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Word-of-mouth has long since been integral to business growth – but in the online-age, a negative review can reach hundreds in an instant.

While the initial reaction upon receiving a negative online review is sheer panic, especially when it’s on a very public platform such as Facebook, Twitter or a dedicated review website – there are indeed steps you can take to minimise the fallout.

Fiona Adler from business review website WOMO, said in the online age, even the best business can be face the brunt of a disgruntled customer. “Learning how to minimise the consequences of less than positive reviews, and turn them on their head to work in your favour, is the key to effective reputation management,” Adler said.

Adler recommended the following tips when responding to negative reviews:

1. Don’t panic: the moment you first become aware of a negative review is not the time to respond. Instead, it’s worthwhile to reply to their feedback when you’re in the right mindset. “For business owners, it’s very easy to take any criticism personally as it can feel like a personal attack. Keep the review in perspective and don’t take it to heart.”

2. Respond publicly: even if you know the customer, responding publicly is a great idea as it gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your business values and showcase your concern for customers. “You should comment on, or reply to, the review and apologise unconditionally, while still showing others the best sides of your business. Remember that potential customers will be reading your response and forming opinions based on what you do when things go wrong.”

3. Be gracious and keep your cool: this can be tricky so take a deep breath and think carefully about what you’re going to say. Even if the reviewer seems to be making unfounded claims, don’t lash out, get personal or argue against their review. Instead, thank the reviewer for their feedback; acknowledge their dissatisfaction; point out relevant positive aspects of your business and any changes you intend to make, and invite them back (preferably encouraging them to contact you personally).

4. Offer to make amends: While this can be alluded to publicly, it’s also worthwhile to directly contact the customer with some sort of offer to resolve their issue or compensate them for having a bad experience, whether you think their grievances are legitimate or not. “This could be in the form of a refund, a free service or product, or some type of special treatment on their next visit. With proper handling, often an unhappy customer can turn out to become one of your most loyal fans.”

5. Take feedback on board: While we may secretly know the customer is not always right, if you get a similar complaint several times, you may need to get your head out of the sand and work out what’s repeatedly causing the same problems.

6. Address dubious reviews: If you doubt that a review is from a real customer of yours, or believe it to be factually inaccurate, avoid making your feelings public as it may come across as sounding bitter. Flag the review as “Inappropriate or Suspect” to the host website and explain the reason for your suspicions, they should be able to investigate directly.

7. Encourage other reviews: The more positive reviews you have, the less impact each negative review has. Rather than let one negative review attract all the attention, ask some of your happy customers to share their experiences online.

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Stephanie Zillman

Stephanie Zillman

Stephanie is the editor-at-large of Dynamic Business. Stephanie brings with her a passion for journalism, business, and new ideas. On her days off, you might find her reading a book on the beach.

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