If you sell real estate, then it's likely that you've encountered an unhappy client.
One of the most common PR questions that my real estate social media clients bring me is what to do when an unhappy client leaves a negative review on social media.
In real estate, where the competition is deep and challenging, even one negative review can jeopardize someone's business. Reviews and referrals are invaluable and whether they are warranted or not, they can make or break a deal.
Now, with that said, I feel like I also have to say this: some people are impossible to please no matter what you do and others are just plain unreasonable. Some people will never b satisfied whether you respond to the review or move mountains to correct whatever problem occurred.
When my real estate social media clients come to me with concern over a negative review, I almost always tell them to see it as an opportunity. Responding to a negative online review tells the public a lot about how you run your business.
Responding to negative online reviews shows people that you are not afraid to take and respond to criticism, that you are graceful in the face of a challenge or adversity and that if you did make a mistake, you can own up to it and move on like a consummate professional.
It's easy to respond to positive reviews to thank the reviewer and show appreciation for their words of kindness or satisfaction. It's trickier to dig deep and respond politely and professionally to a negative review.
Here are a few of the things I tell real estate agents - but that would apply to any brand or business owner - about responding to an online review.
Always keep it simple, simple, simple.
When responding to negative reviews, never feel like you need to give background to the situation or make excuses.
You will come across as defensive and that is never a good look for anyone.
Instead, craft 1-2 sentences that tells the reviewer you hear and understand their concerns, show empathy when the situation warrants it, and invite them to contact you offline to find a solution.
The more detailed you are, the more you risk airing dirty laundry in public. It's great to have dialogue and discourse on these forums, but the truth is no one will ever understand the big picture except for you and the unhappy client.
Most people don't want to or need to know, so simplicity and professionalism is the way to take the high road.
Be careful with the words "I'm sorry."
As a society, we are quick to apologize.
I am so guilty of this -- I apologize to my boyfriend if I'm standing the way of the dishwasher he wants to access, to my boss if I misunderstand her direction and need to ask for clarification and to my friends if I need to say no to evening plans during the week to focus on self-care.
Yet, none of these situations are necessarily warranting of apology. If you have an unhappy client or customer, it might be your knee-jerk reaction to say I'm sorry.
That is not always the right thing to do.
First, stop and think about why you're apologizing so you can frame it accordingly.
If a client is upset that their closing date was pushed back because of construction delays, there is nothing you can do about it and it is not your fault.
If you respond with "I'm sorry" then not only will it sound hollow to the client, but the people skimming it might see the apology, think you were at fault for whatever the issue was, and assume you provided lackluster service.
In this situation, instead of I'm sorry try: "I regret that these building delays keep happening, but please call or email me today. I'd like to know how we can make this situation right for you."
You've showed empathy, taken responsibility and provided an actionable solution.
Guide the conversation offline.
The last thing you want to do is get into a sparring match on your Yelp or Facebook page.
Once you've let the reviewer know you have heard their concerns and want to help find a solution, do your best to get them to contact you privately.
First of all, remember how some people are never going to be satisfied? If you've got one of those people, you're better off confronting the situation one on one than you are arguing back and forth on a public forum.
The second is that you might have future customers with similar concerns and the solution for every situation is might be different. If you're in a professional services industry like real estate, every single situation is unique.
If you post to the public that you can offer them a specific solution, you'll need to be prepared to offer that to everyone who wants it. That might not be good for your business.
Think about it. Even if you are in an industry where most complaints can be remedied by a discount code, waived delivery fee or a refund, every case is unique. It's better to play your cards close to the vest, evaluate each situation on a case by case basis, and offer a solution accordingly.
If your organization is so large that a personal response isn't feasible, write templates for common issues and then tailor them as needed to save time and resources.
Even though negative reviews can be upsetting and frustrating, how you handle your negative reviews can actually help improve your brand's public perception. Responding to them politely and professionally will help you mitigate any damage, resolve any conflict and move forward as you build your brand and business.
A version of this post first appeared on my portfolio site.