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From the Trenches - What To Do About A Bad Review

What To Do About A Bad Review

We’ve all talked about bad reviews and what to do about them. The consensus is that you answer them in a constructive way that shows others that you are concerned about an unhappy customer.

Asking that customer to contact you shows you are ready to try and find a solution to the customer’s problem. Even if you can’t resolve it, people know that some customers have unrealistic expectations and will credit you for trying.

But what if the bad review is about you personally? The customer has mentioned your name in a disreputable way. How should you react to maintain your dignity and reputation?

It’s a bit bruising to see your name associated with words like sleazy, dishonest, liar, or worse. A natural instinct makes us want to lash out, discredit the customer, and defend our reputation. We can feel anger, hurt, outrage and want to put those feelings into writing as a response to the customer.

This, unfortunately, is counter-productive. We give credence to the claims if we are equally abusive to the customer who criticized us. I suggest the following:

1. Review the events in your mind. Did you do anything that may have given that customer a reason to believe the claims? Was it a misunderstanding? Or was the customer simply unreasonable in his expectations? Be honest with yourself.
2. If you did anything to create the situation or if there was simply a misunderstanding, apologize to the customer and ask for the opportunity to correct the situation.
3. If the customer had unreasonable expectations, simply apologize that you were unable to meet their expectations and state that there will always be times when people can’t agree.

It is human nature to react to unjust accusations with retribution, but by reacting politely and with sensitivity, you make yourself the more reasonable person in other’s eyes as they read the review and response. Take a deep breath and, don’t count to 10, count to 100.

Understand that dignity is self-evident and does not require a tit-for-tat response. Others can see that for themselves and will actually come to your defense. In fact by reacting without retribution… reacting with dignity, you may even get an apology from the accuser.

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Tags: Online, customer, management, media, relationship, reputation, reviews, social


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Comment by Tom Gorham on November 28, 2011 at 8:18pm

Thank you Silia! I appreciate your comment!

Comment by Silia J. Hatzi on November 28, 2011 at 5:18pm

Valuable post, Tom.


Comment by Tom Gorham on November 7, 2011 at 4:45am

This conversation has been a great response to my article and I think all the comments have validity.  It has been a worthy debate.  As you may know, this blog was a follow-up to an earlier one, "From the Trenches - The Unfortuately Truth About Reviews". 

Ryan, both blogs are anchored in motivation, so obviously I agree with you on that point.  Motivation can come in many flavors.  It's possible you really like your customers and are motivated out of a need to give them a great experience.  More likely, the motivation is the understanding that providing a great customer experience is profitable for the dealership.  It's not just a matter of right or wrong, it's a matter of self-preservation, profitability, and success.

Beyond that, I understand where Keith is coming from.  Once you are providing a great customer experience, it is important to make sure that people realize it.  That becomes good "Reputation Marketing".

Reputation Management and Marketing do not require gaming the system or eliminating bad reviews.  A bad review should be used for the same purpose, marketing.  It is an opportunity to present the way you deal with problems when they arise.  It would not be believeable that a company has only fans and no critics.  If so, your reviews seem, well... "managed".

Managing reviews seems normal to us, but to the customer, "managed" may mean "fixed" which lessons the value of all your reviews. If there are any doubts in a customer's mind about the validity of your reviews, it is detrimental to the very thing you are trying to manage or market... your reputation.

Comment by Keith Shetterly on November 7, 2011 at 3:33am

@ Ryan:  Personal excellence isn't achieved without pursuit using solid personal motivations to do the best.  However, policing the motivations of businesses and those running/owing them for purity is just as naive as doing the same for reviews; that work is likely infinite and more than a little unrewarding.  I feel that I personally have high standards and seek to inspire those around me to have them, as well.  I lead by example, when I can.  I'm not going to spend time adjusting folks' motivations, as my boss or as my peer, though, if they are doing right by the customer.  This is sales, not a religion.


