Monthly Archives: November 2014

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Dealing with the Village Idiot

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How To Deal With an Unfair Negative Review

We are fans of social media networks but they can create the challenge of dealing with an unfair negative review. Negative reviews happen all the time because it is a rare week that we do not get a call from a client on this topic. The problem, of course, is that our instant reaction is to lash back at the unfairness and doing this runs the risk of writing the best response you will ever regret. Managed properly, negative reviews can improve your business; but this article is about dealing with the unfair review. Just so we are clear on the scope of our comments, this is where the person irrationally attacks your business for no justified reason.

If you get a negative review for something you did, the best advice is to take responsibility, learn from your mistake, and get better for the next time. Sometimes negative reviews are the best thing that can happen to you but they almost never feel like that when they happen. They hurt and they make us angry, but as a business we have to fight those reactions and deal with the issue at hand.

Step One is to take a deep breath and let out some of the tension. You have been unfairly assaulted but as a business you cannot react with your emotions. Let out the emotions in some other fashion but do not post a response while you are still mad.

Step Two is to assess what really happened. There is a reason that this person went off on you and it may or may not have anything to do with you. They may just be having a horrible day and something you said or did gave them the opportunity to vent. Sometimes the cause of the hostile response is not actually related to your business. We have seen situations when we ask for more details and the person will back off their statements. They were mad when they wrote the posting but after some time to reflect they soften their response.

Step Three is to respond to the complaint and bring it to a close. There is no perfect answer to this and it really depends on how you read the person on the other side of the posting. If the problem is something that you can fix then some consideration of responding in public is worth the time. The advantage is that others will see how you respond to a problem and most will appreciate a professional response. If however you have to deliver bad news to the customer, doing that in private might be the right way to go.

To respond in public or private – that is the question.

We recently had a client that got slammed with negative reviews after just the initial phone call over their service charge for coming out to a client location. This is a perfectly normal, customary charge but the caller really got fired up about it. The caller declined the service from the business and then went into multiple social media sites and posted horrible reviews. Clearly an unreasonable person, but still something the business had to deal with. None of the options for dealing with this are good so it is a lesser of multiple evils situation. The business cannot back off their service charge since that keeps them in business, so the news they need to deliver is bad but responding in private will make it look like they did not respond to the complaint. While there is no good answer to this the lesser evil is to respond in public so people can see that your response if reasonable. There are risks involved with this in that the other party can continue unfair postings but inaction has its problems as well.

We have had more than a few situations of tracking down who the person is and what they are complaining about. For whatever reason the source of this is often a Yelp profile that has been recently created, has no personal information, and has only the one posting. In these cases the contact is often connected to an email that goes nowhere. When you are faced with this your options are more limited and the only response you can make is public. In this case we typically respond with a request for more information about the situation and this almost always goes unanswered but it has the side effect of resolving the complaint in the eyes of the other visitors.

To sum it up, don’t let your emotions guide your actions. Figure out the cause of the negative review. Decide if the situation requires a public or private response and respond professionally.


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