A negative online review is incredibly frustrating, whether you’re in a marketing position for a Fortune 500 company or moonlighting in freelance work. Through my work as a marketing professional, I’ve seen companies of all shapes and sizes react to negative reviews. It can be gut-wrenching to see false, untrue, or unfair things said and spread about you online. Trust me, I know. I’ve experienced it myself through freelance work and being the target of vicious online harassment.
But there is life after a bad review! In fact, a bad review can be a powerful motivator to help you thrive. Here are five steps to take after you’ve been hit with a bad review.
1) Take a Deep Breath and Let It Go
We all have an impulse that tells us to respond to the bad review. We are angry; we want to explain the situation. We want to tell our side of the story. But we must be strong and ignore that impulse. Easier said than done, I know, but hear me out. Responding to a bad review or malicious slander of yourself or your company only invites further negative comments. If you respond, you give the situation a chance to escalate and make things worse. Even if you are completely justified in defending yourself, the act of defending yourself implies you have something to be ashamed of. You did nothing wrong. Therefore, you do not have to defend yourself.
Take a deep breath, go for a long walk, dance around your kitchen, do whatever you need to do to relax. Once you’ve calmed down, it will be much easier to resist the temptation to take revenge or get involved in a flame war. Make sure your friends do the same. In my experience, my friends lined up to defend me so I asked them to dance around their kitchens instead of posting responses on my behalf.
2) Channel Negative Energy into Motivation
Negative reviews can spark the motivation you need to take your business to the next level. Take all those angry and frustrated feelings and channel them into a vision of success for yourself. Is one negative review going to be the catalyst that brings down your whole business, or are you going to stand up and work harder than before to be excellent? I recently received an alert that negative reviews were posted about my freelance business on a review site that I had never heard of. I read them and knew immediately that they were fake. I also knew exactly who wrote them. It was time to stand up as a professional and own the situation.
Debra Saal, a fellow freelance writer gave me the following advice about reviews that are obviously fake: “One thing to consider is responding as though it is a professional review. Ask pointed, specific questions as to what about the service you provided is not to their satisfaction. While you know it’s not a credible review, new clients might be more impressed with how you are handling the negative remarks than the actual comment.”
My advice is to not become paralyzed with anger or fear. Use those feelings to power the motivation you need to create a plan of action and execute it. In my case, the website recognized that the negative reviews about me were harassing in nature and all posted by the same person so they removed them. If you aren’t as lucky, just respond as a mature business owner and always maintain a positive attitude.
3) Improve Your Search Results
If you don’t have a solid online presence, a negative review will do more damage. When search engines don’t have anything else to work with, those mentions of your name will be closer to the top of the search results. This means that more people will read that slander and be drawn away from the impressive work that you’ve done. The solution is to get your name out there! Become more active on social media, start a professional website, start a professional blog, and write guest posts for established bloggers. Not only do you have a chance to tell others about your experience and the good work you’ve done, but you’ll also give those negative reviews a lot more to compete with on the search engines.
4) Double Down on Great Service
You disagree with the negative review that said you didn’t give great service? Prove it by giving the best customer service possible. Give your clients service above and beyond what they expect. Make them so happy with the work you’ve done that they can’t wait to tell someone else about how great it was. Amy Boyington, another freelance writer says, “keep promoting your good reviews and partnerships with clients on your website and in your marketing. Unfortunately, you can’t always stop the haters but you can keep doing you.”
Negative reviews, even when completely slanderous, give us a chance to inspect our client’s experience and look for ways to make it better.
5) Ask for Reviews from Clients
People often hesitate to ask their clients for a review. Some people worry that it’s too pushy or that it will irritate the customer. The truth is that a satisfied customer will be happy to leave you a positive review. Make it easy for them with something as simple as an invitation to “Like” a business page on Facebook. That’s a fantastic way to earn you positive feedback because Facebook’s review process is easy.
I do a lot of ghostwriting, so often those clients don’t want to leave a public review. In those cases, I simply ask the client to recommend me to their network. Word-of-mouth reviews are just as good as those that are written!
Getting a negative review online isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it’s very much like coming to a fork in the road where you must decide to falter and dwell on defeat or brace yourself and put a plan of action in motion. Let go of the frustration, own the narrative, and give your all to your clients. The positive reviews will come and soon the negative and downright rude comments will be a thing of the past.