It happens to the best of us – you've worked hard to serve a difficult client; put in extra effort to salvage a sinking situation, scrambled to honor some last minute requests, did everything you could to make them happy while twisting yourself into a pretzel at their every whim, maybe even losing money in the process.
Or it came out of the blue from a client you could have sworn was happy from start to finish.
But there it is, staring you in the face on WeddingWire, Yelp or your Facebook page: a bad review of your product or service.
Whatever the case, bad reviews hurt and can leave you afraid your reputation or worse, your very business, is on the line. After all, that review is now at the top of the heap, the first thing everyone sees when searching out opinions on what you offer. And review sites aren't concerned with your business’s reputation - it’s in their interest to make it difficult (if not impossible) to remove negative reviews, even unfair ones. Is it time to PANIC?!
In short, NO. Bad reviews can not only be handled, they can even serve a positive purpose. It’s key, though, to approach them wisely.
While your impulse might be to immediately write a flaming reply or a vigorous defence, the first step is to to keep your emotions in check so you don’t make the things worse instead of better.
According to Jay Baer, in his book Hug Your Hater’s, it takes 28 hours to fully process negativity and attacks. It’s OK to let a negative review sit for a day or even two while you consider a measured, concise response. Keep these points in mind while you work through what you want to say:
A handful of negative reviews work to make your positive reviews look real and believable. A 100% glowing review page can look suspicious, like it’s been planted with comments from Aunt Sarah and your mom, not real clients.
A few negative reviews help manage client expectations and keep them to realistic standards about your product or service. You might strive for perfection but that’s an ideal; allowances for being human are even better.
One person’s complaint is another person’s praise. While Betty T. might hate that your sponge was “too gooey”, someone else came from an event with a cake like sawdust and thinks gooey sounds delicious.
So having a negative review is not in itself a ticking time bomb that will blow your business out of the water. Breathe and consider how you want to handle it before you act.
Ok, so now you are all zen about your bad review. Maybe you are so zen you don’t even feel the need to respond at all. That can be perfectly fine. You know the negative review will move down the queue as more clients write positive ones.
But if you do choose to respond keep one more thing in mind - like attracts like. If you are interested in appealing to and keeping reasonable, kind, rational clients respond to your negative reviewer with humor, compassion, and clarity. Snark and sarcasm can be cathartic and fun and get you onto Reddit’s front page, but it can also color the feelings of future clients. Knowing a bad review isn’t the worst thing to happen to your business gives you the leeway to take the high ground and show your best self. And that’s a great way to turn a negative into a positive.
Christie Osborne is the owner of Mountainside Media, a company that helps event industry professionals brands develop scalable marketing strategies that brings in more inquiries and leads. Christie is a national educator with recent speaking engagements at NACE Experience, WIPA and the ABC Conference.