You don't have to be a sociologist to realize that reviews as a whole – and especially negative reviews and comments – are on the rise. Part of this has to do with the Internet culture we now live in, where reviews aren't just helpful, but expected. The more reviews a company, person, or product has, the easier it is for buyers to make the right decision. And so, leaving reviews, positive or negative, has become part of an Internet user's "civic duty."
On the other hand, the somewhat-anonymous nature of the Internet gives some people the freedom to write things they would never say to another person face-to-face. They may even stretch the truth to make their comments more notable, or to inflict damage on a business. In that way, so-so experiences become terrible, and minor disappointments become major tragedies.
Whatever the reason, every business needs to know what to do about negative reviews, comments, and feedback.
For the reasons given already, you can be almost assured that someone is going to say something bad about you or your company at one point or another. In fact, if you're like most of us, it's going to happen every once in a while regardless of anything else you do.
Determine whether the reviews are real or not. It's unfortunate, but some companies aren't above leaving negative reviews for their competitors (or having third parties do it for them). If the details don't match up, or you're facing a sudden barrage of unfounded negative publicity, check to see whether it's actually legitimate or not. In extreme cases, false negative reviews may be grounds for legal action.
Consider having the reviews removed. If it turns out that the reviews are not, in fact, coming from real customers, you may be able to have a webmaster or business owner remove them from the site where they've been posted. The same goes for reviews that aren't factually accurate. For instance, if a review references a product that you don't make, etc., you're within your rights to challenge it.
Figure out whether or not you need to respond. If you go to Amazon.ca and search through the best-selling books of the past few years, you'll find that all of them have their share of disappointing reviews. The point is that nothing is universally loved, and sometimes bad reviews are just a reflection of the person you did business with. If there isn't anything particularly damaging in the review, it might make sense to just let it go. There's an air of authenticity and transparency to that.
Don't fly off the handle. If you do decide to answer a negative review, do so only after you've had a chance to cool down and think things through a bit. The last thing you want is to make the situation worse, and damage your credibility, by posting an angry response that attacks a customer personally.
Take constructive criticism to heart. Some negative reviews are valuable, because they share with you thoughts and impressions that other customers share but haven't voiced out loud. If you feel that there is some kernel of truth or wisdom in what's being written, see if you can change your products or policies in a way that's better for your buyers.
Look for trends in your reviews. In the same way, a single online review (positive or negative) might not tell you a lot. But, if you start to see negative trends within the reviews that are being posted, recognize that the market may be changing or an assumption you've made needs to be challenged.
Round out the bad reviews with positive feedback. Businesses with lots of positive reviews tend to worry about the small handful of negative ones a lot less. So, do what you can to encourage happy customers to say good things about you, and you'll be far less likely to notice the bit of poor feedback.
Before I end this article, it's important to point out that the very best way to deal with negative reviews is to not have them in the first place. If that sounds obvious, consider the lengths companies will go to in order to take away bad publicity when what they should have done was simply make things right with the customer in the first place.
No company has a perfect track record on every count, and buyers will be largely forgiving if you regularly provide great products or service and are quick to resolve the problem when you haven't. Develop a reputation as a company that can be trusted, and legitimate negative reviews shouldn't be much of a threat to your business.