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Handling negative online reviews 

August 19, 2019 | Posted in: Articles & News, Flex Marketing news, Marketing pow wow

Handling negative customer reviews

Recently the Marketing Association published this article about how to handle negative online reviews …apparently, this is a very common question they are asked. It struck a chord with me, based on a recent experience of mine.

Their article reminded me of a (negative) review I stumbled across for one of my clients. I had to delicately mention to my client that I felt their public response to the review needed reconsidering. Fortunately, they took my advice and went ahead and changed it (as well as fixed up a couple of historical responses that were not ideal). They admitted that they had ‘reacted’ rather than taken the time to consider their actions and whether they were honouring their commitment to their company values.

I pointed out that often it is not the bad review itself that is detrimental, but how it is handled. If the business comes across as accusatory, arrogant, defensive etc. this is not a good look. It is really important regardless of the backstory and who is in the right or wrong that the person providing feedback feels acknowledged and listened to. The advice the Marketing Association give of publicly suggesting that you take the conversation off-line at least shows anyone reading the review that you are taking it seriously – this does not have to be an admission of wrong-doing on your part, it is simply showing that you are prepared to listen and deal with it in a more appropriate way.

Online reviews are so critical in the tourism and hospitality sectors. A family member recently asked me if I had used Airbnb and how I knew that I was booked into somewhere reliable and good. My response way simply “online reviews”. Consumer reviews probably account for a good 80% of the final decision-making process in which accommodation I book. If I am concerned about being comfortable in a hot climate overseas, comments such as air conditioning unit was ineffective, noisy, broken or there wasn’t one, ring alarm bells. If having easy access to eateries is important, comments like there being so many great restaurants across the road are going to mean so much more to me than reading on a hotel website “Plenty of Nearby Dining Establishments”…it is more believable when a customer comments on proximity or how plentiful something is!

So, how do I feel when I choose a great looking hotel, but there are a few negative comments? It depends! If there is no response at all from management, I am likely to be put off and move on to another option. If there is a sincere acknowledgement and explanation from management (and it sounds plausible/reasonable), I would probably put it down to unfortunate circumstances, especially if it was beyond the hotel’s control.

For example, if the swimming pool was closed because a child had an accident in it… the hotel could mention that there was a sign at the pool to indicate the reason for closure, however in future to make the communication even clearer, they will provide messages to all hotel rooms via their communication system. It shows a commitment to customer service and continuous improvement – this would not put me off booking that hotel. If a hotel looks like they are going above and beyond…e.g. offering to provide a voucher etc. then it usually more than makes up for a negative comment because it demonstrates their positive attitude towards ‘making things right’.

Loyalty really can be built in those moments of dealing with complaints effectively – I have had a few personal experiences of feeling even better about a brand because of how they conducted themselves when things didn’t go to plan. I am such a raving fan of Blunt umbrellas because they gladly replaced my broken umbrella with no questions asked and no hassle. So much so, that I have gone the extra mile of including a link to their website in this article because I want everyone to know how their umbrellas are so much better than every other umbrella I have ever had and worth every cent of the higher price tag!

So, if you want to make sure your business is the definition of ‘professionalism’ online, take a read of the marketing association’s article.

Flex Marketing