Posted On
February 17, 2018

How One Startup CEO Handled a Negative Online Review

How One Startup CEO Handled a Negative Online Review 1

I recently scrolled upon a nice business tale while on LinkedIN. A CEO posted about how he handled a negative online review from a customer. I thought I’d share the tale with you. As it’s a great example for others on what to do when a negative online review hits you.

Thousands of Happy Users (One Who Is Not!)

Pointman develops operations management software for service contractors. Led by CEO Steve Kiernan II, Pointman helps contractors to be more organized, give great customer service, and of course: make more money.

Despite being a relatively new company, Pointman has thousands of users worldwide and has been riding a wave success thanks to their intense customer focus. That’s why, when Pointman was recently hit with a negative online review, it felt like a punch to the gut.

The natural reaction when someone punches you in the gut is to probably sock ‘em back. That’s not necessarily the best response to an online review. A savvy CEO, Steve already knew this and, instead of fighting back – he gave it some perspective.

“We care deeply about creating world-class experiences for our customers and prospects, built on trust and by creating authentic relationships. At the same time, we’re human, sometimes we drop the ball. That doesn’t make us unique. What I hope makes us unique is what comes next. How do we pick ourselves up? What did we learn? How do we fix what’s not world-class?”

Accept That You Are Not Perfect (Hey, Sh*t Happens)

No one likes to be told they are not doing a good job. That goes double for when it happens in public. This doesn’t mean, however, that it’s not the reality. Or at least the reality for some customers.

Knowing that he had thousands of happy users, Steve did the right thing. Before getting emotional. Before responding. He gave the negative review some perspective. Is it even worth getting upset about?

“No one wants to be told that they suck, right? Truth is, no one is perfect. No company is perfect. Look, if you’re getting loads of bad reviews and angry customers, there’s probably a bigger root cause. Thankfully, we really do get lots of love from our customers. It’s real. That’s also why one or two really bad reviews stand out, but overreacting is the wrong thing to do.”  

If you don’t promise perfection, no reasonable customer can expect you to be perfect. That’s because no company, employee, product, or service is perfect. One mistake, one negative online review should not be cause for you to doing something extreme, like fighting with the customer or trying to sue them.

Reflect on What Could Be Done Better (Sometimes the Customer IS Right)

You may not agree with a negative review that is left online for your business. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider if maybe the customer has a point. Often (but not always), the customer IS right.

“We spend a lot of time trying to learn what works and what doesn’t from our customers. That can be a lot harder than it seems because people are fundamentally kind, and it’s hard to give critical feedback. Sometimes, you have to get past the tone of a really negative review and dig into the content. It’s always an opportunity to learn. Maybe we learn something is broken. Maybe we learn it just wasn’t a good fit.”

Even if the customer is wrong, taking the time to look into the issue may uncover value. You may also learn something valuable from simply hearing the customer out. In most cases, when a negative review is left online, it’s likely because the customer didn’t feel like they were being heard.

Praise Your Staff for the Great Work They Do (They’re Taking Care of Customers)

CEO’s aren’t the only ones who get a punch to the gut when a negative online review hits. Employees feel the pain too. Heck, sometimes they’re even named in the negative review. How’s that for a performance review?

When a negative online review hits, it’s important to share it with your staff. This is the perfect opportunity to work with them to reinforce best practices, company procedures, and reinforce that they do a great job – even if they slipped up this time.

“The hardest part about reading a really painful, sometimes hurtful, review is that you know how hard people are working to make something amazing. We have a great, talented team that works incredibly hard to help our customers. That also means, they’re in the trenches. They also have perspective on what’s working and what’s not.”

Remember, your staff are taking care of your great customers too. Make to give them credit for that. It’s likely your best strategy to prevent negative online reviews and ensure plenty of positive ones!

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Garrett Smith
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