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3 Tips for Dealing With Negative Reviews Like a True Entrepreneur

It only takes one harsh review to scare off an untold number of potential customers. How you respond will make all the difference.
3 Tips for Dealing With Negative Reviews Like a True Entrepreneur
Image credit: JAG IMAGES | Getty Images

It’s every business’s nightmare -- the negative online review that is turning away customers left, right and center. These negative reviews can drastically hurt your business. A survey conducted by BrightLocal found that two-thirds of customers form their opinion of a business after reading just four reviews.

In extreme cases, companies have even sued customers for defamation for leaving scathing reviews, claiming the exaggerated claims significantly impacted their business.

It happens to everyone. As a newbie entrepreneur or an experienced one, you will likely receive one sooner or later. Don’t let that negative review be the end of the world; instead, learn from the mistake and use it to make your business even better.

Here’s how to turn that negative review into a positive action for your business.

Related: 7 Tactics That Show You’re Getting Customer Service Right

Look for commonalities.

First off, don’t be too hard on yourself for getting a negative review if it’s a rare experience. You can’t please everybody, and not everyone is going to love every aspect of your business.

It’s important to note that not all customer feedback is beneficial. Taking each and every review into deep consideration can actually harm your product or service. When you are reading through reviews, start by looking for any themes or repeated complaints. The most common word in negative online reviews is “disappointed”, implying that the customers had higher expectations than what was offered. Once you’ve identified the patterns, figure out what product or service is causing an issue with your customers. Yelp reviews can be very helpful for this since the site will actually highlight the words that are mentioned by multiple customers.

Upon determining which aspect of your business needs improvement, you need to brainstorm solutions and weigh the outcomes. For instance, if you are experiencing a customer service issue, consider the steps it might take to improve your staff. Do they need extra training? Disciplinary measures? If it’s that bad, termination?

The most important thing is to learn from the negative feedback. Don’t take it too personally. Ultimately, this type of harsh (public) criticism should act as the framework for how your company evolves.

Related: Got a Bad Yelp Review? Here's How to Defend Your Business Online.

Respond quickly.

The next step is to respond to complaints in a professional manner. When customers go to the trouble of submitting a review or trying to make contact through social media, they expect an answer fast – over 40 percent want an answer within an hour!

Make sure you thoroughly read all the reviews people post online. When responding, don’t let anger and frustration take over. Let cooler heads prevail. Apologize, if needed, by saying you are sorry for their experience, and explain how this is unusual within your business. Consider offering a special deal or a discount on the purchase, if applicable.

Responding to negative reviews will not only work to appease a disgruntled customer, it may help grow your business and present it in a new light. JetBlue is a fantastic example of how to respond to customers. They have become renowned for their timeliness in addressing inquiries and grievances on social media. Going beyond just answering questions, they use these responses as means to promote their company image as well as their unique brand voice.

People like to see that businesses care about their opinions. The best way to put out the fire of negativity is by handing the customer (and the situation) in a classy, professional manner.

Related: Is Your Customer Service Department Prepared for Today's Consumers?

Take action.

It’s one thing to look at reviews and respond. Adjusting your business model and the customer experience accordingly is whole different ballgame.  Every business wants to be known as one that listens to their customers. If you’ve noticed significant patterns in customer feedback, you need to take the proper steps to usher in positive change. Failing to take action can lead to a number of long-term consequences in terms of customer opinions.

A great example of a company that listened and learned from their customers is the mobile app Dragon Rivals. After the initial release, many customers stated that the game was too difficult and complicated. 1 Touch Studios, the app creators, took their customers’ detailed advice and simplified the game for the next update. Then, they made sure their previous customers knew. 1 Touch Studios responded to nearly every negative review apologizing for the undesirable experience, and explaining the changes that were made to improve the game. The newer version of Dragon Rivals soon received higher ratings and more satisfied customers because they listened to their audience and reacted appropriately.

Negative reviews can have a very strong influence over potential customers. However, it does not mean the end for your business. Failing to react properly will.

As Denis Waitley, writer of The Winner’s Edge, put it, “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker.” In business, it is highly unlikely that you will always provide a five-star experience to every customer. A few bad experiences are inevitable. Take each one as an opportunity to learn and develop.