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How to turn a negative review into a positive experience

By Guy Arnold

- Last updated on GMT

Guy Arnold says there is never a 'bad review'
Guy Arnold says there is never a 'bad review'
Guy Arnold, managing director of Sales Through Service, shares his four top tips to avoiding negative reviews of your business online and suggests how to turn them into a positive experience if you do.

There’s a lot of talk about ‘bad’ online reviews, and the negative affect they can have on a pub, restaurant or hotel. Column inches have been devoted to how they can be fought, including taking the legal route, but there is a different route that can be taken that reduces time and stress, can improve PR (whether the review is good or bad) and help turn any review into extra business. 

Here are four steps you can take to turn a negative review into a positive:​ 

Step 1: Accept that the world has changed and the customer really is in charge

Social media and online review sites have empowered the customer like nothing before. This is a genuine revolution in consumer behaviour, not a fad, so don't swim against the tide. Use examples of success from businesses inside and outside the industry (such as Ebay, AirBnB and Uber) seen in the news.

Step 2: Genuinely put the desire to give a 'great customer experience’ at the heart of all you do

In this new world you can only be genuinely successful in the long term if you change the ‘business mantra’ from 'we’re here to make money, and we also want to be nice to the customer’ to 'we're here to be loved by the customer and if we do this well the money will follow'. 

Following this mantra genuinely affects everything you do, so filter all your systems and processes through these beliefs. 

Step 3: Put proactive feedback systems in place

You need to actively demonstrate to the customer that you care about what they think and actively encourage their feedback. If you don't, they'll assume you don't care and will find another avenue such as TripAdvisor where they'll tell everyone what they think of your business without you having any control. 

Include feedback boxes in your business, set up a Twitter account and Facebook page and engage with customers there or set up an online feedback system. Anything that will encourage customers to share their thoughts directly with you. 

Step 4: React strongly and positively to all public online reviews and remember there’s no such thing as a ‘bad’ online review

It is worth remembering that with any response to reviews on a public forum that you are not only responding to the individual who has posted a review, but to the whole world. This is where you can let your personality show. 

With this in mind remember: 

  • To calm your ego. Customers are not always right (but they are always the customer);
  • To respond to all reviews otherwise it looks like you don’t care (This is very important);
  • Customers are three times more interested in your response to the review than the review itself. They understand that people can be awkward, what they’re interested in is what you’re like when you respond;
  • Negative reviews are read five times more than positive reviews, so responding to these properly is a huge opportunity.

Bad reviews

When you receive a bad review, remember there are two types, 'valid' and 'false'.

For 'valid’ reviews, take it on the chin, ask them to contact you offline, and state publicly what you aim to be great at and how brilliantly you would have handled this complaint if it had been made direct to you at the time.

If you suspect a review is 'false', then treat them exactly the same: 

  • ask them politely and kindly to contact you offline;
  • state your commitment to great customer experiences (and all the steps that you’re taking every day to make this a genuine reality);
  • apologise for what needs apologising for, and state what you do do and don't do (eg: you don’t need to apologise for not having a fruit machine if you don’t do fruit machines!) … and why this is;
  • state what you would have done if they had brought this to your attention at the time;
  • reiterate your commitment to feedback and wanting to get it right for the customer.

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