Customer Experience: What to do When You Get Slammed Online

how to respond to one-star reviews

Customer Experience: What to do When You Get Slammed Online

Reviews matter. While an irrational or humorous one-star review of the Grand Canyon likely won’t dissuade anyone from visiting Grand Canyon National Park, a single one-star review of a local business could have a major influence on those who rely on reviews to determine where to eat, where to get their vehicle repaired, where to shop, where to stay, or which plumbing company to choose.

Of course, the best way to manage negative reviews is to never receive one. That is, provide a customer-first experience. In this excerpt from Ridiculously Simple Customer Experience, we’ll focus on what you should do when the inevitable happens: earned or not, someone just left you a scathing one-star review.

Perhaps it’s the result of COVID lockdowns and restrictions; maybe it’s what we should’ve expected from social media; perhaps it’s the result of everyone getting a trophy; or maybe it’s an offshoot of screen addiction, where everyone now has a shorter attention span (and less patience).

Whatever the cause, the growth in irrational one-star reviews left by humans is proving most of them/us/you (take your pick) are simply insane.

Certainly, misaligned expectations are the number one cause of customer service issues. However, over the last several years, the bar of meeting expectations has been raised. Not by companies and not by some better experience elsewhere, but by irrational humans expecting everything to be perfect. Why do so many customers demand perfection with every transaction?

Burger slightly undercooked?

“I wish I could give this place 0 stars!!!!”

Find yourself waiting in a line?

“This is the worst customer service I’ve ever experienced!!!”

The hotel’s free breakfast was just DIY waffles and cold cereal?

“They call this breakfast?!? I will NEVER stay here again!!!”

Interesting, at least to us, is that each of these real one-star online reviews was left for a locally owned, small business during the pandemic. Supply chain issues and labor shortages be damned; some people genuinely expect every experience with a retail establishment to be perfect. If it’s not, the business is going to feel their wrath!

Irrational? Yes. Inconsequential? Unfortunately, not.

Online ratings and reviews – critical for most businesses – are intended to help others decide where they should spend their money. And while irrational one-star reviews don’t give the clear picture of what the average consumer will experience, dismissing these as baseless rants and leaving them to stand alone is a strategy that will reduce your company’s revenue and profits.

Even if negative online reviews are a rare occurrence for you, every company should have a process in place for managing these.

Investigation and Resolution

Some businesses believe they must post a response immediately after receiving a negative online review. This is not a good decision. The review will likely be online forever, and posting your response too soon can further escalate the negative situation.

Your first step should always be to seek an avenue for resolution of the issues that prompted the negative sentiment posted online. This means:

  1. Fully investigating the customer’s complaints.
  2. Determining if there is something your team can do today to resolve the issue.
  3. Contacting the customer to offer the solution.

If you put a plan like this in place, be sure everyone understands the customer’s perception is the reality of what occurred. Your truth is not as important as their opinion – especially when their one-star review is nothing more than an irrational rant. You see, the angry customer believes they’re acting rationally. They believe your team’s service was so egregious as to deserve condemnation on a public forum.

Keeping this in mind and putting your own egos aside will help your team remain rational in their analysis of the issue and the possible solution you plan to offer to the customer.

The great news is that if the customer accepts your solution, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask the customer to remove the negative review or update it to five stars. (Our clients who’ve put similar plans in place are successful at getting more than 90% of online reviews removed or updated to five stars.)

The Review Response

However, in those cases where you cannot reach an agreement with the customer that gets the online review removed, it’s important that you post a measured response to each of these. Here are some tips and thought starters for these responses:

  1. Your response should use mirroring. This means grabbing appropriate words from the review
    to demonstrate understanding in your response. For example, “As I understand it, the issue with your vehicle’s wheels was not properly diagnosed or resolved on your visit with us,” would be a decent use of mirroring if the review stated something like, “They told me there was nothing wrong with my tires, and then later I still had the crazy vibrations when I drove faster than 35 miles per hour!”
  2. Own the issue regardless of fault. This means taking the blame even when your team did nothing wrong. For example, “Our apologies that our service team didn’t fully understand the issues you were having with your truck,” would be included in a good response where your team was certain they did everything correctly. Also, there’s no need to call out any employee by name or title. This is a company issue, and you are a team. Remember that when responding to negative reviews.
  3. Include a call-to-action; something like, “Please feel free to call me personally to resolve this. My direct line is 555-555-5555.”

The important point of review responses that often gets lost on those writing these is that your response is primarily intended for future potential customers who read the irrational customer’s original review. If your response is measured, sincere, and doesn’t attempt to place the blame on the reviewer, most potential customers will see the irrationality in the original review and discount it when deciding where to spend their money. (They’ll also reward you for your sincerity and honesty.)

This post is part of a series of excerpts from Ridiculously Simple Customer Experience, a book written for everyone in any organization that has customers. That is, it was written for those in both the public and private sector; and for everyone in these organizations. From the frontline, customer-facing employees to the CEO and board of directors.

Each chapter in Ridiculously Simple Customer Experience concludes with Key Learnings and Chapter Exercises to make certain you and your team take the efficient path to becoming Customer-First. As you’ll learn in this ridiculously short book, building and maintaining a CX juggernaut isn’t hard… in fact, it’s ridiculously simple. Buy it now on Amazon!