People will always have something to say about your business, particularly online. In 2022, what people say about you online can have a tangible impact on your reputation and, as a result, the success of your business.
But it’s not just about what people are saying. While you can’t control what everyone says about you online, you can control how you respond.
Here, we’ll take a look at the different channels that customers use to provide feedback on your business, the impact of negative reviews, news, and comments – as well as bad responses – and how to respond effectively to keep your online reputation strong and even improve it in the face of negative feedback.
Where do customers leave feedback online?
Anywhere someone can publish or post online, there is the potential for feedback. Even if you provide an opportunity on your website for customers to leave feedback, it is likely that many customers will utilize other channels, such as social media and review platforms.
With over 4.7 billion people on social media worldwide – 59% of the population! – hot takes and debates are sure to make an appearance. Social media not only provides a platform for its users but a direct line of communication to public figures and businesses, creating a prime opportunity for people to voice their opinions.
More consumers are also turning to social media for customer service help and inquiries, which means businesses must not only be aware of what is being said on these platforms, but have an action plan in place to respond accordingly, or risk greater negative consequences.
When it comes to direct feedback online, review platforms reign supreme. In 2020, 60% of consumers reported “always” or “regularly” reading online reviews when researching businesses. This number increased to 77% in 2021.
Reviews can have an extremely tangible impact on the success of your business. 94% of consumers have reported that just one negative review has led them to completely avoid a business.
Even the overall rating of your business or product can deter potential customers. Only 3% of consumers report that they would consider frequenting a business with an average rating of two or fewer stars.
Nobody’s perfect - and users know this.
While a low rating can push consumers away from your business, a perfect rating will, too. Only 4% of consumers report that they would frequent a business with a 5-star rating. The ideal rating seems to land between 4.5 and 4.8, as consumers can become skeptical of perfect ratings online.
In addition to social media and review platforms, negative feedback about your business can be published online as a long-form review, or in other kinds of news publications.
Negative press can also have a significant impact on your business’s online reputation. If your business is featured in a negative article or review, or is simply featured in an article that appears negative, and that article ranks on the first page of Google results, you risk losing up to 22% of prospective customers. If your business has four or more negative articles ranking, you can risk losing up to 70% of prospective customers.
If your business is struggling with negative news, or if you are experiencing a reputation crisis, you can read here to learn more about the impact of negative news on your business, and what you can do to mitigate it.
Why it Matters to Respond
Negative feedback in any form can be overwhelming for a business to address, but knowing how to respond can actually turn the negative into a positive.
89% of consumers report they would be ‘fairly’ or ‘highly’ likely to use a business that responds to all reviews, positive and negative. In fact, whether or not a business responds to reviews is the third-most important factor in whether or not a consumer will frequent a business based on online reviews.
While it may look different, when it comes to long-form negative reviews or negative press, it is also vital to respond well. You may not want to comment directly on the article, or even address the article directly, but taking the time to consider the feedback and give your side of the story can bring your own perspective to the conversation. This allows you to have a say in how your business is presented, as opposed to letting the negative review or article dominate the conversation.
Responding well doesn’t only apply to how you respond online. 80% of consumers report being “likely” or “highly likely” to leave a review if an initially negative experience with a business is turned into a positive one.
Unfortunately, the inverse is true as well. Businesses that respond poorly online, or do not respond at all, run the risk of exacerbating the influence of negative feedback. Nearly 60% of consumers report that they would not use a business that doesn’t respond to reviews at all.
In 2022, accountability is key to a business’s success. Whether the review is legitimate or not, acknowledging other perspectives respectfully and showing that you are open to feedback can improve the trustworthiness of your business. Businesses that opt out of responding, or respond poorly, run the risk of legitimizing negative feedback and allowing that feedback to define their online reputation.
How to Respond to Negative Feedback Online
We’ve made it clear that negative feedback online exists and that, if handled incorrectly, can have a negative impact on your reputation. We’ve also talked about how responding can not only take the edge off of a touchy review but can actually boost your business’s reputation.
To learn more about how to formulate a strong response, you can read our guide. Here, we will pose the questions you should ask yourself before responding to negative feedback on social media, review platforms, or from the press.
Conversations on social media move fast, and the volume can be difficult to wade through; however, responding to negative comments on social media in a timely manner can protect you from a larger negative conversation and can actually lead to higher sales and customer retention. Social media can be valuable for addressing negative feedback, as you can respond to individuals as well as address your audience widely when necessary.
When it comes to responding directly to negative feedback on social media, consider:
Should you respond?
Sometimes. Due to the volume of social media posts and the difficulty that can come with identifying how legitimate certain posts are, not all posts are created equal. To determine if you should respond, consider the legitimacy of the post, the popularity of the post, and your own ability to give a satisfactory response.
Can the problem be remedied?
In some cases, there is a clear and tangible solution to the criticism or feedback your business receives. Giving upset customers a solution can lead to more positive outcomes, and improve reliability with your brand; however, if there is not a clear way forward, responses may take more thought, as a flimsy response can further exacerbate the issue.
When was the negative comment posted?
Generally, a swift response is necessary for a positive outcome. If you leave a commenter hanging too long, the weight of a response could lose its value, and the problem could grow in the time between the poster’s comment and your response.
Does this require a public or private response?
