How to Handle Negative Reviews of Your Online Business

How to Handle 

Negative Reviews of Your Online Business

Bad news travels faster than good news.

Our brains are hardwired to protect us from harm. Think back to cavemen days when it was especially important to be attuned to threats like saber-toothed tigers. They would have been more likely to survive threats and, ultimately, have better odds of passing along their genes if aptly prepared to process, plan for and overcome these life-threatening beasts. After all, survival requires careful attention to threats but less urgent with regard to positive ones.

The brain developed systems that would make it unavoidable for us not to notice potential threats and, hopefully, respond to it. According to a study done by John Cacioppo, Ph.D., at the University of Chicago, the brain reacts more strongly to stimuli it deems negative, and this is marked by a greater surge in electrical activity.

An article in “Psychology Today,” describes how Cacioppo, in his study, showed images typically known to arouse positive feelings, those likely to stir up negative feelings, and those known to cause neutral feelings, which ultimately confirmed the brain’s “negativity bias.” Then he recorded electrical activity in the brain’s cerebral cortex that reflects the magnitude of information processing taking place. Not surprisingly, bad news and events leave a stronger impact than good ones.

The pulverizing power of perception

Fast forward to modern times and not much has changed. Today’s saber-toothed tiger takes the form of a bad boss, an abusive partner or threats to one’s livelihood, in this case-negative customer reviews. Online interaction, for some businesses, is given scant attention. But for other businesses it’s akin to enduring a root canal, producing an all-consuming wave of dread.

If you, or your business, has received negative online reviews, you’re likely to feel angry, upset, powerless, and even confused. After all, no one sets out to underwhelm. But there are not many options to defend yourself against such attacks. However, there are steps to be taken to protect your reputation. Here are a few:

1. Always respond to reviews, good or bad.

There are myriad review sites (Yelp, Facebook, Groupon, Glassdoor, Google, Indeed, Comparably, and many more) that offer opportunities for customers and job-seekers the podium to, both, bash and praise your business. When you receive a negative review, and it’s inevitable, remember that it is not the end of the world. In fact, it can be a positive experience, because you have the opportunity to respond promptly and politely. In doing so, you’ll show that you care about the opinions and concerns of said naysayers. Others will not only read the negative complaints; they will also look to see how you respond, so make it sincere, professional and positive.

2. Ask current employees and potential job candidates to leave reviews.

Remember that bad news travels faster than good, so be as proactive as possible. Disgruntled employees and customers are far more likely to leave reviews, and by actively requesting company-wide reviews there’s the opportunity to increase the ratio of positive to negative reviews.

Negative Uber reviews have been aplenty in recent months

3. Take the issue offline.

It may prove challenging, especially if the bad review seems unfair or harsh, but try to avoid engaging in discussions of details. Respond in a non-defensive manner that demonstrates you are listening, and get the conversation offline as quickly as possible. For example, you might say, “Thank you for taking the time to provide valuable feedback. I would love the chance to talk about your experience in greater detail; please reach me directly at…” Whenever possible, deal directly with “public” complaints as opposed to a customer service representative.

4. Ask to have negative reviews removed.

If a review is negative or you suspect that it’s been left by a troll, you do have another option.

Though you can’t delete it, you can ask that the comment be reviewed by a member of the publisher’s team.Fake reviews do happen (competitors). According to research by a CRM software company, one out of every three consumers who receive a retailer response to their online complaint end up reposting a positive review. Furthermore, 34 percent end up deleting their negative review altogether. According to Google, your best initial course of action is to directly contact the owner of the site where the negative content is published, and ask them to remove it.

Though this rarely works, it occasionally does. Google explains that after you or the site’s webmaster has removed or edited the page, the removal of negative comments can be expedited by using Google’s URL removal tool.

5. Negative customer reviews can help your business to thrive. 

Customers who are experiencing difficulty or disappointment, with your product or service-and tell you about it-are doing you a favor. A survey found that for every customer who complains about an issue, 26 remain silent. Simply, and effectively, solving the challenge of one complaint might just improve your product for many others.

Reputation management in the age of social media

The digital era has transformed the business/customer relationship dramatically, for better and for worse. Power has shifted from businesses toward consumers with regards to trumpeting a company’s message. While companies could carefully hone their message, in years past, with traditional advertising tools (print, billboards, radio,etc.), social media has almost completely transferred that power to consumers-hence the ongoing struggle of brand management.

The sheer number of players involved, exacerbated by unrelenting speed, has created what seems like a perfect storm of anxiety and stress for business owners. In case you haven’t done so already, familiarize yourself with the social tools to monitor keywords: TweetBinder and SocialMention, are just two good options.

One unenthused Ruby Tuesday diner shares his frustration

These tools will enable you to search various social networks for keywords and hashtags related to your business. Take it a step further and set up “alerts” (ex: Google Alerts) so that you know whenever your brand is mentioned.

Remember, awareness is the first step to brand management and ultimate business success. Now more than ever it is crucial to respond, when needed, to negative comments. Sometimes, just being aware of what’s being said, about your business, will help to inform and guide your customer service engagements.

There’s a timeless Warren Buffett quote that aptly describes what’s at stake: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” You owe it to yourself to protect your reputation. 

Stephen Doyle

"Steve Doyle, originally from Philadelphia, holds a B.A. Professional Writing from Penn State University. He's a blogger, short-story writer and has created several hundred marketing content pieces for clients such as: JC Ehrlich, Ambius, Henckels & McCoy, DDC Group, Burns Logistics Solutions, Inc., etc. Steve is an award-winning, highly skilled communicator who loves to help get others' stories told in as an engaging manner as possible."

  1. As an Amazon top reviewer and author who published 2 books about this topic I strongly advise against asking Amazon to remove a troll review.
    Having communicated with hundreds of authors over a period of almost five years I have never heard of Amazon removing a single troll reviews of a book from a NOT-celebrity author.
    However, I was able to independently verify that when Amazon was made of an obvious troll review they did not remove the troll review but another good one, instead.

  2. As an Amazon top reviewer and author who published two books about this topic I have to advise against asking Amazon to remove a troll review.
    Having communicated with hundreds of authors over a period of almost 5 years I have never heard of Amazon removing a troll review of a book from a NON-celebrity author.
    However, I was able to independently verify the claim of many independent authors that once Amazon was made aware of a troll review they did not review the troll review but instead a good review of the same book.

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