Bad review? What to do if a customer leaves you a nasty testimonial

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As someone running a small business, you might not always believe the idea that “all publicity is good publicity”. If you come across a negative review of your business on a site like Google or Yelp, for example, you could feel mentally wounded – and worried about that review’s effect on custom.

However, the good news is that you can turn things around if you react wisely to that unflattering testimonial. Here are tips for getting back into the good books of that currently unhappy customer.

Respond to the review as soon as possible

Ideally, you would respond to an unflattering review within 24 to 48 hours of its publication. This would be in line with guidance provided by Business 2 Community, and it would help to show the customer that you recognise how important the subject of your business is to them.

Of course, the occasional bad review could slip your notice for just a little too long, and that would run the risks of the person feeling invalidated as well as further adverse publicity spreading. In the event of a late response, you could still minimise the damage by following other advice in this article.

However, in future, you can help yourself to prevent such a delay happening again if you get into the habit of routinely looking for reviews before they are published. Online review portals where you can look – or someone else can be assigned to do so – include Google, Facebook, Twitter and Yelp.

Keep your response polite and authentic

You might be tempted to respond snappily to a disgruntled reviewer; after all, it can be hard to mentally frame their criticism in an emotionally distant way. However, it would remain crucial to reply just as politely to that review as you would to a positive one, as a Forbes article makes clear.

Succumbing to the temptation to reply negatively, especially in a public space, would reflect badly on your company and can blight its reputation even more than the original review in isolation. Don’t allow anger, pettiness or personal remarks to creep into your response.

It’s possible that you don’t even agree with what the complainant has said – but, all the same, they were obviously motivated to air their grievance. In that case, make it clear to them that you recognise their concern and apologise for it – all in an approachably human, rather than robotic, way.

Offer a remedy for the customer’s problem

Don’t just leave your response as words; take action to show the customer that you are willing to make amends for their dissatisfaction. In doing so, you can not only right a wrong but also show the high standard of your customer service, where the customer should naturally be at the forefront.

For this reason, take careful account of the original complaint as you work to make up for it. For example, if the person complains that the surface you painted for them wasn’t left smooth enough, offer to do the job again – this time, to the customer’s liking – at no charge.

Keep in mind that, if you leave habitual negligence unchecked, it could culminate in something even worse next time round: a compensation claim. If you know that you would struggle to pay compensation out of your own pocket, make sure you have insurance capable of filling that funding gap. The insurances that we offer include self-employed public liability insurance for sole traders.

Talk through the issue offline with the customer

How you handle a customer complaint publicly can be pivotal to how your business recovers from the mess. If the site where the negative review is published allows you to post a public response, then make effective use of this by following the other tips in this article.

In this response, provide situational context so that other people seeing the post can understand the general situation. Here, you should be stating facts rather than making excuses, while you can impress observers by acknowledging the complainant’s point of view.

All the same, you should try to switch to a private conversation when you want to understand and reconcile the bad review. This strategy can help to prevent a debate from publicly escalating. Therefore, in your initial response to the review, include an email address or phone number and invite the reviewer to contact you through either as a way of resolving the issue at hand.

Let the review inspire new content for your website

If your company’s website is currently looking a little bare, perhaps limited to a few sketchy details about what your business does as well as its contact details, you could be missing out on valuable opportunities to impart extra pearls of wisdom to your customers, both potential and current.

Think about it: if you clean carpets for a living, a customer could take issue with how clean their carpet really appears to be after your treatment. If it’s a type of carpet that is notoriously difficult to clean, you could update your site’s blog with an article listing little-known tips for cleaning it well.

If particular criticisms seem to pop up disconcertingly regularly, you could address them in a “frequently asked questions” section on your website, Marketing Land points out. That could prevent many criticisms in future from ever getting as far as a Google reviews page.

Since your site could advertise your possession of insurances as a major selling point for your trade business, you could use that FAQ section to clarify exactly what these insurances cover. After all, when your customers know this information, they could more easily understand why these insurances are a sign that you are truly looking out for them when carrying out work for them.

Our website thoroughly details various technical aspects of various insurances relevant to tradesmen. You can also use our website to compare various insurance policies and so help yourself to decide on the most suitable for your needs – and those of your customers!

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