Everyone makes mistakes.

As a business owner when you see that negative review pop up on your website or social media your heart will most likely sink and it can send you into a state of panic.

In this modern age, most consumers will wait until they’ve read a few reviews about a product they haven’t previously purchased before making a buying decision, so reviews form an integral part of building trust for a brand. Whether you’re a fledgeling entrepreneur or a seasoned business owner who’s been around for years, you’re almost certain to receive a less than favourable review at some point.

With social media being so prevalent these days it’s become much easier for people to comment on a business or service, good or bad – and for that comment to be very visible. When you become part of that online world you open up your business to whatever anyone might have to say about you.

Once you’ve had that negative review, it really is how you deal with it that can make all the difference. In fact, dealing with it well can turn it into a positive for your business, making you seem more trustworthy and “real”.

This has even been given it’s own term in marketing strategy – the service recovery paradox. Marketing professors Michael McCollough and Sundar Bharadwaj coined the term to describe where effective recovery from an error means actually building a stronger relationship with the customer than previously existed.

“The service recovery paradox is the result of a very positive service recovery, causing a level of customer satisfaction and/or customer loyalty even greater than that expected if no service failure had happened.”

Our top tips for dealing with a negative review are:

  1. Don’t panic – firing off a response without due care and consideration can be the worst thing you do. Remaining calm and keeping your tone neutral is difficult to do when you’re angry and emotionally reacting to the review. Take a little time (but not hours and hours) to think carefully and calm down.
  2. Always respond – leaving the review unchecked quite simply isn’t an option. Pretending it doesn’t exist and hoping it will go away will only aggravate the situation. You’ll seem ineffective and like you don’t care. Remember that when someone has taken the time and effort to submit a review they clearly feel passionate about it, so do the right thing and send a response in a timely manner. And make sure you respond publicly so people can see how you’ve dealt with it.
  3. Begin with an apology – whether you agree with what’s being said or not, the reviewer is telling you how they feel. Acknowledge this (something like “we’re sorry to hear you feel that way”.) It shows you’re professional and you accept that your business might have been less than perfect in this instance – state that this is unusual – and that you’d like to address it.
  4. Take action – do something about it. If you can, offer a discount when they return or money back as a goodwill gesture. People are much more likely to shout out about how lovely you’ve been post-complaint if you show you really do care about what’s been said and haven’t just fobbed them off.
  5. Keep it real – faking reviews is an absolute no! As is hiding the bad ones. Bad reviews actually make the good ones look better- and seem more genuine. If all the reviews are 5 star then it just looks like the business is making them up, and if you can’t trust the reviews, can you trust the product?
  6. Instigate change – if you find the same review comes up again and again then you need to do something about it. When you do, it shows you listen to your customers and are fully engaged with them and have learnt from it. For example, clothing retailer H&M recently announced that they have listened to feedback from their customers and adjusted their sizes on Ladieswear to be in line with UK size measurements. This was after a raft of customers complained that the clothes were too small. They listened and instigated change – which makes them look better.
  7. Balance out the negative with more positive – it’s time to actively get more positive reviews to push down the negative one. Boost activity to get new reviews – you could offer an incentive for a brief time to get more reviews over a short period.