b2b customer review
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Why a Negative B2B Customer Review Can Be an Opportunity for Growth

8 Minute Read

Whether on Yelp, Google, Facebook, or another social media platform, many businesses—especially B2Bs—have learned to fear the negative online review. One reason businesses fear a bad B2B customer review is that their reputations are essential to their ability to attract new clients and retain existing clients.

So, what’s wrong with one negative review? With B2B deals typically being so much larger than B2C deals, even the loss of one potential client could mean the loss of tens of thousands of dollars. That’s a lot of pressure.

Rather than panicking at the news of a bad online review, B2B firms should view them as opportunities to get honest, real-time feedback, improve processes and products, engage clients, build trust, and create loyal, long-term clients.

How to Incorporate Real-Time Feedback into Your Product or Service

Online reviews are the new word of mouth, so it’s important to keep track of, and respond to, what clients are saying about your firm online. When 94 percent of B2B buyers perform online research before deciding on a purchase and 97 percent of professional buyers think user-generated content (such as online reviews) are more credible than content created by companies, B2B firms cannot afford to fear or ignore online reviews.

Don’t Panic

Ideally, your firm will have an established strategy for handling negative feedback before anyone leaves a negative online review. However, if you don’t have a strategy, the first step is to not panic. Remember that the client or prospect who left you a negative review is a human being. They have left the review to provide you with candid feedback and to let others know about their experience with your firm.

Read and Understand Their Real Feedback

The next step is to carefully read the review and focus on what they are trying to communicate. For example, the review may state that your onboarding process was slow and they didn’t get responses quick enough. The real issue may be that your firm has too many internal processes that aren’t communicated to the client who felt they were in the dark after paying your firm a significant chunk of money. During this stage, it’s important to listen to what the client or prospect is saying. Don’t take anything personally here or get caught up in defending your products, services, or processes.

Investigate and Get the Details

In many cases, you may not know all the details behind your reviewer’s negative experience, and the review may not include all the information you need to make changes to your process. To turn the negative review into an opportunity to improve your product or services, it’s imperative you get the whole picture. Talk to the salesperson, customer service representative, or account manager who worked with that client. Look through any email correspondence on the topic. Often, this is the point where you’ll put yourself in the client’s shoes and see what it’s like to work with your B2B firm.

Determine Where Things Can Be Improved

Once you have the complete picture, it’s time to put the client’s feedback to work internally. Whether you have an A-list team of experienced professionals or are honing the skills of your team at a start-up, there is always room for improvement—and a negative review can provide significant insight to make your firm even more competitive.

Take the client’s feedback to your team or department heads and see where your internal process or your product can be improved. In the aforementioned example, for the client who felt left in the dark, simply adding weekly updates for the client to the onboarding process can improve the client experience and ensure they know what is happening on their project.

Implement Change

To get the full value of the client’s feedback in the negative review, it’s not enough to determine how to improve the process or the product. The change must be implemented and become part of the new process.

I can’t tell you how many times client feedback has shown us the flaws in our own process. Often, the corrections or process changes have been fairly minor on our end, but they’ve always created a more seamless experience for the client. After the effort you’ve put out thus far to review, understand, and determine actions based on the client’s feedback—now is the time to execute and reap the benefits.

Handling a negative B2B customer review

How to Respond to a Negative B2B Customer Review

It’s easier to respond to praise than to criticism—but when it comes to negative online reviews, responses are crucial. If you don’t respond to an unfavorable review of your business, potential clients who read that review may assume any of the following:

  • Your firm doesn’t care about addressing client concerns.
  • Anything listed in the negative review is likely true.
  • You may not be the right firm to partner with.

So engaging in a conversation about your product or service is a must. But it’s not enough to humor them with a vague, transparent, copied-and-pasted response. Instead, it’s crucial that you tailor your review to the reviewer with the goal of earning back their trust (and, potentially, their business). Remember that a dissatisfied customer will tell an average of 9–15 people about their experience with your firm. Also, keep in mind that your response will be visible to other clients and potential prospects and communicates how your firm handles client service.

Show Empathy to Build Trust

Depending on the content of the negative review, your firm may initially choose to respond publicly or privately to resolve the client’s issue. But regardless of whether the initial response is public or private, the final response should always be public.

Every company’s response to a negative review should include an apology. This does not mean that your firm is accepting blame for everything listed in the review; however, it does mean that your firm is empathetic and understands that the client is unhappy for a reason.

Here are a few options for starting with an apology:

  • “We’re sorry to hear you’ve had a frustrating experience with our product/service…”
  • “We apologize for an inconvenience or frustration you’ve experienced…”
  • “We’re sorry for the error we made…”
  • “We’re sorry to hear about your experience and can assure you that your experience is not typical of working with our firm…”

Thank Them for Their Feedback

Remember that this client or prospect has taken the time to leave their feedback. In addition to empathizing with their complaint, it’s also important to thank them for their time. Gratitude shows that you respect their time and the feedback they’re providing. Remember that if they didn’t take the time to leave an online review, you may never have found out about their dissatisfaction, the issue, the error, or the solution that will improve your clients’ experience.

Provide a Solution

If you have all the information you need, include your solution in your response. This may be a credit, a refund, or a resolution to correct any mistakes. If you don’t have enough information to properly address their concerns, ask them for more information. Let them know that you’d like to resolve their concern but need a bit more information to do so. If they are serious about reaching a resolution, they will respond with the information that you need.

Give an Offline Resource

The best way to resolve a client or prospect’s issue with your company or product is to take the conversation offline—so your brand’s social media accounts don’t become platforms for back-and-forth dialogue that all your potential prospects can see. Get in contact with the individual in your organization who can resolve the client’s concerns and get their permission to share their information. Provide the contact’s name, their title (if possible), and a phone number or email, and ask the reviewer to reach out at their convenience.

Follow Up

Whether the client’s concerns have been resolved or you haven’t heard back from the client after responding to their review, follow up. Find out if the resolution worked for them and how things are going now. Or, follow up again to let them know you are still interested in resolving their issue, even if they don’t continue as a client. In situations where the client is unresponsive, other clients and prospects will see your follow up and the effort you put in to resolve the issue.

Change the Perspective

People are talking about your B2B firm online. Some of them may be saying negative things about your products or services. It’s important to engage in this online conversation about your firm, not only to respond to any negative commentary but also because it can be an opportunity for growth. How you handle negative reviews is often viewed as an indication of how you resolve client issues. Being proactive, positive, and resolution oriented by responding to reviews can either win over potential prospects by showing your excellent customer service or give them the impression that you ignore client concerns.

By changing your perspective on negative reviews and viewing them as an opportunity rather than a nuisance, you can implement positive changes in your organization and create a following of loyal clients.

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Jeremy Durant is Business Principal at Bop Design, a B2B web design and digital marketing firm. Jeremy works closely with B2B firms in need of a website, marketing and branding strategy, helping them to develop their unique value proposition and ideal customer profile. Jeremy received his BA from Merrimack College and his MBA from California State University, San Marcos. His writing has been featured in EContent Magazine, PublishThis, Marketing Agency Insider, Visibility Magazine, and Spin Sucks.

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