So, you’ve somehow received a couple of bad online reviews. Is your business doomed?

Certainly not!

Even big brands have had their fair share of angry outpour from disgruntled customers and survived. While larger companies’ reputations can sustain a few blows without actually collapsing, small businesses can’t rely on the benefit of the doubt to amortize customers’ wrath as effectively.

But you should actually be grateful for bad reviews, as they help your business grow. One out of twenty unhappy customers complain, and the other 19 leave without telling you “why.” This gives you no opportunity to learn from your mistakes or fix what’s broken. In fact, most brands hear feedback from less than one percent of their customer base. But we know that customer feedback is absolutely critical, and that we need to be gathering it at the right times and places.

Negative feedback is like pain – it’s a warning that there’s something wrong and that you should do something about it. Without bad reviews, you’d be resting on your laurels while your business is crumbling and your customers fleeing.

Here’s how you can benefit from these negative experiences and turn them into wins.

1. Own Your Mistakes

The worst thing you can do upon receiving a bad review is turning a blind eye, trying to cover the problem up, or being hostile towards the customer who complained.

Any of these approaches can hurt your reputation more than the negative customer experience itself.

Even if the review is exaggerated and vicious, you shouldn’t try to “get even.” It’s crucial to always be polite, civil, and promise that you’ll look into the matter as soon as possible.

By taking responsibility, you show that you’re willing to change and improve your customer experience, and owning up to your mistakes can be excellent PR.

Texaco, one of the world’s biggest petroleum companies, was sued by former employees and accused of racial discrimination back in 1994. Instead of offering them hush money, Texaco took a totally different approach. The company’s CEO publicly apologized, while executives traveled to every office location to apologize in person. Finally, hiring an African-American-owned advertising agency to do its upcoming campaign was the crowning touch.

2. Show Your Customers You Care

Businesses lost $75 billion in 2018 because of poor customer service.

If you ignore customer complaints, you’ll paint your business in a negative light. But if you carefully monitor what your customers are saying both to your customer service reps and in their online reviews, and respond to them, you show that their opinion matters.

There’s another stat which illustrates the importance of handling customer complaints properly – people who have their issue solved during the first interaction with a company are two times more likely to purchase from it again.

In order to ensure top-notch customer service, it’s a good idea to implement chatbots. These smart algorithms are like first responders in case of an emergency, and unlike your customer service reps who can’t be online and available 24/7, chatbots can: and they can offer troubleshooting and answers to some of the most common questions. They can collect your customers’ complaints and help you identify the problem.

3. Respond in a Timely Manner

In 2014, General Motors faced a huge crisis after faulty ignition switches caused 124 deaths. The company had to recall 2.6 million vehicles over the first three months of the year. It would be an understatement to say that their customers were unhappy.

Many of them took to social media to express their dissatisfaction, and G.M.’s social media team jumped in to save the day and the company’s reputation.

Not only did the company respond to each and every message across different social media channels, it also provided their customers with immediate help by paying for replacement vehicles and covering the other expenses incurred as a result of the issues they had with their cars.

But in order to be able to respond in a timely manner, you need to be aware of an upcoming PR disaster, and social listening is a strategy which allows you to track every mention of your brand, products, and keywords on different channels and spot the issue before it snowballs into a full-fledged PR armageddon. Arming yourself with a feedback tool like Apptentive can help you keep a finger on the pulse of all online reviews as well.

4. Encourage Online Reviews

Now that we’ve established that you won’t be able to save yourself from negative feedback (nor should you try to do so), it’s important to mention that you can always balance the scales with positive reviews.

Many companies ask for online reviews directly and encourage their happy users to share their experiences with others. This can partially neutralize any negative review that throws shade on your business. Prompt your customers at the right time and place within your app to boost five-star ratings. You can solicit positive reviews from people who love your app and intercept (and stop) negative feedback from unhappy customers.

Apptentive love dialog

5. Leverage Complaints in Your Content Marketing Strategy

If you notice that negative reviews result from your customers’ failure to properly set up or use your products and services, you have to do something about it.

But placing the blame on the customer is a bad strategy. Instead, create educational materials to help them be better set up for success. Craft educational blog posts, step-by-step how-to guides, screenshots and videos to help your customers with setup and optimization.

6. Correct Your Mistake and Promote Changes

Once you fix product bugs or resolve a particular issue that a customer had with your company, you shouldn’t be silent about it.

Revisit all the negative reviews, describe what you’ve done to fix things, and encourage your unhappy customers to see it for themselves.

To illustrate the point, let’s talk about another automotive behemoth who was involved in a scandal. In 2010, Toyota had to recall 8.8 million vehicles due to safety defects. Although the company’s initial response was slow and clunky, it managed to justify its previously impeccable reputation in terms of customer service and product quality by fixing the issue and offering extended warranties. Apart from that, the company’s marketing strategy revolved around its attempts to fix issues and convinced its customers that they didn’t have a reason to worry about safety.

As you can see, negative customer experiences and bad online reviews don’t have to turn into a kiss of death. If you leverage the right problem-solving strategies and an honest and responsible approach, you can even benefit from the wrath of an occasional unhappy customer.

Want to learn more about learning from negative reviews and activating your silent majority? Schedule a demo of Apptentive’s industry-leading customer feedback tool.