Negative reviews online can bust your business. Responding to them is an art every entrepreneur needs to learn to navigate the online minefield!
With any business, you need to be prepared for the good and the bad. As an entrepreneur, you are certainly aware when you embark on your journey that it’s not going to be smooth sailing. But in the digital era, this becomes even more difficult with online reviews being posted, which people from all over the world can see. These online reviews can make or break your business. Positive reviews can help to raise awareness about your product or service and boost sales. But negative reviews… they can cause serious damage. Especially for a fledgling company or start-up. When you are already struggling to set up your business, and get people to know about it, and avail of your products and services, negative reviews can set back your business, and in the worst case scenario, even cause it to collapse.
The online world can be a minefield and needs to be tackled with care. So here’s what you need to do as an entrepreneur, if your business is at the receiving end of online negativity.
Respond promptly: The sun never sets on the virtual world! It’s a 24×7 world and that is something you need to keep in mind always. If someone posts a negative remark, respond ASAP. If you are a small outfit, you may not have someone monitoring responses 24×7. If so, respond as soon as you see the review or complaint. If your business if big enough, it would be wise to have a customer cell that operates through the day and night. This tells your customers that you are concerned about them and are willing to listen. Your receptiveness will go a long way in building relationships.
Be polite: Many online users can be rude and abusive, and that can be very upsetting. However, by reacting impolitely to them, you only end up escalating the issue. They will respond offensively, and may tag others, inviting them to see how discourteous this company/individual is being to them. And before you know it, the entire issue would have spiraled out of control. And who ends up suffering most often in these scenarios? You and your business. Remember to acknowledge customers for posting their reviews, even the negative ones. (This doesn’t apply to online bullies). Thank them for pointing out what their issue is with your product and apologize, if needed
Take the issue offline: Request the customer for their email id or telephone number, and mail or speak to them out of the glare of the public eye. Once, I’d posted a negative review on Amazon. The seller first mailed me, and then called me and spoke to me. I was impressed, and have continued to do business with him because of the courtesy he extended me.
Be open to criticism and take action accordingly: Very often, customer reviews are accurate. Maybe your product is not meeting customer expectations. If so, introspect. If need be, overhaul your product or service. This is undoubtedly necessary if you get several online reviews that are negative. To continue with my example of my experience on Amazon, the seller concerned took my criticism and the points I’d made into consideration. He was manufacturing yoga mats; I pointed out that the mats were not long enough, and when we spoke, I told him to check out a certain brand of yoga mats and measure the length of that brand’s mats as they were the ideal length. He did so, and mailed me to inform me that he was going to revamp his product.
Give the customer something in return: This is not a necessity but it does go a long way in creating goodwill and in establishing the foundation for a long-term relationship. Back to my Amazon seller. He gave me a voucher for an amount that exceeded what I had paid for his mat, and told me to use it to buy other products on his website. Now, not only did that create goodwill, but it also exposed me to a whole lot of other products that he had on offer. I chose a couple of them. And they were good. I’ve bought them again. So, with that one gesture, he not only appeased my irritation but also created awareness about his products, and today, I will go back to him when I need those products.
Request the customer to take down the negative review: As an entrepreneur, negative reviews can have a long-lasting adverse impact on your business. Once the yoga mat seller and I had engaged – through email and on the telephone – he politely requested me to take down my review, saying he would work on improving his product. And I complied with his request because he had been proactive, polite, and had gone out of his way to connect with me.
Learn how to deal with online bullies: This is the toxic side of the worldwide web. There are bullies and trolls on Twitter, Instagram, and most social media sites. Unfortunately, it’s a sad reality that is not going to go away in a hurry. It would be wiser to take the discussion offline, because chances are, even if you respond politely, the online bully is likely to vent even more and make a mountain out of a molehill. This will only aggravate the situation; there will be a lot of ranting and raving; other trolls will jump into the conversation, and the whole issue will become a very public mess. Sometimes, you need to take a judgement call whether to engage with or ignore online bullies. It’s a tough call to make but, go with your gut.
Ultimately, it’s all about how you respond, and how fast. Things can go viral in a short time online, which can work both negatively and positively for your business. So, as an entrepreneur, it’s important to stay abreast with the negative reviews that pop up online for what you are offering. Nipping it in the bud, responding swiftly, and improving or making changes to your product or service are ways that can help you navigate this minefield. But with online bullies, hey, sometimes it’s best to ignore them!