20 Oct

Bad Reviews: How to Diffuse a Seemingly Unwinnable Situation

By Michael Beauchat, Senior Account Executive

Online reviews wield a lot of power. Great reviews from happy customers give your brand a boost of credibility. It makes decisions easier when shopping around. Lots of positive reviews and thoughtful comments? Sounds like a winner!

Reviews can also be pretty entertaining. There are hidden gems scattered across Amazon’s infinite catalog of products. Thoughtfully, Amazon eliminated the need for searching by compiling a Top 10 Lists of Funniest Reviews for products like the BIC Cristal for Her Pen:  “HULK SAD. HULK DEMAND BIC FOR HIM.”

Then there are the reviews that every business dreads. One star, bad review tirades that send a chill down your spine. I especially love the ones that start, “If I could give negative stars…

Bad reviews sit on the internet like a ticking time bomb, threatening to drive customers away in droves. You know you have to approach them with the skill of James Bond saving the planet from a diabolical scheme.

But bad reviews don’t have to ruin your brand’s reputation. They can even bring out the best of what your brand is all about with the right approach.

You can’t ignore bad reviews and hope they go away. You need to act fast, be smart, and above all, don’t panic. Carrying the bomb metaphor a little further, keep your response simple with two basic actions: DIFFUSE and DIVERT.

Diffusing the situation starts with a slice of humble pie. Yes, that means an apology. Even if your instincts tell you everything about the review is wrong, at the very minimum apologize for the fact that your reviewer was disappointed.

Here’s where you start sprinkling in a little brand magic for future customers as you cut the wires. Define what your customer experience should be.

People understand that things go wrong sometimes. If you have already recognized the problem and fixed it, let your future customers know. If you have statistics that show the experience was the exception to the norm, let your future customers know. It should not turn into a brag, but it should dovetail nicely from the apology into what your brand stands for every day.

Once you have attempted to diffuse the situation, it’s time to divert the traffic. And by that, you need to divert the reviewer into an offline method to follow-up on the complaint. You are showing other customers that you are open to the feedback and are providing direct access to make things right.

If the negative reviewer tries to keep the conversation going online, don’t take the bait. Refer them back to the offline method to resolve the situation.

Now you start gaining the upper hand by reinforcing that you are accessible and providing options to fix things. The power of the bad review keeps becoming less and less of a threat.

Lastly, make an offline request to encourage loyal customers to leave their own positive reviews. This will provide additional contrast for other customers who might be comparison shopping.