What to do About a Bad Review?

When people make buying decisions online, they're faced with no shortage of companies catering to every need. That means they need some way to narrow their options down — even before they start actually reading about what you do. The easiest way to do that?

Throw out any company with an online review rating below 4.0.

Regardless of how clever your online content personalization tools are or how convincing your salespeople are, there's nothing more powerful when it comes to influence than what other people say about you: the social proof.

The ease of access to online reviews presents companies with a fantastic opportunity — but at the same time, it delivers a daunting challenge.

Where Do Bad Reviews Come From?

The reality about business is that not everyone will be happy with your service.

  • Sometimes, an employee was just plain rude
  • Sometimes, the promises just aren't fulfilled
  • Sometimes, the product was defective
  • Sometimes, the whole thing just wasn't a great fit

And sometimes, it's so bad that the person decides they need to warn other people about their experience. Today, they've got so many options — Yelp, Google, social media, and more. Wherever people can share their experience with an audience is one more point where damage can be done to your company.

Want to prevent bad reviews? It's easy to say "well, just don't provide a bad service!" But that's not realistic. You can't control for everything.

But you don't have to just sit back and accept the bad reviews. Let's talk two basic strategies: trying to catch unhappy customers before things get so bad they take to Google — and mitigating the damage afterward.

Catching And Improving The Bad Experiences

In the B2B world, a customer isn't going to go direct from buying the service to giving an awful review. With a sales process in the months, once they've made a purchasing decision, even if the initial impression is poor, they're often willing to give things a little time. It's a transition, not a switch, from happy to leaving a bad review — which means you've got the opportunity to spot the warning signs.

While B2B services are incredibly varied and often very focused around niche and unique deliveries, there are some things we can talk about broadly. The important thing is: you need a pulse on how happy your customers are.

We can talk about this as a net promotor score. If you've got a sophisticated system, you may be able to automate this and apply points at accurate, fine levels. But even if not, you can still look at a number of indicators and make a manual decision about where things are:

  • Is your service delivering yet (bearing in mind, even if you're upfront about the time it takes, your customers may still be expecting earlier results)?
  • Has the customer explicitly shared concern about how the service is going?
  • When was the last time the salesperson checked in with the customer?
  • When was the last time a more senior delivery staff member checked in?
  • Have your front-line delivery staff noted and concerns?
  • Is the customer actually using the service — could they be confused about how to use it?
  • Has the customer been more or less actively engaged than the average customer?
  • How is their response to satisfaction surveys — do you follow up if they don't share?

Often, an unhappy customer won't voluntarily share how they're feeling. Sometimes they will, and sometimes they absolutely won't. But in the middle, there's a huge murky area where the right outreach will tease out the dissatisfaction, and allow you to address it before it spirals.

Handling The Bad Reviews Once They're Posted

Even the best NPS strategy won't prevent every bad review. You're still going to have those tough mornings where the first thing you see is a customer you thought was doing okay explains in no uncertain terms, to the world, why that's not the case.

The first thing you should do is approach your response with the mindset that every prospect in your pipeline is watching. Because some will be, and they don't want to feel that if they have an issue with your service they'll be met with resistance.

Yes, you'd rather you hadn't got the bad review in the first place, but since it is there, this is your opportunity to at least demonstrate a positive, resolution-focused customer service. Whether or not you can actually resolve the issue at hand is only half the story. The rest is how well you can show others that if something does go wrong, you do everything you can to make things right.

So, first off, don't argue with the reviewer. Send one calm and composed response. Regardless of what may or may not have actually happened, don't try to contradict, embarrass, or prove the person wrong. Express regret that they're unhappy and make it clear that you'd like to resolve the issue. Ask to take the conversation private so you can discuss the details.

If they agree, you've started a conversation it would have been better to have had before they became unhappy, but regardless, you can investigate the possibility for resolution.

If they don't? In most cases, you'll want to just leave it be. If the person keeps goading you, perhaps send one additional message restating your previous offer for dialogue. People take bad reviews seriously — but they can also spot when one side isn't being reasonable.

When All Else Fails: Move On

You can't indefinitely dedicate all your resources to trying to right something that may just be unrightable.

There will come a point where it's obvious that resolving the situation is not possible. When this happens, your resources are better spent mitigating the damage by encouraging more positive reviews than convincing your unhappy customers to remove the negative.

That means, simply, make more customers happier and more excited to leave positive reviews. A bad review is regrettable, but when your average score is above 4, coupled with a large number of total reviews, you'll be able to weather those blows and come out ahead.

Developing a great customer experience is a big challenge. But it's all part of the package with Flawless Inbound. We've helped more than 80 companies across Canada and the US improve their three key revenue-driving departments of sales, marketing, and customer service. Find out more about our customer service enablement techniques!