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How to Handle Negative Online Reviews

Understanding the causes of negative online reviews and employing digital diplomacy strategies enable business owners to handle customer feedback effectively.

Consumers now wield the power of online reviews as a valuable means to share their viewpoints and encounters with businesses. While positive reviews can boost a company’s reputation, negative reviews can have the opposite effect, potentially damaging customer trust and impacting the bottom line.

In this article, we will explore:

  • Reasons for Negative Online Reviews
  • Can I Deep-Six the Review?
  • Strategies for Handling Negative Online Reviews

Reasons for Negative Online Reviews

One of the most common reasons for negative reviews is a poor customer experience. This can stem from issues such as rude or unhelpful staff, long wait times, or product or service quality concerns. Customers are more likely to leave negative reviews when their expectations are not met or when they feel that their concerns were not adequately addressed. 

Negative online reviews may arise from genuine product or service deficiencies. This can include product defects, poor workmanship, delayed deliveries, or incomplete services. Customers often use reviews as a platform to warn others about their negative experiences and prevent similar disappointments.

Lack of clear communication between the business and the customer can also lead to negative reviews. If customers feel that their inquiries or complaints were ignored or mishandled, they may express their frustration through negative feedback.

Some negative reviews may be driven by emotional responses, rather than objective criticisms. These can be triggered by personal biases or unrealistic expectations. Emotionally charged reviews can be challenging to address, as they may not reflect the overall customer sentiment.

Can I Deep-Six the Review?

Some people may think that removing the negative review is one way to make things go away. However, Australian Consumer Law bans the removal of negative reviews if they were objectively made.

However, the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (CCA) may allow for red flagging a negative review if it can be proven that they came from:

  • Someone in the business being reviewed.
  • A paid reviewer who did not actually use a product or service reviewed.
  • A reviewer who used a product or service but gave rather embellished feedback.
  • Reviewers set up by the competition.

Strategies for Handling Negative Online Reviews

Monitor and Respond Promptly

Regularly monitor your online review platforms and respond promptly to negative reviews. Acknowledge the customer’s concerns and express your willingness to address the issue. Responding promptly demonstrates your commitment to customer satisfaction and can help mitigate any potential damage to your reputation.

Remain Calm and Professional

When responding to negative online reviews, maintain a calm and professional tone. Avoid getting defensive or engaging in arguments. Instead, approach the situation with empathy and a genuine desire to resolve the issue. Keep in mind that other potential customers will observe how you handle feedback and complaints.

Take the Conversation Offline

Whenever possible, invite the reviewer to continue the discussion offline or through private channels. This allows for a more personalised and focused resolution without a public back-and-forth.

Provide contact information or direct them to a customer service representative who can address their concerns in a more private setting.

Address the Issue and Offer Solutions

Take the time to understand the customer’s specific complaint and address it directly. Apologise for any inconvenience caused and provide a clear plan of action to resolve the issue.

Offering solutions or compensations, such as refunds, exchanges, or discounts, demonstrates your commitment to customer satisfaction and can help turn a negative experience into a positive one.

Learn from Feedback and Make Improvements

Treat negative reviews as chances for growth and improvement. Analyse common themes or recurring issues in negative feedback and use it to identify areas where your business can make meaningful changes. Implementing necessary improvements not only addresses the concerns raised by customers but also showcases your dedication to continuous improvement.

Seek Legal Advice When Appropriate

In some cases, negative online reviews may contain defamatory or false statements that harm your business’s reputation. If you believe a review crosses legal boundaries, consult with a lawyer who specialises in defamation or online reputation management. They can advise you on the best course of action and guide you through the process of pursuing legal remedies if necessary.

A court battle may be hard to prosecute, but such cases have worked. In 2020, the SA Supreme Court awarded Adelaide barrister Gordon Cheng $750,000 in defamation damages after a woman left him a scathing one-star review.

The problem was, he had never met the woman in a client consultation and when Google was asked to remove that review (after being viewed 800 times), the woman posted more bad reviews under two aliases.

While the woman’s reviews were the only negative ratings left on Cheng’s page, they were enough to cost him so many clients and over $900,000 in lost income and operational expenses, even giving him a serious bout of depression. The woman was also ordered to cover Mr. Cheng’s legal fees.

Encourage Positive Reviews

Actively encourage satisfied customers to leave positive reviews. This can help counterbalance the impact of negative reviews and enhance your overall reputation.

Request reviews through email follow-ups, social media campaigns, or by showcasing positive feedback on your website. Authentic positive reviews from satisfied customers can significantly boost your online reputation.

Handling negative reviews requires a diplomatic approach that prioritises customer satisfaction, reputation management, and continuous improvement. Addressing customer concerns professionally can help businesses turn negative experiences into positive opportunities for growth and strengthen their digital presence in the process.

DISCLAIMER: This article is for informational purposes only. BARTERCARD has no business relations with any company mentioned in the article.

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