How to handle negative customer reviews about your home improvement company

negative feedback - Best Contractor Estimating & Invoicing Software - Hearth

Negative reviews are something every business dreads. But even the best companies get a negative review now and then. Things happen — whether it’s because of a genuine mistake on your part, a difficult customer, or circumstances beyond your control. In any case, you need to handle negative reviews when they come up. But you shouldn’t rush into responding and make things worse.

So, how do you handle a negative customer review? While it’s never easy or pleasant to deal with this kind of feedback, it’s something you need to do. In today’s article, we’ll go over ways you can respond to a negative customer review to minimize damage, make the customer happy, and potentially get that negative review removed. Read on to learn more.

How this feedback can affect your business

Negative feedback can certainly affect your business. If a customer leaves a bad review on Google or social media, there’s a good chance a lot of people will see it. Even if it’s surrounded by good reviews, it can cause new customers to hesitate to choose you as their home improvement business. Not good.

However, if you respond to the negative review with grace and tact, it can show people that you’re reasonable and that you care about making your customers happy. It also helps people trust your positive reviews more because you’re willing to accept feedback and make an effort to please people who might be hard to please.

Many people will even remove or change their negative reviews if you’re able to fix things for them. In short, negative feedback is rarely a good thing, so you need to do something about it.

Who should manage reviews on your team?

Ideally, the business owner should respond to negative reviews. You have the most power to do something about their complaint and you speak for the business, so they won’t ask to speak to the next person up the ladder.

However, this may not always be the right choice for responding to negative reviews. For instance, if someone was the lead on a project, they may be more qualified to respond to the review. With that being said, you should still read over and approve the response. If your company is big enough, you may want your customer service department to do the first response and pass it along to you. 

In short, owners, sales managers, marketing heads, or the customer service department are all members of your team that can handle the reviews. Typically, there may be more than one person involved in the process. A problem that relates to one team may have to be passed on to the head of that department if your social media manager doesn’t have the answers, for instance. Just make sure you have a process in place that outlines how they should be replying and who should reply depending on the issue.

Steps to handle it correctly

So, we know that we need to take care of negative reviews when they show up, but how do we do that in a way that’s beneficial for everyone? Here are some steps you should take to correctly handle a negative review:

1. Thank the reviewer for taking the time to leave their thoughts

You need to make sure to show the customer (and anyone reading the review) that you care about their feedback and their experience. Make sure you thank them for their thoughts and that you take all feedback seriously. The customer wants to feel heard, so you need to ensure they understand that you appreciate them approaching you with the issue.

A side note — you should also make sure to take the time to thank positive reviews. You want to show your appreciation for all of your customers, especially the ones who are happy with your work and who might use you again or pass your name along to a friend.

2. Express empathy for their situation

Make sure your response expresses empathy. At this point, you don’t necessarily have to directly admit wrongdoing on your part, but the customer must understand you want them to be happy with their experience. Saying something like “we’re very sorry that we weren’t able to meet your expectations” is ambiguous enough to convey empathy without saying the fault is entirely on you.

3. Make a value statement about your company

At this point, it’s also a good idea to express your company values and how you want to ensure everyone that works with you has a great experience. Emphasize the fact that you strive to apply those values to every home improvement job. You want to show the reviewer that you care about fixing their issue and addressing it properly.

4. Let them know you’ll discuss it with the team

At this point, you want to show that you’re actively taking steps to resolve their issue. Tell them that you’re going to talk to your team about their review and that you’ll be in touch shortly to see what you can do to address their concerns.

Your review response isn’t the place to promise any concrete plans for resolution. It’s better to talk with your team about the job, get a full understanding of the situation, and strategize the best way forward. From there, you can contact the unhappy customer and propose your plan to fix their issues. These negotiations don’t need to be held in the public eye on a response thread. Rather, you and the customer can agree to make things better.

If all goes well, the customer will be happy and you can ask if they’d mind editing their review or removing it altogether. Sometimes editing a review from negative to positive can be beneficial, too, as it shows you’re willing to go the extra mile to make customers happy.

Tips on what NOT to do

Now that we know how to respond to a negative review, let’s talk about some of the things you should avoid doing when formulating your response. When someone is criticizing your business and the work you do, your emotions can get high. However, this isn’t the time to be emotional. Your response to negative reviews should be well-thought-out, professional, and logical. This can be difficult when a customer is being unreasonable, but it’s necessary for the business owner. You have a lot more to lose by posting a bad response. 

If you’re frustrated by a negative review, make sure to take a step back and think things through. While you do that, keep in mind these tips on what NOT to do when responding to a negative review:

Don’t share the same response to all negative reviews

You should never copy/paste a response to negative reviews. The concerns brought up can vary wildly from review to review, and a canned response will seem dismissive at best. You need to make sure your response is thoughtful and that you show the customer you’re taking time to address their concerns and fix the situation. If you just post the same response for every negative review, the customer won’t feel heard and people will notice that you don’t take time when it comes to helping unhappy customers.

Don’t be too specific about the job

When you’re replying to a customer’s negative review, there’s no need to go into great detail about the job. Not only does this make it look like you’re trying to explain away the negative review, but it also doesn’t solve anything. You and the customer already know what happened with the job, so you don’t need everyone reading the review to learn more about it too.

Instead, you want to keep things pretty general. Apologize for their experience, but don’t get into detail online. If you need to discuss the issue further, it’s better to do it with the customer directly in a private conversation, rather than in front of the entire Internet.

Don’t get defensive

There are certainly times when customers are in the wrong, but that doesn’t mean you should call them out for it or get defensive in response to their negative reviews. Even if you know you’re in the right, others reading your response won’t know the truth of the situation, and getting defensive makes it seem like you did wrong and that you’re not apologetic about it. 

You need to let your customers know that you’re open to feedback and willing to work with them. There’s not always going to be a clean resolution to a situation, but if you handle your negative criticism with professionalism and tact, it’s much likelier that everyone will walk away happy. Even if the negative review stays up and nothing gets resolved, others who see the review will see you at least attempt to smooth things over and make the experience better for the customer. And if one bad review is surrounded by good reviews, it’s not going to reflect badly on you. People know that mistakes happen and that other customers can sometimes be unreasonable. The best you can do is try and handle the situation gracefully.

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