As you’re creating business goals for 2020, consider making your goals an overhaul of how you respond to customer reviews. Good reviews are great, but a bad review can be helpful too. If you handle it correctly. The Spiegel Research Center at Northwestern University did an extensive study that looked at online reviews and just how much they impact sales.

The bottom line? You can’t afford to ignore good or bad reviews.


Key takeaways from customer response study

There’s a lot to take away from the study, but these are the ones I’ll focus on for this post.

  • Reviews can increase conversion by 270%;
  • 5-star reviews look like they’re too good to be true. Negative reviews are a good thing and the business’s response to those reviews is just as important;
  • The more expensive the item/product, the more important a great review is.

What you find ultimately is that people truly care what other customers have experienced and they want to know the good and the bad.


Reviews can increase conversion

Looking at the first item on the list, reviews have can increase conversion by 270% according to the study. It’s a staggering number, but it makes sense.

“Based on data from the high-end gift retailer, we found that as products begin displaying reviews, conversion rates escalate rapidly. The purchase likelihood for a product with five reviews is 270% greater than the purchase likelihood of a product with no reviews.”

Think about what you do when you look up an expensive product that you’re thinking about buying, do you look at reviews? If there are no reviews, does that make you wonder if anyone has purchased the product? Does something with a handful of reviews make you feel more confident that the product is of good quality?


Negative reviews can be a good thing

In an ideal world, you’re getting 5-star reviews all the time, but a seasoned business owner knows that you can’t please all of the people all of the time. The true test is how you react to the review.

I once went on Yelp! to look for a plumber. I found one whose trucks I had seen in the neighborhood. It had mostly 5-star ratings and a tiny handful of 1-star ratings. That was okay by me until I read the reasons for the 1-star ratings. There was a pattern. Customers would complain over Yelp! and the owner of the company would send them a private message insulting them and calling them a liar. The angry reviewer would then post this private message on Yelp! for others to see.

The point is, how you treat your customers, even an angry one matters.


How to deal with bad reviews on social media

One of the first things you need to do is create a company-wide strategy for dealing with reviews whether they are good or bad. If you don’t have one yet, here are some tips to get you started.


Reply promptly

Every strategy should include a timeline. Customers don’t expect you to respond within the hour, but they do expect a response. Two or three days is a good goal. Less than a week is a must.

Make it your responsibility to check sites like Yelp!, Facebook and Google Business two to three times a week to make sure you’re replying to customer complaints. You can also set up notifications for these apps on your smartphone so you know when a customer has posted a review of your business, good or bad.

It’s a good idea to send out a note of thanks for the good reviews as well as replying to the bad reviews.


Be polite

No matter how vicious the review is or how bad it makes your business sound, you should always be polite. Remember everything you say even in a private message can end up out there in the public.


Be professional

You also want to be professional. Never blame a customer for something that went wrong and never get angry at a customer for being upset about the service or product that they received. Respond professionally at all times, even if you feel like the customer is insulting.

Take the issue offline

I got this gem of advice from the Small Business Development Corporation of Australia. The site says, “After acknowledging the problem, offer to handle the matter off-line, out of public view. Provide your email or contact details so you can discuss and resolve the matter. Once you have been able to resolve the issue, you can then post a public comment on the review website outlining the agreed outcome.”


Accept the blame and fix the issue

Once offline, accept the blame and figure out a way to fix the issue. A majority of the time, the customer is complaining because there truly is an issue. Maybe the product they received was faulty, or the customer service they received wasn’t up to par. It happens.

Instead of fighting with the customer, apologize and find a way to fix the issue that will satisfy both you and the customer. This may take some creativity, but you can do it. A reasonable customer will appreciate the fact that you’re trying to make amends.


Follow up

Once the issue is fixed, post a public comment about the resolution. You can also, kindly, ask the customer if he or she will update their review.


Accept the loss

Occasionally, you’ll run into a customer that simply can’t be pleased. That’s okay. Do your best to help the customer in any way possible but know that sometimes you can’t win and the bad review will have to stick. As long as you know you did everything in your power to make it right, you can feel okay about the way you handled the situation.

How to increase your company’s good reviews

Another great way to combat those bad reviews is to have more good reviews than bad ones. If the good outnumber the bad, the true worth of your company will shine through.


For some more great tips, like how to get the right traffic to your website, check out these previous posts


Written by Erika Towne