The Guide to Handling Negative Reviews

Everybody gets a bad review at some point. It comes with the territory, it’s part of the job. The busier you become as a contractor, the more likely you’ll get one of these negative reviews. There’s a reason the old adage “you can’t please all of the people all of the time” has lasted for generations. That’s why how we deal with a bad review is often more important than the review itself. Let’s start with some perspectives on negative reviews.

Turn negative reviews into constructive criticism

First off, it’s important to understand that negative reviews should be seen as constructive criticism. A negative review is not a personal attack. All feedback, regardless of the perspective, is still based on some level of reality. For example, if the customer is upset that the roof shingles look wavy from the ground—even though it’s because the roof deck is wavy—their perspective is not wrong. The shingles are wavy. That’s the way the customer sees it.

The cause of the bad review, in this case, is probably because you didn’t do a good job of explaining to the customer that a wavy appearance may be a bi-product of thin roof decking. Also, ask yourself this: did you give the customer an opportunity to discuss the issue with you, and then did you try to correct the issue to the customer’s satisfaction? 

Most customers will not go straight to the internet to bash you. When a complaint ends up on the internet, it’s usually the customer’s final resort. If you look at negative reviews this way, you’ll see how constructive criticism can help you.

Take control of your online reputation

Even if you change your perspective about these reviews, a bad review can affect your business.  Especially now, with the kind of exposure a company faces on the internet, these reviews can be very harmful to your brand. Remember, information on the internet is forever. So let’s discuss how to control your online reputation.

First, it’s important to have control over the pages where reviews are left. At a minimum, you should be the manager or admin of your Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, and Next Door pages. These platforms allow people to leave feedback about your company. If you don’t control the page, you won’t be notified that a negative review has been posted (though the rest of the world will). You also won’t have a chance to respond to it. Setting up these accounts is free, so set them up!

Read, breathe, break, respond

Next, read the review in its entirety and do your best to understand what the customer is trying to tell you. Remember, our customers are emotional people and are likely writing this review because they feel they don’t have another avenue. Understand that their tone is likely intended to be very harsh. Don’t get distracted by this and read the content for the irrefutable facts: the shingles are wavy, the wall is not flat, the color is not as black as they thought it would be, etc. This is the constructive part of the feedback and the part you need to understand in order to improve your business systems. 

Now that you have the feedback, it’s time to acknowledge the customer and their frustrations by replying to them. But wait. Take a breather (or a drink) and compose yourself before replying.  We are emotional people too, but we don’t want to respond from a place of emotion. Once you’re calm and ready to reply, follow these steps:

  • Don’t be defensive in your reply. Never start an argument on the internet for all the world to see. Start your response by thanking the customer for their feedback. 
  • Acknowledge the facts of their review and demonstrate that you’ve heard and understood their concerns.  
  • Provide a brief explanation of the facts from your perspective. 
  • Share some of the solutions that you attempted and their outcomes (if applicable).
  • Offer a new solution to address their grievance or offer additional dialogue offline.  
  • Always close with another thank you.  

Your response is not a place to justify your decisions or actions, nor is it a place to attempt to discredit the customer. Other customers will be reading your reply and will be judging your customer service by the content and tone of your response. Most people accept that no one is perfect and that a few mixed reviews are just part of the game. But the bottom line is to always respond professionally and swiftly!

Make changes based on feedback

Finally, act on the feedback. In the example above, you should review your processes to see your sales team regularly discusses potential roof decking issues with the customer. Is your team educated on how to handle customer feedback in the field? Are customer issues efficiently brought up the chain to the right decision-makers who can address them before they end up online? If not, it’s time to sit down with the team and make some changes. In short, learn from the feedback.

Negative reviews are bound to happen. It’s just part of the business. Not all customers will be raving fans of your business, but how you handle that review can be the difference between future customers choosing you or not. If you need help managing your online reputation, gaining visibility in the right places, responding to customer feedback, or correcting the flaws in your business systems that caused the feedback in the first place, AJCEO is a full service consulting, coaching, and training company that is here to help you!

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