Specific requests, comments that are more in the vein of customer support, or sensitive topics may be better to respond to privately. Private responses can be just as valuable as public responses, leading to a positive outcome with the customer that may lead to them amending the original post, or creating a second, more positive post once the concern has been addressed. In some cases, discussing an issue publicly with a customer can reveal sensitive information or overcomplicate the situation, so be sure to assess whether the comment is better answered publicly or privately.
Should you respond to trolls?
If you are certain that a comment isn’t serious, but is instead trolling you in some way, the best way to handle it is to not acknowledge it, as the attention can encourage more trolling in the future.
Reviews are at the core of online feedback and having a plan for responding to reviews is vital for an effective online reputation management strategy. Unlike social media, any reviews from verified customers should be responded to, particularly negative reviews. People expect responses to negative reviews – in fact, 53% of consumers report expecting businesses to respond to negative reviews within and week, and 33% expect a response in 3 days or less.
As we said earlier, responding to reviews isn’t only for damage control, but can actually turn the situation around, and build your brand’s accountability, trustworthiness, and dependability.
When it comes to responding directly to negative reviews, consider:
Is this review legitimate?
The first step in responding to a review is determining what the core issue is and if there is legitimacy to the complaint. Is it about a product or service, an employee, or a process at your company? Can you verify that the customer did engage with your business? Understanding the complaint, and its validity, will guide you in how to respond.
If you believe the review is a troll, or is otherwise not legitimate, some review platforms have steps you can take to report dishonest reviews. If this is not a possibility, you can either ignore the review or directly and non-defensively explain in your response why the review seems to be lacking in credibility.
When was the review posted?
As stated earlier, timeliness with your response is extremely important. While you don’t want to be reactive to reviews, you need to be sure to respond at least within a week of a response (and we recommend sooner).
To ensure that you can respond quickly and effectively, create a few general review response templates based on common types of reviews you receive. This way, you will have a plan in place when negative reviews arise.
Keep it custom!
While a general template can be valuable for improving your timeliness when responding to reviews, never post form responses. Responses that are not personalized can have a negative impact on your reputation, and backfire in your efforts to improve the situation.
Do we need to wait to respond?
I know, I know – we just talked about timeliness regarding how you respond to reviews. But knowing if you need to wait is key to forming the right response. Sometimes, reviews may feel unfair, or intensely critical or harsh. While you may want to refute the negative review, this will rarely help your business.
If you do not know how to address the issue or feel that the feedback you have received is unfair, take a moment away and return to the review later. A delayed, thoughtful response will always come across better than a reactive response and will give you time to tactfully formulate what you want to say.
Can the problem be remedied?
Accountability doesn’t only mean acknowledging and apologizing, but providing a solution. Before responding to a review, identify the issue and how you are able to address it. If you are not confident the issue can be resolved, you need to hold off on responding until an idea for how to address the issue has been formed, as it’s unlikely that the customer will be satisfied without some kind of resolution.
Does this require a private follow-up?
Due to the public nature of reviews, and that (on many review platforms) all the reviews contribute to the overall rating, review responses should be public. That said, depending on the complaint, your industry, or the complexity of addressing the issue, a private follow-up may be necessary.
In these cases, acknowledge the review and issue publicly, and then either let the customer know how they can reach out to you, or that you will be reaching out to them to further address the issue.
When it comes to negative news, responding can look a bit different than on social media or review platforms. Refuting claims in an article in the comments section can look reactive at best, and reaching out to the journalist or publication may not yield the results you desire.
Instead, you will need to address the information presented in the negative article on different platforms, and contribute your own voice to combat the narratives that may have been introduced by the coverage.
When it comes to responding to negative press, consider:
Is this accurate?
First, you must read the article and determine if the claims, criticisms, and feedback about your company are accurate. This will determine how you should respond.
In some cases, if the claims are inaccurate and easily refuted by data, you can submit that to the publication for consideration. If you do not want to interact directly with the publication, knowing specifically what the misinformation is about can inform your messaging on your own platforms (such as your website, blog, or social media).
Can we address these criticisms?
If the claims are accurate, the next step is to determine whether or not this is something that you 1) want to address, and 2) can address. Generally, depending on the nature of the negative feedback, no response or change in the face of criticism can have an additional adverse effect on your reputation, so it is important to take these considerations seriously, particularly when publications are prominent or gain traction.
How has the audience responded?
If you receive negative press coverage, assess the impact on your target audience, customers, employees, and investors. Do any of these groups seem concerned, deterred, or otherwise affected?
If the answer is yes, identify the pain points within the group to determine how you should respond. These groups are core to the success of your business, so if the negative press has gained traction with any of these groups, action must be taken.
What else are we doing?
In some cases, the best response to negative feedback is to shift attention. When you cannot address the bad press directly, you may want to highlight other aspects of your business. Events, new hires, initiatives within the organization, philanthropy, new products, or any other aspects of your business that you want to raise awareness about can all serve to diminish the visibility of negative press.
Has this become a PR crisis?
In the case of a PR crisis, negative press is not a hit to your business’s reputation, but can define your business’s reputation. In these cases, you may need to hire an online reputation management firm.
An online reputation management (ORM) firm will have experience in reputation crises and be able to assess your situation and identify next steps to reduce the impact of the negative news cycle on your business’s reputation before significant damage is done.
If your business is experiencing something similar to this, or has any concerns about online reputation, consider scheduling a free consultation with Status Labs to determine if an ORM strategy is right for you.