Negative online reviews are tough to read. They can be even harder to decide how, if, when, and what to respond.
Here’s my strategy for the CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
Disclaimer: I’m not the expert in customer service or social media. There are many strategies around negative reviews, and I encourage anyone to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your strategy, and I’ll add it to my blog to hopefully help out a fellow stressed social media manager.
CSU’s veterinary program is ranked third in the nation. That’s pretty dang awesome. The Veterinary Teaching Hospital has the facilities to match its prestigious program, as well as a high volume of cases. While the majority of clients have an amazing experience at the hospital, some clients have feedback they want to share with us and feel the most effective way to share it is on Facebook.
It’s important to remember a couple negative reviews aren’t going to affect a page’s overall rating. The hospital’s Facebook page has 4.8 stars (out of 5), which I think is great. Negative reviews are unavoidable; nobody (and no business) is perfect. So don’t stress. Every business faces it. Focus more on what to do.
Notify, but don’t jump to conclusions
I’m a firm believer in “there are two sides to every story.” It was my main argument against my sister in “Sibling Court.”
It’s important to share a negative review with the involved parties to learn more about the situation.
I immediately screenshot negative reviews and email them to the customer service rep at the hospital, Tracy. Everyone needs a Tracy in their lives. She’s calm, respectful, firm, solution-oriented, and kind. Tracy discusses the situation with the faculty or staff involved in the case to gain more information, and then responds to me where we develop a plan.
Every negative review is different, so there’s no single strategy we rely on.
Sometimes, Tracy has already tried to resolve the issue with the client, and the client is still upset and writes a negative review on Facebook. In this case, I often don’t respond or take action on Facebook. It’s okay if the client needs to vent in a public forum. That’s part of social media’s function. In those cases, I don’t respond to the comments. Sometimes, clients post misinformation altogether, which is incredibly unfortunate. Like this example 👇 There is a Global Food Innovation Center being built on campus, yes, which some have referred to as a “slaughter house.” However, this center has nothing to do with the Veterinary Teaching Hospital…at all. In these cases, it’s okay to correct the misinformation if you don’t think it’s going to start a fight between the business and the reviewer (in this case, I chose not to respond). Trust that your audience will see through these posts when scrolling through the (mostly positive) reviews.
Sometimes, Tracy wants to call the client to work through the issue and find a resolution. When she plans to contact the client, I post a comment on the negative review letting the client know the hospital will be in contact with them. Here’s an example 👇 This benefits the client because they have a heads up that we’ve seen their complaints and someone is going to contact them. It benefits us because other potential clients reading the review see we actually do something to resolve client complaints. We don’t apologize on behalf of the hospital’s actions. We apologize that they were unsatisfied with their experience. Not everyone would agree with including an apology in the response at all, because it’s accepting blame. I see both sides. Do what works best for your business.
Important: We always take the conversation offline and don’t over-engage with the disgruntled client on Facebook. Getting the brand into a fight with a client always looks tacky. Always. It’s okay to correct misinformation (in a respectful way). But, let them have the last word and keep it classy.
If a problem doesn’t require private communication and can be handled with a simple email to Tracy, then we make sure to follow up on the negative review (see example below 👇).
The client didn’t need Tracy to call him to resolve the issue. He needed the blood work and urinalysis results. Tracy made sure he got his results, and then we followed up, which prompted him to give us “6 stars.” This negative review turned into a positive one. Anyone who reads this review can see that the hospital listens to its clients’ problems and does what it can to resolve them.
Drink a glass of wine and watch funny YouTube videos
Or do whatever it takes to chill out and brighten your mood. It’s easy to take negative reviews personal, or feel protective over the business. Being the social media punching bag (not exaggerating) for the brand takes a toll. Do what you need to take care of yourself, friends.
At the end of day, Facebook is a wonderful place for our community to express feelings, opinions (positive or negative), and a great opportunity for the Veterinary Teaching Hospital to validate what is already working, and seek ways to improve the client experience.