What to do when you get a bad online review?

Posted by on January 4, 2020

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The blog post below is an excerpt from Thriving in the Customer Age. It is one of the many highlighted best practices that outlined in the book.

Bad reviews are going to happen. We do not live in a world in which everything is five-star or 10 out of 10. The question most businesses obsessively worry about is what to do when a bad review happens (it will, so don’t think the sky is falling when it happens!).

Step 1

For your peace of mind, understand that a bad review does not make yours a bad business. In fact, consumers will be suspicious if you do not have one or two bad reviews.

Step 2

Acknowledge and engage with the customer publicly online and offer to create a solution by providing direct access to a decision maker offline. Follow a consistent communication process when you respond. Customer service professionals commonly employ a four-step protocol:

 1.    Thank the customer for the review

2.    Apologize and empathize.

 3.    Work towards a solution.

 4.    Take the communication offline.



☆☆ out of 5: “I was very disappointed with the product I purchased at your location and felt when I called to get some clarification on why a part did not fit I was dismissed by staff and offered no solution.” -Emma


“Hi, Emma. Thank you for bringing this interaction to our attention. (Step 1) I can only imagine your frustration with getting your purchase home and then not having it fit together, combined with the lack of support you received when you called. I sincerely apologize for this experience. (Step 2) This is not how we desire for our customers to be treated and goes against our values. Our store manager Kristie has been made aware of your circumstances, and would like to make things right. (Step 3) Her direct line is XXX-XXX-XXXX. (Step 4) Her request to you is to give us another opportunity to make things right. On behalf of company XYZ, again, I sincerely apologize.”

This interaction shows both Emma and the world that you care, while also providing an opportunity to take the potential messiness of the situation out of the public domain to where it can be handled privately. Any customer reading this review can tell that the company cares and acknowledges their mistakes, and that they will attempt to resolve the problem. Businesses are made up of people, and people make mistakes. Your customers are people and generally are accepting that people (like them) make mistakes. What often matters most is not that the mistake happened, but acknowledgment of the mistake.

Step 3

Turning a 1 star review into a 10 out of 10.

As an organization, you can look at every bad review as a gift. Once the handling of the review has been taken offline, you have the chance to fix a problem and turn a detractor into a promoter by using your service recovery process. It has been my experience that when you address bad reviews quickly and genuinely—and solve the problem—you have a customer for life. To date in my career, there has not been a single customer whose bad review, when handled properly with a recovery process, has not gone down this path. At the Flaman Group of Companies, every bad review is brought to the attention of a key executive. That is how seriously customer satisfaction is taken; the customers know this and respect the attention provided when things go wrong. Beyond executive attention, the bad reviews are showcased across the organization as learning opportunities of what not to do and how to be proactive. The two actions together (executive attention and using every opportunity to learn) reinforce a culture of customer centricity.

Steve Whittington is President of Roadmap Agency Inc. He has also served for over a decade as a member of the Executive Team of Flaman Group of Companies an award-winning organization and has over 25 years of executive experience. Steve’s current board work includes serving as; President of Glenora Child Care Society; and Co-Chair of the Marketing Program Advisory Committee for NAIT’s JR Shaw School of Business. Previous notable board work included, Chair of the board for Flaman Fitness Canada, a national retailer, a Director for a meal prep internet Startup Mealife and Chair of Lethbridge Housing authority, the third-largest Social housing NGO in Alberta.

Academically, Steve was an instructor of Project Management at Lethbridge College for seven years. Steve holds a Bachelor of Commerce Honours degree; he is a Certified Sales Professional (CSP), Project Management Professional (PMP), Certified Marketing Specialist (CMS) and (CCXP) Certified Customer Experience Professional.

Steve’s first book Thriving in the Customer Age – 8 Key Metrics to Transform your Business Results teaches about the customer journey and provides a guiding framework spanning all stages of the customer experience. The book explains how every metric impacts an organization and how leaders can best utilize each metric to provide a stellar customer experience. Everyone knows the customer is the most important part of a business. This book provides the tools to improve an organization’s customer experience and drastically transform business results.

Recently Steve’s Blog has been profiled as one of the Top 75 Customer Experience blogs

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