@ Neil:  Fear Factor Selling is the lowest form of selling to dealers.  To carry the point of motivation from my response to Ryan, it is arguably okay in theory if the end positive result is achieved.  However, the actual end result achieved, still, is that the dealer spends money because he or she is scared--and that, in reality, usually means they spent money stupidly that could've helped in other areas.  The after-effect of this discussion is that I'm now looking directly at your posts very differently.  It's not whether a review of a dealer's reputation is free; it's how that review is used to sell what to the dealer.  You may have great results for a dealer.  However, the pitch you have presented . . . well, at least you've motivated my next article!  And you never answered my questions or Jim Radogna's questions, but you've continued to ask your own...

Comment by Ryan Leslie on November 6, 2011 at 7:24pm

@Scott, No disrespect taken. I totally agree that most intuitively know why they SHOULD BE requesting reviews, but you don't have to leave this thread to see that sometimes what we KNOW isn't what we DO. Gaming, Boosting, Removing Negative reviews through legal action, Syndication, Search Engine Domination, Review Farms... there are A LOT of other reasons being presented here and elsewhere that don't have a thing to do with the customer experience. Those ideas are getting traction or they wouldn't be prevalent.


@Keith and Tom, This is probably a petty thing in the scope of this thread, but I think motivation DOES matter. I think it matters in everything that we do personally and professionally. If you are only motivated by what's in it for you as the marketer you aren't achieving the level of service you are aspiring to and I'd argue that you are in danger of telegraphing that motivation to the customer. The real motivation behind any action always comes out and it does impact HOW we do what we do. It colors our judgement about everything from the practice to the process. Maybe I'm naive, but I prefer authenticity, market the reviews you've created by excellent service don't risk the perception of faking service to create marketing.

Comment by Tom Gorham on November 6, 2011 at 5:30pm

Hmmmm, not at the moment...

Comment by Keith Shetterly on November 6, 2011 at 5:04pm

Sigh.  Tom, do you have a peaceful answer for Neil?  I'm not sure exactly where all that came from, but I AM sure that at the moment any reply I would write would not suffice.  Maybe I'll write a whole article on such a topic...

Comment by Neil Licht on November 6, 2011 at 3:18pm

And why is it "fear factor selling" to see whats actually out there so you can then do what is proposed  by keith, Tom- reputation marketing based on a real understanding of if its needed and if so, how, where?  Don't you apply the same research before you spend time and cash on TV, Print, News, ad copy, your internet sales manager's approach, your competition?


I said, "take a look before hand so you can plan how best to use online reputation marketing". I offered a free look at what you actually "look like" online. Is that fear selling or good marketing?

Frankly, Fear Factor marketing does not work. This isn't insurance we are talking about here. Its not actuaries with probability charts about what MIGHT happen. The free analysis a tool for learning about how you are actually seen online.  

Its a business and market analysis tool for use in an era when online is so prevalent in how people search and compare before they contact you.


Like great customer service sells so well via word of mouth, this is the new online version of word of mouth. THats all, nothing more.


Thats why a free offer to see precisely where you stand in the online arena is offered.


It may say you are fine, healthy and doing great. It may reveal some issues that you decide are not worth addressing - The decision on how to use the results is yours but at least you know for sure.


That's an evaluation of a business development tool's worth to you made based on fact, not fear. Why then is that selling based on fear mongering? Please explain that to me.





Comment by Tom Gorham on November 6, 2011 at 3:04pm
Keith, I believe that.  Scott's in my area and someday, I'll pay him a visit.  I have a lot of respect for what he's done.  I just wanted to make a distinction between good business and K** ba yah.  But frankly, I'd love to sit down with everyone who has commented on this blog and K** ba yah!
Comment by Keith Shetterly on November 6, 2011 at 2:48pm
Tom, I *think* Scott's "K** Ba Yah" was aimed at keeping Ryan and I on the point, not as something against really providing great customer service.  I have been to Scott's dealership, and hands down it's the best run, most customer-centric dealership I've ever been to.  Once you see what works with reputation--what works with the customers who DEFINE your reputation--you never go back.  Scott treats his customers the best I've seen and deserves the great results he gets!

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