So You Got A Bad Review. Now What?

Erik Bernstein internet crisis management

So You Got A Bad Review. Now What?

If your ratings are steadily dropping on review sites, it might be time for action

While sometimes it’s tempting to think of crisis management solely in terms of celebrity misbehavior, CEO apologies, and glitzy trial cases, those aren’t exactly everyday situations for most. And, while a few bad reviews won’t make headlines, they can do a lot more damage than you may expect. In fact, according to a study by Convergys Corp, a single negative online review will cost you an average of 30 customers per year. Multiply that out by each customer’s average spend, take into account the frequency with which many public-facing businesses are reviewed, and you begin to see this isn’t necessarily a small issue but one that could cost you many thousands of dollars each year if left unchecked.

In my experience, a high-volume business you can easily get 1-2 negative reviews per month simply from existing, even with ZERO actual issues in performance or customer service. That’s a potential 24 negative reviews over the course of a year if they do nothing wrong. Now let’s see the math: 24 negative reviews x 30 customers lost for each = 720 potential customers lost due to reviews. Not such a small problem when you dig in, is it?

While it may be tempting to try to figure out how many customers you’ve already lost due to unmitigated negative reviews, that’s not going to repair the situation. Instead, consider this list of immediate steps you can take when a negative review rolls in, created by our team of Bernstein Crisis Management consultants:

  1. Stop and consider whether there’s a legitimate reason for the review. If so, consider possibly getting in touch with the reviewer directly to resolve. It’s important to be make sure you have the whole story, and to be brutally honest with yourself here. If you truly made a mistake then you need to recognize that, too much ‘spin’ on responses to reviews will be called out with prejudice. If it’s purely a slam, continue down the list.
  2. Attempt automated removal. Reviews can only be removed through the reporting function on each site if they violate the Terms of Service for that specific site, but some are almost freebies. For example, on Yelp angry posters will often echo a review posted by a friend or family member, but Yelp has a reporting option titled “Not a personal consumer experience” that works nicely to remove those repeat attacks.
  3. Attempt to talk to a real person to remove. Unfortunately this only applies to Google, unless you bring a lawyer along Facebook and Yelp won’t talk to you directly about reviews, but the Google My Business team is reachable via phone or Twitter and will hear your case for removals.
  4. Post a reply. If you can’t remove and the reviewer hasn’t completely discredited themselves with EXCESSIVE CAPSLOCK SYNDROME or similar then you’ll need to craft a reply that addresses not that individual directly, but the other folks out there who may read the review and wonder whether to believe it. By demonstrating compassion, competence, and confidence in your replies, along with providing direct contact info for anyone still on the fence, you increase the chances of counteracting that bad review.
  5. Get more positive reviews! Preventative medicine is highly effective and the same goes for crisis prevention. By gathering positive reviews and social media interactions you  create a cushion of goodwill that can absorb smaller damage and bounce back without issue. It’s a pain in the rear, and you need to respect the rules each site has about asking for reviews, but it’s worth it to remove the possibility that one review can seriously disrupt your income or ability to do business.

While this is good advice for many situations, no crisis or reputation threat is ever a one-size-fits-all situation. If you feel you’re in over your head, if you want expert advice on crisis management today, get in touch.

Erik Bernstein