an apologetic promise to do better, not as satisfying as telling them how you really feel but less likely to end in tears and tantrums.
Bring a little balance
Last but not least you have to make sure that the one bad review does not disproportionately speak for your business. 1 bad review in five looks pretty bad as it shows a 20% dissatisfaction however 1 bad review in 50 is just 2% and as we have already said potential customers look at the overall rating of your business as much as individual reviews. A solid review program does not stop complaints, but it will put them in perspective.
To paraphrase an old saying, you can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but never all of the people all of the time. So, do not worry about getting it wrong now and then. Just make sure that you treat complaints with dignity (deserved or not) and your class will shine through.