Every entrepreneur has a specific nightmare scenario in mind. You scroll through your star-filled reviews on Yelp or Trustpilot or Google and see that you have a new one… and it’s neither glowing nor sparkling.
Someone has publically dragged your business’s name through the mud and not only shattered your ego but also jeopardized your chances of getting new clients!
Truth is, there are two types of bad reviews—the lies posted by trolls and the reviews that hurt even more: the well-deserved ones.
If your new review is of the latter sort, you need to ask yourself this: Did your business, for any reason, dip in quality?
Either way, I think you should respond to attacks because you can solve anything through communication. In the case of well-deserved criticism, I would publicly respond with the following steps:
- Re-state the problem you’re responding to. Show them that you are aware of their grievances and see where they are coming from.
- Offer an apology. Make it honest and authentic. Acknowledge that you messed up, and validate their feelings. Never use the words “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “I’m sorry but…”
- Give them a brief explanation of what happened to cause the problem. The reason I say a brief explanation is that a longer one could sound like you’re explaining away your responsibility and thus walking back your apology. Even if you yourself didn’t cause the problem, it happened in your business, on your watch. No need to explain”who did it”. It will just make you look bad. It’s way better to own up fully as if you caused it since you actually failed to prevent it.
- End with the fixes you’ve put in place to prevent the problem from happening again. If possible, you can offer them a freebie to make up for the harm caused.
The positive side of a negative review
Negative reviews can actually help your business! Ironic? Maybe. First of all, a business or product that only has five-star reviews can come off as suspicious. Your audience might think that you’re hiding something. Second, a negative review can give your potential customer a more realistic picture of your offering. People look for honesty and authenticity, and a bad review can help create that.
Secondly, and most importantly, criticism makes you wiser. It gives you a chance to see what isn’t working and what you need to improve. Of course, a bad review can sting, but you should always treat it as a learning opportunity.
But how to deal with trolls leaving bad reviews?
Some people might advise you to “ignore the trolls,” but not me. I clap back because I don’t want what they’re saying to dominate the narrative about my business. So I ask what facts they have to support their attack. If they don’t have anything viable, I question their motive. If you hold them to account for what they said, they usually back off – because now they’re going to have to deal with you directly and didn’t expect that. You win.
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