Now that you’ve read “5 Steps to 5-Star Reviews” and have a firm grasp on what it takes to provide a seamless customer experience, your online reputation should be on its way to “perma-glow” status! But what happens when things don’t go as smoothly as you had hoped? Even among a sea of golden reviews, there will inevitably be the glaring low-star review that puts prospective clients on high alert.
As a Realtor®, you understand that the success of your business is largely dependent on word-of-mouth referrals, and although do your best to provide an excellent customer experience, the reality is, every transaction can’t be perfect.
By effectively handling negative reviews, you can take control of your online reputation and earn the trust of future clients.
ASAP As Soon as You Have a Cool Head
Unanswered negative reviews look like truth in the eyes of potential clients, so take this opportunity to steer the ship in another, more beneficial direction. But, hold on! If you feel your blood start to boil after reading the review, wait until you have a cool head, then respond swiftly – preferably within 24 hours of the post. (This means you’ll need to monitor your online reviews daily!)
When responding to the review, don’t be defensive or attack the reviewer. Instead, address the comment directly and pleasantly, and offer to take the discussion offline. Let the reviewer know you are listening and that you value their feedback.
RealSatisfied.com, a customer satisfaction platform for real estate professionals, offers this advice: “Think before you respond, and don’t [act] in anger. Respond quickly and with kindness. This kind of professionalism shows [clients] that you are aware, working in real time, and care about their experience.”
A negative review is often the client’s last resort — a means of venting frustrations they felt they weren’t able to communicate during the transactional relationship. In a study of 1.3 million reviews, Yopto, a company dedicated to helping businesses use customer feedback to make better decisions, lists disappointment as the #1 reason for customer dissatisfaction. In other words, expectations may be set too high. Fortunately, this can largely be avoided by following step 2 in the “5 Steps to 5-Star Reviews” process: setting expectations for attainable excellence, which favors establishing realistic goals that don’t promise pie-in-the-sky results.
Take the High Road
Purchasing and selling real estate can be an emotionally charged, stressful experience. It pays to keep an empathetic stance when working with present and past clients.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- When emotions run high, it is imperative to take the high road and stick to the facts. Potential clients reading a negative review are much more likely to respect you if you keep a helpful, understanding tone rather than defend every negative review point.
- Remember to thank the reviewer for taking the time to offer feedback.
- Offer a sincere apology, even if you think the reviewer is in the wrong. “I’m sorry you had [XYZ] experience” still validates their emotion, and it saves you from admitting any wrongdoing or from pointing fingers. This can create a space for open conversation, a starting point for mending the broken or stressed relationship.
- Keep it personal, steering away from cookie cutter responses.
- Use it as an opportunity to gently and tactfully incorporate a positive blurb about your business, noting the fact that this is an unusual experience. (And hopefully it truly is!)
- End your response by offering to take the discussion offline with a phone call. (Email is not the best way to resolve disputes or navigate conversations with unhappy clients.)
Using these bullet points, consider this as a template response and tweak it to make it your own:
“Hi Steve! Thank you for your review. I’m sorry to hear you had such a frustrating experience with [XYZ] during the purchase of your home, but I really appreciate you bringing this issue to my attention. I’ve been in business for nearly 20 years, serving hundreds of sellers and buyers in our community. I always strive to provide the best possible experience for my clients, but clearly, I failed you along the way. I’d love to talk with you about this. Please call me at your convenience, at (888) XXX-1234.”
Can this type of online reputation management really make a difference? Vivial, an online marketing platform, reports that 33% of negative reviews on Yelp turn positive when you respond to them, so, yes, your social reputation is within your control.
Find the Gift
As you read the negative review, look for the real message. Be calm, and separate your feelings and emotions from the big picture. It might not be easy, but you’re likely to find some valuable feedback within the negative review. Sometimes a small adjustment in your approach can benefit you and your future clients. As Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of GroBiz Media points out, “Consistently negative reviews mean that it’s time to make a change. Consider it free market research!