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Have you ever found yourself up late at night watching a movie that has been edited for content?

Some dubs are better than others, but it doesn't take a lip reader to know that "Yippee Kay Yeah, Mr. Falcon" may not have been in the original script of Die Hard. Here is another classic from Snakes on a Plane:

When responding to a negative review it is important to find a proper balance between an obvious dub job and exacerbating an already bad situation by saying what you are really thinking without filter. Like most things, failure exists at either extreme.

Why are you apologizing?

I know it is popular to use a template script that starts off with a profuse apology. I hate that approach, especially if you are dealing with a crazy person that has unrealistic expectations. Immediately apologizing for something that may not at all be your fault is like Samuel L. Jackson getting exercised over "monkey fighting snakes on a Monday to Friday plane," it doesn't make a lot of sense and it sounds ridiculous. It also sets an expectation that you are going to give the reviewer whatever they want, right? An apology is after all an admittance of guilt, I certainly wouldn't be empowering an outsourced 3rd party to admit guilt on my behalf...

Simply thank the reviewer for the feedback. You can thank them for taking the time to leave a review, even if they are mad that you refused $5,000 worth of goodwill in your service dept on a $5,000 as-is unit they bought 5 years ago. A simple "Thank You" can set the proper tone for a response without setting an unrealistic expectation. Save your apologies for when things go wrong and you really NEED to apologize.

Congratulations! You won the battle and lost the war!

Going toe to toe with a customer is likely to be a losing proposition for you. I don't think there is anything wrong with politely stating your case when appropriate and highlighting the actions you've taken to "make it right," but never let it escalate to a war of words. You'll lose that war every time. Remember that the response you write to a negative reviewer isn't intended for them as much as it is for the unsold prospect reading your reviews later.

How do you strike a balance between being overly apologetic and downright combative?

Be Real! Consumers can easily sniff through fake contrition and response templates and they aren't likely to engage if they feel that you might be hostile either. Take negative reviews seriously and investigate each and every one. Make it your job to know what caused the consumer to feel this way. Ask yourself if any reasonable person might feel the same way in that situation. Don't just assume that every negative review is written by a crazy person. Your processes can really benefit from pressure testing with real consumer feedback. Be honest, be real, and seek reconciliation when possible.

Be Tactful! If you have to publicly disagree with a reviewer be sure to be strategic and thoughtful in your response. Sir Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of England from 1940-1945, defined tact in this way. “Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.” I'm certainly not advocating that you "tell anyone where to go," but if you are thoughtful in your response you can certainly make them feel better about being wrong.

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Tags: DealerRater, Negative, Reputation, reviews


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Comment by Tom Gorham on June 17, 2013 at 7:33pm

Ryan, IF I get to go to AutoCon, YOU are always part of my agenda!

Comment by Ryan Leslie on June 17, 2013 at 8:49am

Gentlemen,I want to quickly say thanks to each of you for taking time to offer your thoughts. Brian, your long response made me smile my friend, especially the part about "loving selling," it absolutely came through in your post that you do.

Strive for empathy NOT an apology, don't take negative reviews personally, and my favorite from my buddy Tom Gorham, NEVER respond to reviews when you're drinking!!! That is some GREAT advice.

It is absolutely appropriate to discuss responding to reviews over a drink though. Perhaps we should schedule that for AutoCON? ;)

Comment by Tom Gorham on June 16, 2013 at 7:40am

Great post as always Ryan!  What can you say when 20 people mention it took less than an hour and then one person complains that it took almost an hour?  "Thank you for your feedback.  We're always striving to improve."

As for Winston Churchill, isn't this the same guy who, when accused by a woman of being drunk, famously responded, "Yes Madam, but in the morning, I shall be sober and you will still be ugly!"

Never respond to reviews when you're drinking!!! Never!!!

Comment by Bill Cosgrove on June 15, 2013 at 9:33pm

The main thing is that you can't take it personal. Generally people do not go out of their way to give a good review even if they had a good experience. I could not count the times a customer was extremely satisfied said they were going to do a review and nothing.

People will go out of their way more often to lodge dissatisfaction with their experience and most of the time they have a reason. Like Brian said " The act of apologizing has become nearly meaningless.." I would take that a step farther and say that apologizing without action or resolution has always been a meaningless gesture.

They want to know that you are concerned and are going to resolve whatever they were dissatisfied about. You have to put yourself in their shoes and take an approach that you would expect if the same thing happened to you.

"The customer is always right whether they are right or wrong" is the only way to approach reputation management. There are a lot more ears hearing what people have to say today and only rarely will we have to bite our tongues if we don't take it personal.

Comment by Mathew Koenig on June 15, 2013 at 7:13pm

Good stuff Ryan. I really appreciate your insight on the importance of people being real. It's possible to be real without being rude and you nailed it with the Churchill quote.

Apologies are a touchy subject because our words can really put us in a bad spot of we say "Sorry" over and over right? In my opinion, I think it may be possible to empathize and say "I'm sorry to hear that you feel this way..." which says 'I empathize' without saying 'You're justified in feeling that way' 

I was just having this conversation with one of my dealers on Thursday and said: "Remember, responding to a negative review isn't necessarily going to please the person who gave you the bad feedback but it may potential customers, who see that bad review, realize that you've reached out to that person and you didn't ignore their concern."

Thanks fro a great read brother!

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