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When a Bad Review Goes Viral

August 10, 2015

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When a Bad Review Goes Viral

Marketers and business owners are always on the lookout for techniques that will get the word out about their brand or product. Getting customers to know about your venue is the ultimate achievement when it comes to a marketing campaign.

How others find out about your business, however, can sometimes be the result of a less-than-desirable event. Businesses of all sizes and from every corner of the world are at risk of being launched into fame when a bad review, or a response to a bad review, goes viral. These guys provide perfect examples of your worst review management nightmares.

What to do? Here are some tips on how to manage and redirect an out-of-control reputation crisis.

Focus on proactive customer experience management

Deliver customer experiences that are memorable, flawless, and relevant. Businesses that are passionate about service and product will seldom have to face a crisis associated with a negative review gone viral.

Take the time to craft and implement customer experience strategies that take into account the customer’s voice, and put both processes and checkpoints in place to ensure customer satisfaction is prioritized, and issues never escalate to the point of becoming rants worthy of being shared online.

Think about ways that foster effortless experiences, and take into account potential points of friction. All negative feedback from customers should have an avenue of escalation that takes place verbally and on location, with the opportunity for your business to make things right, averting a potential brand reputation crisis.

Set early intervention SOPs

If you find yourself embroiled in a review management crisis, it’s pretty easy to make the mistake of having a knee-jerk reaction. But don’t fall prey to your own emotions. Set aside time to create standard operational procedures that account for the most common scenarios of a customer review gone wrong.

While it is true that we cannot anticipate every single scenario, we can decide ahead of time the who, what, and when of crisis review management. Choose a spokesperson, someone who’ll own the issue, and make sure he or she has a clear sense of company policies and procedures and can effectively represent your business with the press as well as the authorities.

If possible, consider running mock scenarios on a regular basis, and engage members of your leadership to obtain feedback.

Position yourself to be the first to know

One of the most common and most damaging situations when it comes to a viral negative review is when the business is the last to find out about the situation.

Knowing about a problem early will allow you to contain the crisis and resolve it before it causes long-term damage to your brand reputation.

In addition to implementing review management and tracking tools, make sure you also have an RSS feed or Google Alerts set up for relevant terms such as your business name, and make it a point to have the person Google your business on a regular basis to attempt to identify a potential PR crisis.

Don’t be the reason the review goes viral

Bad reviews will happen, and more often than not they will soon disappear, thanks to new and better reviews that are added to your online profiles. When a bad review happens, you are in charge of your reaction and response. So don’t let a careless or foolish response be the cause for a review to go viral.

Many businesses have made the mistake of engaging with customers in public forums such as Yelp, Facebook, Google+, or TripAdvisor, without measuring the consequences of a retaliatory answer. (Also check out:

(Also check out: Responding to Online Reviews? Beware of 5 Things That Can Kill Your Business Credibility)

We cannot stress enough the fact that you jeopardize your brand when your response contains profanity, offensive language, or unprofessional communications. Step back and take a deep breath before you hit the submit button. You don’t want to find yourself in the shoes of Sunset Terrace Restaurant & Lounge in Thousand Oaks, CA.

Let truth and facts be your best defense

When your business has strong values and you are confident that the whole customer lifecycle is managed with excellence, you can trust that truth and facts will come to your defense.

In fact, many businesses are surprised to find that other customers will come to their defense when there is a well-established brand reputation. Despite trolls, the truth will always surface, so work hard to do things right, and even when you happen to find yourself in the middle of a public relations or review management crisis, the storm, so to speak, shall soon pass.

Own up to your mistakes

Bad things happen to the best of us. If you end up trending on Yelp or Facebook and Yahoo for a genuine mistake, even if it is one that you feel you will never recover from, don’t try to hide your head in the sand.

If you realize you or a member of your team dropped the ball, make it a point to take responsibility in a way that is loud and clear. Consider a public apology or a press release to make sure your message of apology and your commitment to make things right not only reaches the affected party or parties, but also is made available to everyone that may have been exposed to the viral nature of the review.

Find ways to recover

If you have it in you to recover like a star, do it. Sometimes, spending time righting a negative review gone viral may just give you the upper hand.

Explore your options, and perhaps your marketing muses will gift you with a creative way to take ownership of what would otherwise be considered a marketing and brand reputation disaster. 

Make lemonade

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Take advantage of the press coverage, and if possible and appropriate, consider running a promo that is themed after your bad review and seeks to provide other customers the opportunity to give you a second chance. You are in charge of your marketing destiny, and taking corrective action is completely up to you.

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