6 Better Responses to a Bad Review Than Yelling or Sulking

Somebody trashing your company online is hurtful and infuriating but responding that way makes the situation worse.

learn more about Cris Burnam

By Cris Burnam

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Growing up, I can't tell you how many times I heard my father say that if a customer isn't satisfied, he'll tell 10 people about his bad experience. Today is no different. But instead of telling 10 people, a single customer might be able to reach 10 million.

Thanks to sites such as Yelp, Google Reviews and Facebook your customers can tell other customers exactly what they think of you.

The best defense is making customer service your No. 1 priority. If you take care of your customers, they'll return the favor with their loyalty and favorable word of mouth.

However, you can't be everything to everybody, and you'll probably disappoint a customer. You're going to get some negative reviews. How you manage this inevitable rite of passage is what truly affects your reputation.

At my company, our marketing team is responsible for managing our online reputation. They respond to negative reviews within 48 hours because it's an opportunity to let our customers know that we've heard them and that we want to make things right.

Related: How to Handle Negative Online Reviews

It also allows us to engage with our customers and use their feedback to make improvements to the company. For example, some recent feedback led us to reformat our receipts to make them clearer.

You should be monitoring what people say about your business so you can use their feedback to improve customer satisfaction. Here are some tips for incorporating this feedback loop into your company:

1. Automate the process.

Invest in a service to notify you when new reviews about your company appear online. We find Yext helpful for monitoring our listings across multiple platforms (including Yelp and Google reviews).

2. Stay calm.

When you see a negative review, your first instinct will be to respond from an emotional place. But hitting "send" when your blood is boiling will just come off badly and put the customer on the defensive. Take some time to compose yourself, collect your thoughts and draft a response that's considerate and helpful.

3. View criticism as an opportunity.

It's often difficult to view negative reviews as anything other than personal attacks. But criticism can be constructive, or at least used constructively. Start looking at every negative review as an opportunity to improve your company.

Related: Got a Bad Yelp Review? Here's What to Do

4. Turn it into an advantage.

If you're authentic in your response and resolve problems promptly, it shows other customers that you care about their experience and will go out of your way to correct any issues.

5. Reply to everything.

Be diligent about responding to every review. Occasionally, you'll find a review that's clearly not from a real customer or one that's making an unreasonable request, but these are rarities.

We recently had a customer reach out about an incorrect charge on his bill. After investigating, we realized we had dropped the ball. No matter how committed you are to customer service, you might make mistakes. Luckily, regaining the customer's trust is often as simple as apologizing and fixing the problem.

6. Make customer satisfaction company policy.

Most companies incorporate customer care and communication into their policies. For instance, Tony Hsieh empowers all Zappos employees to satisfy customers by offering refunds, upgrading shipping or sending flowers. Consider incorporating details on how to respond to reviews, as well. We give all managers our "3 Keys to Customer Service Success," which covers how to resolve customer issues.

In our hyper connected world, it's so important to manage your online reputation. Your customers expect you to find solutions to their problems whenever possible, but more importantly, they want to feel heard and understood.

Don't be afraid of bad reviews. Having some naysayers in the mix adds validity to all those glowing five-star reviews. You shouldn't take bad reviews personally, but you do need a response plan. When you view criticism as an opportunity to correct problems, win over skeptics and demonstrate your commitment to customer service, you'll start to see fewer bad reviews and many more positive ones.

Related: 4 Cool-Headed Strategies for Responding to Negative Comments Online

Cris Burnam

President of StorageMart

Cris Burnam has been working in the self-storage industry since 1987. He has served as president of StorageMart since founding the company with his brother, Mike Burnam, in 1999. Burnam grew StorageMart from a single self-storage facility into the world’s largest privately owned self-storage company with 149 locations across the U.S. and Canada. Burnam was named a 2014 EY Entrepreneur of the Year in the Services and Real Estate category (Central Midwest region) -- one of the highest honors an American entrepreneur can receive.

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