As hard as you try to avoid it, at some point, your business will experience a crisis.
Every time you receive a negative review, it may feel like a crisis. Your team works hard to make your company flourish—any indicator that it isn’t can throw you off your pace. But, actually, a negative review can be a warning sign that will help you take the necessary steps to prevent a crisis in the first place.
Diverse situations propel customers to leave negative reviews about your company. Maybe a staff member made an error or you put your foot in your mouth in public. No matter the situation, you can mitigate or even prevent these mistakes from ballooning into crises by communicating calmly and professionally when replying to reviews!
If you respond incorrectly, more negative reviews could appear. This means more eyes on you. All coverage is not always good coverage! Multiple negative reviews can quickly harm your reputation and alert the media—and ultimately alert potential customers. Preventing escalation is an essential part to any crisis management plan—and a review response strategy should be included.
So, how do you plan to reply to negative reviews in a way that prevents a crisis?
Let’s start with the basics. First off, let’s explore how mistakes your company makes—or is accused of making—could blow up into crises in the first place.
3 Ways a Negative Review Can Escalate Into a Crisis
Often, it’s all about how you respond.
It’s true that if your company is on the verge of a crisis, and you’ve already identified the issue, you’ll need to take steps beyond replying to negative reviews.
But in some instances, these reviews may be the canary in the coal mine—the first warning sign your company made a mistake. What you do next will set the tone as you work to prevent, mitigate and learn from a potential crisis situation.
These are a few response strategies you might be tempted to take that will actually escalate the crisis in the long run:
- You try to cover up or ignore it.
Maybe you own an automotive company and receive a review telling you a headlight installed at one of your franchises burned out after just a few days. You may feel inclined to ignore this, thinking it will blow over. Worse, you may try to cover up the issue and reply in a way that blames the customer. Just like in the plot of almost every 90s sitcom, the more you try to ignore the problem, the worse it will get. One negative review can quickly balloon into 10 if you don’t reply appropriately.
- You respond defensively.
Your company is going places and for the most part, you’re receiving great feedback. Why would someone say something negative? Be careful when you start feeling this way. If you—or someone on your team—replies hastily and says things that accuse the customer, they won’t be happy. Even if they’re 100% wrong in your mind, it’s still never going to help to reply in a defensive way. Especially if you rise to the level of trolls (people who repeatedly write negative reviews), it can smear your reputation and influence the image of your brand. This is one reason why business owners choose to outsource their review response management. A third party can remain calm much more easily, since they don’t feel as personally attached to the company.
- You respond in a way that’s out-of-touch.
Social media monitoring is essential when attempting to stay on top of what your customers are saying about you. Review monitoring—across all the platforms where your customers talk about you—is another way to stay in touch with what customers are thinking. If you haven’t been paying attention to what people are saying (perhaps you feel you don’t have enough time), a negative review may feel like it’s coming out of nowhere. If you know how your customers think and talk about your brand, you’ll be able to better respond when a negative review appears.
So how should you be replying to these negative reviews to prevent a crisis? Realize first that it’s important to reply at all. Once you get past that hurdle, everything else will be much easier!
One study found that only 68% of customers that left negative reviews got a response. 18% of these people were swayed to become loyal customers as a result of this response, making additional purchases from the company. Even better, of customers that received a reply from a company after leaving negative feedback, 56% said that the reply changed their perspective on that business.
5 Steps to Prevent a Crisis with Review Response
- Stay calm.
Before replying, be sure to reflect. Get into the mindset of the review writer. Perhaps you or someone else at your company has made the mistake the reviewer mentions. What steps do you need to take next to figure out if what they are saying is accurate? What’s your game plan going forward to fix the problem? Once you’ve calmly thought through all of those factors, you’ll be more prepared to formulate your response.
- Respond quickly.
In this day and age, it’s important to reply within 24 hours. However, you’ll need to find a balance. You don’t want to wait so long that more reviews pop up in the time you take to reply. But you want to consider the factors in the previous point, and make sure you can answer the review effectively. Sometimes, a simple: “We have heard your concern and are looking into this now. Stay tuned for an update in the coming days,” might suffice. You can then formulate a longer response. However, if you can quickly reply with an effective apology and solution (see below), it may go over a bit better.
- Stay kind.
Even if you think the reviewer is 100% wrong, giving them respect will help you protect your brand’s image. If needed, kindly ask the reviewer more questions in order to fully understand what’s going on. When you’re ready to reply, realize that, while it’s okay to correct false information, at the end of the day, perception is what matters. Companies sometimes get bogged down in the technical details of what did and didn’t happen, but most people ultimately do not care. It’s all about perception. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes, and respond compassionately.
- Follow the format of a public apology.
Coming up with an apology is certainly no simple task and one that has been debated for centuries. While there’s no way to predict if even the perfect response will whisk away all conflict, a few simple strategies should, in most cases, soften the blow. When you realize your company is in error, be transparent, take full responsibility and communicate the steps you are taking to fix the situation.
Elements of an effective apology:
- Make it clear you’re apologizing. Start with “We’re sorry for…”.
- State what is wrong. If you aren’t sure yet what happened, ask for more information and listen. Then, apologize fully. “Our team is so sorry for installing faulty headlights on your car.”
- Show compassion. “It had to have been awful to have your headlights go out in the middle of your commute.”
- Depending on the situation, you can explain what happened, but coming off like you’re making an excuse is never a good look. “The headlights were from a batch manufactured incorrectly. Our staff missed a recall notice from the headlight company.”
- Say it won’t happen again, and explain the steps you’re taking to ensure this. Ideally, share a timeframe for when you’ll evaluate the changes your company is making and make those results public. If you need to reply within 24 hours and don’t have this figured out yet, say a plan is coming.
Sometimes legal concerns can make transparency tricky, but according to crisis management professionals, erring on the side of over-disclosure will help your credibility and image. Still, don’t say more than you need to.
- When needed, remove reviews.
Sometimes, a review goes too far. Perhaps it’s fake or just has too many expletives and smears against your brand’s image. Depending on the review site’s policies, you should be able to report these reviews or even have them removed if needed. This may ultimately protect your brand and image—but be careful to ensure you really are in the right before accusing any negative reviewer of lying or taking things too far!
What’s Preventing Your Company from Replying to Reviews?
We’ve noticed business owners avoid review response because of challenges like these:
- Limited time. As a business executive, you and your team have hundreds of things on your to-do lists. Paying attention to your reviews might feel out-of-reach.
- Fear of responding defensively. It can be hard to stay neutral when talking about the company you work for. Having a plan in place—and, perhaps, a neutral third party assigned to respond to negative reviews—will help you prevent unprofessional replies.
- Not sure how to phrase things. Perhaps writing eloquent review responses isn’t one of your team’s skill sets. Hiring someone else to do this work will take away this burden!
Act On Reviews Now To Save Your Brand
Want to prevent crises before they start? Work with an expert team of review response professionals at Let Us Respond! Book your free review consultation today.