We’ve all sat there, staring at a bad review, wondering what went wrong. It doesn’t sound as if they are describing your company at all. You inquire about the incident within your company so you can figure out how to respond.
Should you apologize?
You want to sympathize, but be careful how you apologize. There are times when a candid apology is a right way to respond, but there are also times when an apology substantiates the complaint. There are times when your company wasn’t in the wrong, so why apologize? But even if your company wasn’t in the wrong, you still want to turn that frown upside down. A good portion of the time, a customer simply wants to be heard, to have a voice. It’s therapeutic. No matter what went wrong, we can all empathize with disappointment and frustration. We can acknowledge the feelings that led to the bad review. No need to acknowledge that there was an issue if there wasn’t but show that you care.
Use the opportunity to market your company
Keep in mind who your audience is. You’re not just writing a reply to the reviewer, but potential customers reading the post. If the reviewer complained that they couldn’t get ahold of anyone, how about, “We’re so sorry you couldn’t get ahold of us. Please call 555-555-5555, to reach our customer service, or email firstname.lastname@example.org so we can help answer any questions you may have, or chat with us any time by visiting our website at somethingcompany.com.” You are helping them reach you while letting readers know you can be reached.
Don’t argue with reviewers on social media or elsewhere. When you argue the points made by the reviewer, you acknowledge that there are indeed issues in place. Short and sweet – always! People don’t read lengthy reviews or replies anyway – all they see is that there is a dispute in place, and it looks petty. Don’t engage at their level, stay classy and impersonal. Represent your company, not the feelings that welled up inside you when you read the review. Take the high road, it will impress the readers most.
What if a reviewer goes to far?
Reviews are only protected under the First Amendment and Freedom of Speech to a degree. A reviewer doesn’t have the right to say just about anything or they can get sued by the company for defamation. The reviewer is not all-powerful. However, when a reviewer goes too far you don’t engage online, sometimes you can have the review removed, or, you can call your lawyer. Yes, petty lawsuits happen. When a reviewer shares more than opinion and submits false facts, they enter a legal minefield.
In many cases, you can report the review to the platform where it appeared and sometimes have it removed. If the error or the false accusations are clear, most review platforms have protocol in place. The reason for a review is to help other consumers, not to hold a company refund-hostage or to seek self-serving revenge. I have had bad reviews removed on a few occasions, and there have been times when the company I worked for dealt with customers via legal means involving lawyers. Some people are simply looking to stir up drama. This is when you give a minimal response and refrain from further engagement no matter how badly they bait you. You wrote what was needed, there is no need to keep stirring.
The future of reviews?
The whole system of online reviews was, in my opinion, a seemingly good idea that wasn’t well thought through. I expect, or hope, for the future to change. A bold suggestion would be to make the review process mutual – remove anonymity and allow reviews to apply on both sides – the company profile as well as the consumer profile. Consumers are already being reviewed to some extent without their knowledge in some industries. Certain e-commerce platforms allow companies to review consumers behind the scenes, alerting other companies in the industry of problematic costumers. This too may seem unfair, but, until we figure this thing out, as a marketer, keep writing fabulous responses that impresses the readers. Responding to each review is an opportunity, an opportunity to inform, an opportunity to show class.