May 12, 2015

Posted By: Scotty Spielman

[caption id="attachment_262" align="aligncenter" width="507"]NegativeReview1 You can't always please all your customers. Make sure you handle online complaints the same way you handle face-to-face critics.[/caption]


Try as you might, you just can’t please all of the people all of the time.

No matter what type of business you own or operate or what service you provide, chances are you’ll rub someone the wrong way or fail to meet his or her expectations and have a dissatisfied customer to deal with. With the popularity of the Internet and the potential for anonymous posts, you are more likely to receive some of those negative criticisms. And let’s not forget Internet trolls—some people just get their kicks out of making others look bad or get angry.

Fortunately for you, this is a good thing. Responding to reviews is a great way to build goodwill with customers—happy and angry—and a great way to build trust in other people as you restore the trust you’ve lost with your unhappy customer. Because that’s what’s really going on here: a customer trusted you with something, whether it was simply their money, their time or their vehicle, and you somehow didn’t live up to that trust. Responding is the best way to restore it.

However, reacting to and responding to negative reviews should be done with great care. Typed words—and the internet in particular—are relatively blunt. Intent doesn’t always translate. One man’s sincerity can be another man’s sarcasm. Here are a few things to remember.

First of all, make sure you claim your business on all the review sites. Places like Yelp and Yahoo and Google all have those options and they are free—but be prepared to be hit up for additional advertising.

Second, check them regularly. Set up a google alert for notifications. This doesn’t have to be something that takes all of your time—a few minutes a day will do it.

Third, don’t ignore a negative review, no matter how it makes you feel. Consider this example: You’ll note two major red flags here. First, it’s more than a month old. Second, there’s no response. It could be this auto shop doesn’t know it’s out there, slowly eroding the confidence of potential customers (which is why claiming your review sites and business sites is a necessity).


What should the shop owner have done?

  1. Respond publicly. Chances are, if the owner saw this post he or she would have a pretty good idea who posted it, based on the information provided. A quick phone call might be tempting, but make sure you respond publicly, too. It’s not enough for the customer to know you’re listening and interested in solving his problem—everyone else must know, too. A quick reply to a dissatisfied customer will go a long way. It can be something as simple as: I’m sorry you had a bad experience or I’m sorry you weren’t satisfied. Give us a call and we’ll work with you to resolve the situation. Sign your name—at least your first name. This shows the world that you’re responding with a personal touch and it will also get the conversation offline, where it can be handled more privately. That brings us to the next point.
  2. Take the conversation off line. You want people to know you’re handling the situation, but not necessarily how you’re handling it. In the unfortunate event that a similar complaint comes up, you can handle it differently. One size does not fit all when it comes to unhappy customers—don’t promise everyone a free engine when a free oil change will do the trick.
  3. Keep your message simple: Hi, we’re sorry, contact us. Thank you for your business.
  4. If you feel the review is false, misleading or in any way inaccurate, give yourself a few moments to calm down before you respond. Try to resolve it privately, as we mentioned above. If you feel the need to call the review as false or misleading, make sure you do it in a way that does not sound too defensive. Don’t call the customer a liar. “As we discussed on the phone earlier today, we have a difference of opinion about your service visit. Thank you for allowing us to help you solve this problem, or work through this problem with you.
  5. Don’t ask the customer to take down the negative review. That will hurt your business more than having one up. As long as you’ve responded to it, and solved the issue, it’s perfectly okay to ask the customer to update the review, letting your public know that the issue has been resolved.


It might seem like a lot to go through, but it’s no different than what you’d do if someone showed up, red-faced and huffing, to take you to task. Just remember your reviewers are paying customers, with feelings and sensitivities that you aren’t privy to, and that perhaps they just had a bad day. Also, on the Internet, the world may be watching. So make it quick, but take it easy.