Top tips for handling negative online reviews

Published:  15 May, 2014

Online customer reviews are playing an increasingly important role in influencing consumer behaviour, with many using them to guide their decisions on what product or service they purchase. Elliot Adams looks at how to manage online reviews and deal with customer complaints.

Online customer reviews are playing an increasingly important role in influencing consumer behaviour, with many using them to guide their decisions on what product or service they purchase. Elliot Adams looks at how to manage online reviews and deal with customer complaints

Many small local business owners such as those in the heating and plumbing trade have long relied on word-of-mouth to develop their business, and online review sites like Yelp help amplify this word-of-mouth effect. These online profiles are great ways to communicate with customers, attract new business and manage public criticism of your company. Managing criticism and putting wrongs right is as important in the online world as it is in the offline world for business owners.

Below are a few basic tips on how to manage and handle negative online reviews, so if you or your company ever have to deal with the situation you are well prepared.

Regardless of how great the product or customer service, it’s good to realise the impact a negative review can have online, and make sure you have the right tactics to minimise that impact. While negative reviews are part of running a business, by acknowledging the effect they may have you can then implement a strategy to manage them effectively.

Since people are increasingly becoming connected and communicative online, the longer it takes to respond to a negative or false representation of your business, the more time it has to spread. A day is a long time in the world of social media, not to mention to your angry complainer who may feel their gripes are being ignored.

Your response should encourage the conversation to be taken off-line as soon as possible to avoid potential further public criticism and an ongoing back and forth, which would only heighten the amount of exposure the reviewer is getting. On Yelp, businesses have the option to respond both publicly and privately to reviews for this very reason.

Business owners should take advantage of this feedback, and regard them as an early-warning mechanism to spot problems before they escalate. More than this, a company’s response to a negative review provides an opportunity to illustrate to future customers just how responsive you are to feedback, making you and your business seem more accessible and more connected with customers.

Online reviews can be a hugely effective reputation-building tool, particularly in industries that reply on word-of-mouth and first person opinions to recommend a service. While negative customer reviews have the potential to cause harm if not handled correctly, by following a few simple guidelines you can avoid potential long-term damage to your business reputation and even use them to your advantage to improve elements of your service that may fall short for some customers. Just make sure that in the process of dealing with these negative reviews you are using them to better understand your customers.

Elliot Adams is communications manager at Yelp

Picture courtesy of Ivelin Radkov, Shutterstock

Sign Up

Sign up to our weekly eNewsletter to receive all the latest news direct to your inbox