No one wants a bad review on Google or negative comment on their social channel. Yet they happen, and when the haters hate, their venom can often feel like a death knell to the business reputation you’ve worked so hard to establish. However, before you board up the front door in the belief that your practice reputation has been torpedoed, understand that those less-than-perfect reviews come with some unexpected benefits.
Negative Reviews Build Customer Trust
What do you think when you see some product or service with nothing but hundreds or thousands of glowing five-star reviews? You probably wonder how anything could make 100% of people happy 100% of the time. You may even feel suspicious.
If you’ve ever had this experience, you’re not alone. According to research by Reevoo, 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.
In other words, no one is perfect, and if your online reviews paint you that way, people will commonly feel how Ron Weber felt when he famously wrote, “If it is too good to be true… it is probably a fraud.”
Negative Reviews Help Customers Feel Informed
People read reviews to determine whether products or services are suitable for them. Since people know that nobody’s perfect, they’re looking for negatives so they can feel like they’re making decisions with their eyes open. That is, they want to know whether the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.
This is evidenced by the way Amazon sets up its reviews. At the top, you can see the summary with the overall rating and 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 typically more confident in their choices, meaning negative reviews are an important part of the customer journey.
Negative Reviews Offer an Opportunity to Save Relationships
According to Jay Baer, author of Hug Your Haters, you should embrace negative comments. They’re valuable and give you a chance to salvage a situation.
With the indifferent “meh” people in the middle, there’s rarely a chance to save a customer relationship because you rarely (if ever) hear from them. As a group made up of people who just quietly disappear after being disappointed in some way, they rarely leave reviews or online comments. So, they’re customers you lose without knowing what their complaint was and how to fix it.
With the haters, you don’t have that problem. You know what their beef is in spades, meaning you have the information you need to take steps to resolve their complaints.
Negative Reviews Give You a Chance to Look Good
Jay Baer says that the number one reason why businesses choose not to respond to a negative review is because they do not want to dignify a comment with a response. They fear that if they post a reply, the complaint somehow becomes true or will escalate to become a big deal.
The problem with this logic is that potential clients reading the complaints don’t know anything beyond the fact that there is a complaint and not a response.
Responding to complaints increases customer advocacy. Ignoring complaints decreases customer advocacy. So, take a deep breath and respond to every negative comment.
The great part is that, in the eyes of potential and existing clients reading the reviews, it doesn’t matter if you can’t save the situation. What matters is that those people 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 whether 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! When you take the high road, you still come out looking good.
Negative Reviews Help Reveal Blind Spots
Here’s the ouch part where you look at the content of the negative reviews and admit to yourself that there are things you could do better.
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 is better suited to their strengths and interests (or if they should stay at all).
Negative Reviews Encourage People to Go Above and Beyond
As odd as it sounds, negatives reviews are fundamentally positive messages to you and your staff that what you do each day matters to people, and a reminder to your team to always put their best foot forward and be the person they’d like to deal with if the roles were reversed.
Negative Reviews Can Help You Keep Reputation Management 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.
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.”
Hate happens. What really matters for your online reputation is what you do about it.