It used to be that when someone had a problem with your business, they called to complain. In most cases, a responsive manager could straighten out the issue, and the matter would end there.
Today, however, a growing number of customer complaints appear online — potentially damaging your community’s reputation. How you respond to this very public form of customer feedback also can impact your brand for better or worse.
As more consumers post their feelings on Twitter, Facebook, Yelp and other sites for all to see, what steps should you take when your community gets a bad review?
Address the Criticism Calmly
It’s human nature to feel angry and hurt by a bad review, but it’s in your community’s best interests to stop and take a breath before you fire off a response. Failing to respond also is not a good option; leaving criticism unaddressed doesn’t look good, and a reviewer who gets no response may hit harder next time.
Before you respond, take some time to think through the problems cited in the negative review and whether the criticism is fair and accurate. Determining the veracity of the review will help you craft an appropriate response that comes across as respectful and helpful while setting the record straight.
Get an Impartial Opinion
After a little time passes, you should be able to write a response that comes across as professional and upbeat. Even if you feel satisfied with your response, it’s a good idea to have someone else — preferably someone who can remain impartial — read it before you post.
A colleague can check your work, or you can turn to a friend or family member who has no direct knowledge of the situation. The overall tone of your response is just as important as the content.
Offer a Solution
If the negative review presents a specific problem that you can solve, you should try to offer a solution. Losing a prospective customer can be costly for your business, especially if that prospect tells others about the problem and an unsatisfactory response.
Look Beyond the Surface
As you think about how to respond to a negative review, consider the motivation of the writer. Try to pinpoint the specific circumstances that have made the individual unhappy with your community. Does the criticism pertain to a specific area or to certain staff members? By digging into the criticism, you may uncover a systemic problem in your organization that you can correct.
See a Marketing Opportunity
In your response, you want to address the specific criticism raised and try to provide a solution. Remember, though, that others who have not formed an opinion about your community may read the negative review — and your response — in the future.
Use the opportunity to mention some of the unique selling points of your community. If you rate well in resident surveys, you can mention specifics. By emphasizing that you have a reputation for high quality, you get the message out to others that the negative review is unusual.
For complex problems that are not simply solved through a public posting, you can ask to speak to the reviewer personally. Consider arranging a call or in-person meeting instead of engaging in a back-and-forth discussion with the individual.
In your written, public response, you can leave your phone number and ask the person to call you. Even if you don’t receive a call, others who see the review will know that you tried to rectify the situation. And if you do have the opportunity to interact personally with the reviewer, you can ask for a new or revised review if the situation is resolved satisfactorily.
Work with a Professional
Remember that any written response you leave on a review site will remain online — visible to the public — indefinitely. Take some time to think through what you want to say before responding, and limit the online conversation to one or two rounds.
Despite your best efforts, some negative reviews may stick around online, and your only recourse may be garnering more positive reviews to reduce the impact of the negative one. You may want to create a social media strategy that allows you to respond effectively to both positive and negative feedback as you continue to build your brand online.