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Online Etiquette: How to Stay Calm When Responding to Reviews

We’ve mentioned before how if you find yourself in the middle of a controversy or managing complaints on Twitter you need to handle the stress with grace and dignity. I’ve also briefly discussed my own experience with a company’s customer service and how my exchange with them was positive and it prompted me to continue buying from them.

Sadly, such interactions aren’t always the case.

The Tale of Embarrassing Customer Service

Recently, I was researching spa and massage services (I won’t name names) and found one that looked promising. After browsing through their website, I went to their Facebook page to look at their “personal” face. After poking around, I noticed they had some poor reviews and had responded to one of them. Curious, I read on.

A reviewer was asking the brand about how they would respond to negative reviews and gave a few examples. The conversation started off as well as it could: the service stating that they have to take the good with the bad and hoped that with the new management, people would be willing to give them a try. Then, the reviewer threw out some accusations like the service “putting their hands on people.”

That’s when the conversation went sour.

The follow up from who I’m assuming was the owner of the service was not flattering, beginning by stating, “If only you knew the truth. You have no idea what you’re talking about and this is exactly why I don’t respond [to reviews].” Keeping a long story short, after another few rants the owner cut off the conversation with a curt statement that can be summed up as “I’m glad I got to have this conversation. Goodbye.”

Appalled at the display, I heavily debated whether or not to reply and politely explain why I wouldn’t be patronizing them. I reasoned that because the review was a few months old, it may not get seen. Or worse, the business might take a swing at me. Can you think of anything worse than potential customers being afraid of your company? I can’t.

But in the name of better customer service everywhere and my inner marketer and social media manager crying out in despair, I went ahead and posted some advice.

A Lost Temper Means Lost Customers & a Lost Reputation

While I understood their frustration, their replies were enough for me to view them as unprofessional and seek another brand for my desired service.

If the company had stopped after explaining that their business had changed since the negative reviews were posted, I may have chosen to give them a try. Even if they did say they wanted the review removed from the page, I would have understood; the review wasn’t from an actual customer. Unfortunately, the service chose to keep going and lose their temper.

Reading the service’s responses, I was mortified for them. The entire time I was thinking, “If they respond like that online when they’re frustrated, I dread to think of what they’re like in real life.”

Their response implanted doubt that they were a reputable and respectful service. Sure, I could give them a try and form my own opinion, but why chance it? Why would I patron a service that spoke to a reviewer in such a disrespectful manner, no matter how rude the reviewer was being?

Why It Happens

It may feel good to tell off a customer, but it will bite you in the end. Both the service and reviewer made accusations and spoke without thinking. Neither stopped to think about how that interaction would make them look unprofessional and foolish in the eyes of readers.

Instead of Losing Your Temper…

A respectful conversation with a customer goes a long way to building trust and a positive reputation:

  • Respond with a level head and don’t let your emotions run wild.
  • Speak respectfully and try to understand where the reviewer is coming from.
  • Think of how you can help make their experience better next time. Offering to take steps to improve the situation is always appreciated.
  • If a reviewer still refuses to patronize you, let it go and move on.

When to Move the Conversation to a Non-Public Arena

At the end of this conversation between the spa and the reviewer, I don’t doubt that both parties left their computers feeling raw and possibly nursed the anger for a few days. If the conversation had been continued elsewhere, the situation could have been remedied.

It’s difficult to know when to let go and respectfully end a toxic conversation online. Backing away from a conversation doesn’t necessarily mean the conversation is over. Invite the reviewer to contact you directly.

By respectfully asking to continue a conversation one-on-one, you are showing that you aren’t taking the criticism personally and are able to handle it professionally. In addition, things are less likely to publically get out of hand online.

Take It Down or Leave It Up?

This question is a tough one for many businesses. On one hand, you have someone saying something negative about your business and that one review could turn people away. On the other, taking down negative reviews gives the impression that you’re “covering up” and “have something to hide.” This service requested that the reviewer to remove the post, which the reviewer refused to do.

If you receive a bad review, responding positively to it and trying to make the best of it can work in your favor. It can improve your business by showing potential customers that you handle conflict with grace and dignity, doing whatever you can to make the situation better. I would argue that the only time you could take down a negative review with minor consequences is when the review is fake and deliberately harmful. In fact, Yelp has a policy against fake reviews.

The Takeaway

When responding to negative reviews always take the high ground and don’t lose your temper. Maintaining a polite conversation with the reviewer will benefit you by showing the online community that you are respectful and professional, potential customers like won’t be put off. In fact, we will be more likely to consider your business.

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