Five strategies dealing with negative reviews

What do you do when you get a negative comment or review?  It could be a blog post from a skeptical blogger, a comment on a blog post, a comment on Amazon.com, a review on Yelp, a comment on Google Maps or any other form of new media.  For small businesses, such comments often sting because of the personal investment, and worse, some worry such notes can adversely impact sales.

While you should take it seriously, don’t get too spun up – a negative comment doesn’t always have a negative outcome.  After all, a fair and open discussion can actually boost your credibility.

Here are five strategies for dealing with negative buzz.

1. Self Reflection. Is the complaint valid?  If so, fix it!  A complaint followed by a timely response and a good faith effort to correct the problem can transcend redemption. Besides, no company is perfect, but the honest businesses win respect!

2. Give them a hug. Often a customer with a gripe is simply a loyal customer that feels led astray.  Find out what the issue is, resolve it and give them a little hug.  By hug I mean, a discount, a free trial, or some other way to demonstrate you value their business.  This can be a way to transform your biggest critics into advocates.

3. The silent treatment. There are not many people that will tell you the silent treatment is a preferred technique.   Indeed…it probably isn’t.  However, there are times when no matter what you do, you cannot make everyone happy.  Enter the detractor.  Ignoring the detractors is an effort to avoid validating baseless claims by way of acknowledgment.  You’re hoping by ignoring them, the absent attention, will encourage them to go away. Engagement is usually a better option, so if you choose the silent treatment route, take care to monitor the situation in case you need to intervene later, for example to clarify the facts.  Only you can decide what’s best for your specific circumstances.

4.  Seek third party validation. A lot of companies make claims, but kudos to the company with customers willing to speak on their behalf.  It speaks volumes about the relationship between an organization and its customers when they are willing to chime in.  Hit a rough spot?  Ask a customer if they’d be willing to weigh in, but don’t wait until the last minute for a favor:  start building those relationships now.  It requires more give then take!

5.  Embrace with self-deprecating humor. Bolt Barbers took this approach, the owner (Mohawk Matt) took some negative reviews and turned them into punch lines for promotions. “People hate us on Yelp,” was an example of turning the worst comments into a positive outcome.

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