The Correct Way to Handle Negative Reviews in the Field Service Industry.

Here in the mobile age, online reviews have never been more important. Even for purely local businesses like field service companies, they still need to gather customers and keep up communication through online channels. This makes perfect sense if you simply examine the lifestyle and day-to-day choices of yourself and your family. If, for instance, you want to find a new Italian restaurant to visit and don’t want to risk a bad chicken parmigiana at a new place. Inevitably, you will find yourself typing ‘good Italian restaurant near me’ into your search engine. Or, if you’re already on the road and debating where to have dinner with your romantic partner, one of you may even look up nearby restaurants on your phone’s Google Maps app. 

The Importance of Online Reviews

And where do the results come from for these searches? The search results may find your website and any time Google is asked to consider businesses, it also checks the Google My Business registry. For customers who are searching for navigation destinations on Google Maps, only the Google My Business registry is checked. However, for customers looking for highly rated and often reviewed destinations, they may be checking other third-party review sites like Facebook, Yelp, TripAdvisor or, for field services, the BBB and Angie’s List. In fact, any business that wants to build a positive online presence must take review platforms like Google and Facebook seriously precisely because these platforms are how your future customers are choosing the businesses they want to work with.  Customers are used to the world of business self-promotion and they are inclined to believe that everything written by an employee is likely to contain an overly positive spin. But reviews, especially those on third-party sites, are the one way consumers can discover the real results of spending their money with a particular company. Whether it’s products or services, what customers trust most are the reports of other consumers with nothing to gain or lose by sharing their experiences. The more positive reviews you have, the more your company can be trusted to provide a consistently good experience at an appreciated value.

Everyone Gets Negative Reviews

Building your online presence and curating reviews, it’s easy and even appropriate to become deeply invested in your brand’s appearance and reputation with online communities. You cherish their positive responses and strive to earn everyone’s respect and appreciation. Every happy review is a point in your favor, and every lively social media discussion is rewarding additional engagement. But every brand eventually gets their first negative review. In fact, a certain percent of your reviews are going to be negative no matter how great your service is or how carefully you treat your customers.For field service, your negative comments are most likely going to stem from the customer’s experience and how they felt about the service. Sometimes their complaints will be legitimate and sometimes they will be part of their overall negative reaction to needing help in the first place.The most important thing to realize is that reviews are emotional responses, not necessarily objective assessments of your team or technician’s performance or the efficiency of your office staff. Some customers will give negative reviews for arriving two minutes late, some will decide they just don’t like the technician’s attitude, some will decide they were given a sub-standard part even if they weren’t. And sometimes a customer will have a genuine complaint or confusion that can and should be solved. This happens to every business and it’s important to know how to deal with your negative reviews.

Take Responsibility and Clarify

The first step is to take responsibility for the problem, whether or not it can possibly be your fault. Say you’re sorry that the customer had a bad time, this way you are showing sympathy without laying blame anywhere. Next look to have the customer reach out to your team directly by phone or email.  Do not engage in company policy discussions on a public forum like Google Reviews or Facebook, each case is unique and anything that is posted publicly to the internet can set precedence for your business for years to come.  

Solve Problems and Make Amends

The second step is to seek a solution to the problem and an emotional resolution for the customer. If they respond to your first sympathetic overture and offer of customer service (some never do), seek to find a reasonable compromise.  A partial refund, a gift card to a local business, or just an apology.  There are no absolutes when dealing with negative feedback so put yourself in the customer’s shoes and figure out what it would take for it to be made right with yourself.   

Invite them Back

One of the keys to successful online customer service is to always be “the bigger man” in a conflict. Customers will always start it and you should always be the impossibly friendly force. There is no stopping your benevolence and, except in extreme circumstances, you always want to see a customer come back.

Being ready to invite a negative reviewer back to try again is the key to both investing in the solutions and possibly even turning those reviews around. For someone who experienced a real problem, make it clear that you are eager to correct the mistake and show them the true high quality of your service. For customers who just had a bad time, ask for another chance to meet their clearly discerning standards. With the right attitude and approach, you may even be able to convince customers to revise their review to higher stars and an update on how they are now pleased with your active solutions to their problems.

Of course, if a customer was truly offensive or abusive to one of your staff members, it’s also alright to politely let a customer know that they should explore a different service option. Recommend the customer service number for the brand of the product, so the manufacturer can make the best recommendation.

Know Your Trolls

Some ‘customers’ who leave negative reviews don’t actually have a real complaint. Some are internet entities who live for strife and know the power of reviews for small businesses. Whether or not this is truly someone who lives nearby and recently filed a work order or a stranger pretending to be a customer, their reviews will be overwhelmingly negative, accusatory, and their problems will simply not be solved.

These are known as trolls, like the kind that lives under bridges and eats billy goats only on the internet. Every negative review deserves an overture of responsibility and conciliation. However, if the response is full of expletives or overly negative comments or is overly argumentative, back away. Trolls crave to hurt people anonymously. They want to incite businesses into looking bad for people who read their reviews, they want to goad people into defending themselves, their technicians, and their brand.

If an interaction is going sour with no salvation, stop responding. If the comments are truly toxic, count on real users to ‘downvote’ or report the review until platform management removes it. If it is merely argumentative, managing the troll review well will be seen as a good sign for future customers reading your review history.

Negative Reviews are Valuable

In fact, for a business with mostly four- and five-star reviews, every negative review has a certain amount of PR value. This makes perfect sense in terms of basic psychology. No one trusts something that has 100% positive responses because we are passively aware of the statistical likelihood. There is always some grouch, some troll, or some normal human error that results in at least a few negative reviews and there has been trouble in the past with businesses disingenuously scrubbing reviews that were not entirely favorable. Having a few negative reviews sprinkled in makes it clear that your reviews are natural, not bought.

The other reason negative reviews are good for PR is that they give you a chance to show off your customer service and problem resolution skills. Most people are aware that their work order might, for some reason, be more problematic than others. What if there’s a leak after your team leaves, or they get the one rude guy on your entire workforce? By seeing your constructive responses even to unreasonable negative reviews, customers are relieved because they know you would be friendly and helpful even if they had to lodge a reasonable complaint.—Negative reviews are something that happens to every business across every industry. Even if, somehow, you performed every job perfectly and your customers were always 100% happy with the timing, attitude, work, and billing process, there would still be trolls who drop negative reviews “for the lulz”. Knowing how to handle your negative reviews is the best way to show off your great customer service and even turn some back around into positive reviews from customers you help.

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