5 Tips to Leverage Your Company’s Negative Reviews for Good

While working as part of an in-house digital marketing team, I once had a product manager ask me “Can you help us get better reviews online?”

I thought about it for a second before answering him “No.” He didn’t love that answer, but it was the truth. People don’t leave positive or negative reviews because of marketing. The nature of their review is almost exclusively based on their experience with the company and its products or services. Your marketing team can likely help you get more reviews, but you can’t out-market a bad experience.

If your company has more than your fair share of negative reviews, it’s a sign to dig in and do the hard work to correct some things. But it’s not uncommon for even highly reviewed companies to receive a bad review now and then. This article will help you resist the urge to cringe at the sight of a single star, and instead see your next negative review for the opportunity it is. Here are 5 tips for leveraging a negative review as a positive for your business.

Tip #1: Use Negative Reviews to Identify Problems Early

Whether it be disgruntled staff or product defects, most companies from time to time have some type of issue lurking just under the surface and hidden from the naked eye. A negative review can sometimes provide the exposure you need to a hidden problem early enough to prevent it from getting worse. Most people don’t leave negative reviews because they want to hurt you. They do it because their experience didn’t live up to their expectations, and they’re hoping things will be better the next time. Use this feedback to identify issues quickly, and address them.

Tip #2: Use Your Response to Make Things Right

The biggest fear we all have when we see a negative review is that our next potential customer will see it, and place it on a pedestal as the most important indicator of what it’s like to work with us. Sometimes, negative reviews are complete works of fiction. But sometimes, they identify genuine blunders in customer service or product quality. Nobody is infallible, and nobody expects you to be. When a mistake has been exposed in a review, your response shows the world (specifically that next potential customer) just how much you care about delivering a consistently high-quality experience. People want to work with companies who are willing to make things right when they fall short.  

Tip #3: Identify Opportunities to Train Staff

We communicate company values and expectations to our staff. We talk about the importance of team and consistency. But sometimes, people learn best from real life. If a poor review is the result of a team member not living up to the expectations of their position, a negative review that exposes it can be a very helpful tool in course correction. Making sure the team member understands how the customer felt and reacted to their actions can be a very effective way to fix service problems when needed.

Tip #4: Demonstrate Your Path on the High Road

We’ve all seen outlandish, bold, and rude responses from companies to negative reviews that have gone viral. In a moment of anger, someone let their emotions get the best of them and now their temper tantrum lives on forever on the internet. There’s often a difference between what you want to say and what you should say when responding to a customer review. Remember, other customers are watching. If your response to a valid complaint is anger and insults, you’ve shown them how you value the feedback of the people you serve. Be responsible and respectful in your response. When possible, provide the reviewer with a phone number or email address to discuss their complaint in more detail. There’s no value in having a long dialogue like that publicly. Once the issue has been resolved, return to the review platform to explain how you addressed the customer’s issue and thank them for their feedback. Customers value companies that behave with morals and integrity, even in the face of sometimes unreasonable customer demands.

Tip #5: Win Back a Customer, When Possible

The person on the other side of negative review didn’t always think poorly of your company. They chose to do business with you in the first place. It’s not always realistic, but in many cases they can be won over again. And when they are, they might even consider removing their negative review in the future or at least responding to explain how you fixed the problem. We often think of how negative reviews will look to other customers, but they also present the opportunity to go above and beyond to mend a damaged relationship with the original reviewer.

Perception is Reality

Reviews are a part of life for companies in 2023. You can’t control what people are going to write about your company, but you can leverage the opportunity to improve and demonstrate who you are and what you and your people stand for. Your customers’ experience with your brand is a critical piece of your marketing ecosystem. That’s why Kolbeco includes it as one of the four pillars of the 490 factor, our proprietary approach to marketing. Each piece of your plan works together to deliver a positive customer outcome. You may never smile at the notification of a one star review, but at least now you’ll be better prepared for making the most of it.

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