This summer, I was pulled over in Brainerd, Minnesota, on my way to visit my cousin, who had just welcomed a fourth child into her family. My son and I were driving along, singing at the top of our lungs to the soundtrack of “Hamilton: An American Musical” with the windows down, when I noticed the car just ahead of us was weaving in and out of its lane. Deciding it was safer to get past the driver — who was, at the very least, distracted — I started to pass him in the left lane.
But, as we were cresting the hill, a police SUV appeared in the median, radar gun aimed directly at my little Chevy. I looked down. I looked up. I sighed.
After many respectful “Yes, officer,” “No, officer,” “I’m sorry, officer,” the state trooper let me off the hook with a written warning. Why? I believe it’s because I immediately admitted wrongdoing, apologized, and accepted responsibility for my actions. I took full responsibility for my mistake. Cops like that.
You know who else likes that? Your customers. When you immediately address a bad review on websites like Angie’s List, Yelp, and Google, and then own up to your mistake, you’re not just rebuilding trust — you’re boosting your credibility, repairing your reputation, and possibly even advancing your search engine ranking.
For plumbing and mechanical contractors, bad reviews and even negative comments on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter present an incredible opportunity to turn a dissatisfied customer into a satisfied repeat customer who might even refer his or her friends and family. But you have to respond quickly, take responsibility, and offer a solution.
Of course, there’s also a wrong way to do it. I once found a comment on one driveway-sealing company’s Angie’s List profile where the owner had responded to a negative review from a customer, and instead of expressing concern over the reviewer’s experience with his company and offering to make it right, the owner started refuting every single one of the reviewer’s claims and placing the blame squarely on him, right there for all to see. It came across as highly unprofessional and made his company look terrible to everybody looking it up on that very popular social media site. Would you hire that company? I wouldn’t, either. In that instance, he did far more damage to his company’s reputation than that person’s customer review ever could have on its own.
So, what’s the right way to handle a bad review? A quick Google search will pull up dozens of tips from different websites, but here are a few with which you can begin.
Thank the reviewer. Be nice, and be respectful. Choose your words wisely. If you’re too upset to respond right away, then give yourself time to cool off (but not too much time — responding in a timely fashion is also important).
Offer a solution. Don’t just apologize and move on — that solves nothing. Find a way to make it right. If you’re able to offer a fix or a full or partial refund, there is a very real chance you could keep this customer, and possibly win over more customers that are silently observing your online interactions.
Prevent future bad online reviews. Poor reviews are going to happen, and you certainly can’t prevent them all. But what you can do is put systems in place that help your employees handle concerned customers before the problem turns into a major issue. Take every complaint and concern seriously, and do your best to turn a negative into a positive. Sometimes, all the customer wants is for someone to listen and acknowledge their concern.
Stay engaged online. Monitor online activity, and don’t be afraid to engage with current and potential customers through social media. If your community knows there are real humans behind your company’s Twitter handle who care enough to engage with them, it can only help your business. Plus, it may help you become aware of concerns before they turn into major issues.
How you respond publicly to a bad review speaks volumes about your company. If you handle the situation appropriately, you can turn a dissatisfied customer into an enthusiastic advocate for your business.