How To Gain & Maintain a 5-Star Online Reputation (PART 11)
TRANSCRIPT: Alright. We got our social media policy, we’ve written how we’re going after snipers and trolls and what we’re going to say, but what about online reviews? A single bad online review, unlike a social media rant, can hurt your revenue for years. While I might just ignore certain social media rant because it’ll go away, I cannot ignore a bad online review. The rant may hurt, it may sting harder initially, but long term damage can be done by that 1 star review, so your policy on handling the online review must take into account these 3 things.
There’s three things that you want to consider when you’re looking at your online reviews and you’re thinking about how to respond. One is the perception of fact. Will other consumers perceive this review to be factual? Will other consumers read this review and go, “Yeah, that probably happened?” Is there a probability of truth? Based on what you know about your own company, could this negative review be true? Could this be the worst car buying experience ever? Could we be the worst restaurant in California, right? Is there a probability of truth and is there a possibility of fraud? Is there a chance this is just a competitor or a disgruntled former employee bashing you? I want to make sure that you understand that some “Experts” again, they’ll tell you not to call out cheaters and liars. I’m telling you right now, call out the cheaters and liars.
Is the negative review likely written by a competitor or a disgruntled former employee? Then call them out publicly but do it tactfully. Now don’t do this just because you got a negative review but if you do think the negative review was written by a competitor or you cannot verify, you cannot corroborate the negative review, then you make sure that your rebuttal mentions that you try but cannot corroborate their story and that you’d love to hear more about it then offer to take it offline. This is a way that you can subtly call out cheaters and liars and your consumers will read through your rebuttal and go, “Yup, the person who left that review is a cheater or liar.” Let’s take a look at my response here.
Somebody’s written a fake review about us. “Thank you for taking the time to post these comments and rest assured we are doing everything we can to investigate and solve this issue. Unfortunately, we’ve so far been unable to match your situation with any current or former customers. This makes it difficult to get to the bottom of an issue and solve problems. If you are indeed a customer who experienced this, please give us a chance to make things right. Sometimes we discover competitors have posted negative information intended to harm our reputation. Please call me directly at or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you.”
By offering to take it offline and by calling them out as a cheater or liar, you can combat their bad review, you can rebut their bad review and at the same time try to say “Fake.” Now understand though that a smaller percentage of consumers will actually read your rebuttal. Most people are just looking at star rating. Of course the poster, the person who posted this review usually will read your rebuttal and especially if they’re a fraud, and the right response might encourage them to remove the fraudulent review. Now be sure that where this is possible, where this is available that you report or flag their review to the review site as being a fake review.
Now you’ve got a negative review. Before posting anything, take a deep breath. Did you complete step 2? Did you gather the facts? Did you determine if it’s true or not true? Did you also gather the facts from the customer? If you got a bad review and the option’s available, attempt to resolve the issue amicably with the customer. Try to solve the issue first before you rebut. If you can identify who they are and you can get a resolution, you could ask them to take the review off or to change the review to a 5 star or 4 or whatever, anything better than 1, right? You can ask them to edit their review once you’ve solved their issue.
Now I’ve tried to solve it, I can’t solve it, I’ve done everything I can, I got to write a rebuttal. Write your rebuttal in an offline document first, like Microsoft Word, then let it sit. Let it sit an hour, okay? This thing’s going to be online forever so let it sit an hour. Make sure you spell check it, you grammar check, and then edit what you wrote and don’t sound angry, just explain the situation. Now be sure to never accuse the customer of anything. I don’t even care if it’s their fault, and never point fingers. You will lose those exchanges. I want to be clear. The other customers who read this and you attack a customer who was wrong, you will look like the jerk because you’re the company and they’re the consumer.
The customer’s not always right but they’re always the customer and perception is reality, so take the blame if warranted. Own it, okay? Be factual and keep personalities out of it when writing this rebuttal and then let someone proofread it before posting. Part of your written guidelines should be that 2 people are in charge of every rebuttal. One person writes it, one person reviews it before it gets posted, and remember, everything you write could be online forever just like the original comment, so let’s do a quick rebuttal exercise.
Let’s say a customer, dissatisfied customer posted … True about your business at a site that allows rebuttals and we tried to resolve it amicably and we couldn’t, so let’s read what they wrote first. They wrote, “This was the worst experience ever. There is no follow-up and they kept our deposit until we followed up several times. We were going to buy from them and then they changed the price at the last minute by adding a nearly $100 fee for something. Do not buy here.” Okay. Let’s say that that’s mostly true. Let me tell you how am I going to respond. Every rebuttal response I’m going do is going to be the same. It is. I’m going to say 3 things. I’m going to say “Thank you,” I’m going to say “I’m sorry,” and I’m going to say that “We rectified it so that it never happens again.”
Every rebuttal response is going to include some thank you, some apology, and then tell them what we’ve done, so let’s give a response to this one. “Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. I cannot express how sorry I am that this happened to you at our store. While we strive to make sure we inform every customer of these charges well in advance of the paperwork stage of our transaction, as human beings, we all make mistakes. That said, we’ve made significant changes in our processes and our employee training to ensure that every customer’s experience with our associates is a positive one.” That’s how we’re going to come back, right? I said thank you, I said we’re sorry, and I said we rectified it so that it won’t happen again, but I need you to be a human when you do this. Robotic responses repeated over and over again on the same review site make you look too corporate. I’ve seen it.
I’ve seen car dealers with 30 rebuttals and they’re all the same. Folks, you got to mix it up, so skip the corporate speak. Use plain language when writing rebuttals. Also, make sure you sign the rebuttal with a name, not just a title, so the rest of my rebuttal to that customer is this. “Please do me a favor. Allow me to make this right for you and our future customers. Please contact me directly at my phone number. I want to better understand how we failed to provide you with the exceptional service that we work to provide for every customer. Signed, John Doe, the owner.” See? I’m a human.
Now some of you are saying, “Wait, Steve, so I have to write a custom response to every bad review so we don’t sound like robots?” Yeah, you do. Sorry, but you do. You have to write a custom response because you didn’t follow step 3. If you will follow step 3 and fix yourself before you nix yourself, you have far fewer apologies to write. Great customer service means never having to say you’re sorry. Remember that.
“What about good reviews, Steve? Should we say something to good reviews?” Yes. Absolutely. You should respond to every review on sites that allow responses. Giving a sincere thank you, that’s always in vogue. Sincere thank you’s are always in vogue but be a human. When you respond to this review, this is both an acknowledgement of the reviewer and a confirmation to others that you are an engaged business who cares about your customers.
Now this is a restaurant near our house and the owner responds to every positive review the same way. “Thank you for your review!” When you see that written 10 times, you realize, “That’s not really a thank you, is it? It’s not sincere.” Let me read Becky Harding’s review. Went during an off time between lunch and dinner, other reviews say it gets packed but it wasn’t when I was there. Shared an appetizer and a sandwich with a friend. We both took leftovers with us, you get a lot. Food was great, service was outstanding. Wish I lived closer.” Let me prove I read that review, right? I’m going to prove I read that review by replying to her, “Thanks, Becky. We wished you live closer too. :)” See, that’s a human. That’s a much better response than the owner did because it proves that I read the review and I responded in a personal way.