Responding to negative feedback

Oh no – you got a bad review on Google!
We understand – no one wants a bad review. After all, a negative review could mean that you are being unfairly targeted – or worse, that you (gasp!) aren’t perfect. But don’t hide under your examination table and wait for your business to die.
Negative reviews are only truly a problem when:

  • They’re unanswered,
  • They’re handled poorly,
  • Or they’re the only reviews you have.

The reality is, no one expects to see 100% five-stars, and those less-than-perfect reviews come with some unexpected benefits.

From the customer perspective:

Negative reviews build trust

What do you think when you see a product or service with hundreds or thousands of 5-star reviews, and nothing but happy comments? You probably wonder how anything could make 100% of the people happy 100% of the time.
The numbers reveal how negative reviews build trust. Reevoo discovered that 95% of customers suspect that reviews are censored or fake if they don’t see any negative ones, and 65% trust reviews more when there are both negative and positive ones. Nobody is perfect, and if your online reviews paint you that way, people will often assume that the reviews are fake – destroying any trust in your business.

Negative reviews help the customer feel informed

People read reviews to determine if products and services are suitable for them. Since people know that nobody’s perfect, they’re looking for the drawbacks so they can feel like they’re making decisions with their eyes open. That is, will the benefits outweigh the drawbacks?
This is evidenced by the way Amazon sets up their reviews – at the top, you can see the summary with the overall rating and the breakdown by star rating. But it doesn’t just launch into the reviews after that – it displays the “Most helpful positive review” and “Most helpful critical review” as voted by Amazon-browsers.
When people feel they know what they’re getting into, they’re more confident in their choice.Negative reviews are an important part of the customer’s journey, but there are also benefits for you, as a small business owner or manager.

They offer an opportunity to save relationships

Not only should you not fear negative reviews, according to Jay Baer, author of Hug Your Haters, you should embrace the negative comments. They are valuable, and they give you chance to salvage a situation.
The “meh” people in the middle are the people that you should actually fear. This group is made up of the people who are disappointed in some way and just quietly disappear. They’re the customers you’ve lost without even realizing it.
It’s the old adage of “I can’t fix it if I don’t know I messed up” – at least with so-called “haters,” you don’t have that problem. You know what their beef is, and you can take steps to resolve their complaints.

They give you a chance to look good

The content of the negative review becomes less important the moment you step in and respond to it – for better or for worse.
I already know what some of you are thinking:  “I don’t want to dignify that comment with a response.” Baer says this is the number one reason that business owners choose not to reply to a negative review online. They fear that if they post a reply, the complaint somehow becomes true, or turns into a big deal. But here’s the problem with that logic: the people reading the review don’t know anything beyond the fact that there is a complaint and that there is not a response.
Responding to complaints increases customer advocacy, and ignoring them decreases customer advocacy. So take a deep breath and respond to every negative comment.
The beauty here is that, in the eyes of other consumers reading the reviews, it doesn’t matter if you can’t save the situation. What matters is that these consumers see that you are responsive to feedback, that you treat people with respect, and that you make attempts to address concerns and resolve complaints.
From there, they can decide that they like the way you handle problems and be comfortable bringing their pets to you – and this applies even in the face of errors and false reviews! As long as you take the high road, you still come out looking good.

They help reveal blind spots

Here comes the part where you look at the content of the negative reviews and admit to yourself that there are things you could do better. Ouch.
You might remember “The Pizza Turnaround” from Domino’s® – a 2009 video showing how they looked at the harsh feedback their pizza was receiving and used it to completely redevelop their pizza, from the dough recipe to the sauce, and even the type of cheese. As their president, Patrick Doyle, put it: “You can either use negative comments to get you down, or you can use them to excite you and energize your process and make it a better pizza.”
Danielle K. Lambert of Snout School says that she loves online reviews, because they provide the opportunity to learn something. If you choose to, you can use the feedback you receive to improve your services and truly work towards becoming the best veterinary practice in town.
Looking at individual complaints, there are often one-off situations to learn and grow from, but there is also a lot of value in looking at patterns over time.
For example, if people consistently report that they are kept waiting beyond scheduled appointment times, it might be time to revisit how the day is scheduled. If multiple people complain about a particular behavior of a particular staff person, it could be time for a one-on-one to see if something’s going on with that person, if they need some training, or a different role within the practice that is suited to their strengths and interests – or if they should stay at all.

They can encourage people to go above and beyond

Sometimes, just knowing people are watching can help people to remember that what they do on a day-to-day basis matters. If your practice gets a negative review, it can be a great reminder to everyone who works there to always put their best foot forward and be the person they’d like to deal with if the roles were reversed.

They can help you keep online reputation top-of-mind

Like cleaning cages, managing your online reputation must be part of someone’s job. It’s easy to let it slip to the bottom of the priority list, but reputation management is not a one-time push to get a bunch of positive reviews – it’s an ongoing process. Chances are, if this has slipped to the bottom of someone’s list, a negative review will bump it back up.

When are negative reviews actually negative?

As Dita Von Teese once pointed out, “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be someone who hates peaches.” Even the very popular and beloved book Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which had 10,411 reviews on Amazon when I last looked, had 145 one-star, and 111 two-star reviews.
Hate happens. What really matters for your online reputation is what you do about it.

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