How To Handle Negative Online Reviews: Be Nice!

I think we can all agree that not everyone should be granted the First Amendment Right. I know, I know, that would be considered “unconstitutional.” Freedom of Speech is great, unless you have a disgruntled client that goes online and writes a review that is a complete lie. Has this happened to you? Because it has happened to me, more than once, and each time it made me feel like a complete failure. I have had an employee that I fired go online and pose as an unhappy client and write a horribly untrue review. Lie. I've had a client go online 2½ years after her service and say she was treated poorly. Lie. I even had a client who was wanted for fraud bounce a check and then go online under a different name and say how rude I was to her. She even copied-and-pasted part of the review that my ex-employee had written. Lie. What do you do about these lies that are circulating out there in cyber world for potential clients to see?  Well, honestly there isn't a lot you can do. You can report it as untrue, or spam, but in my experience nothing ever really gets resolved - it's your word against their word. If you were to write a rebuttal saying that the review is untrue, you end up sounding bitter and defensive. So what is the best plan of attack? Be nice.

Being a salon owner for twelve years, I have had to learn patience and tolerance on so many different levels. I have had to learn how to not react to a situation and to give myself time to calm down and come to my senses. This has been extremely helpful. Not only for my sanity, but for my business. I think as human beings we are naturally emotional. Sometimes you need to take the emotion out of the situation. If you are able to remove that emotion, I think you are able to be more sensible. Once you are able to think rationally you will be able to write an apologetic response. I don't know about you but writing an apology to someone that just wrote an outright lie is definitely NOT the first thing that comes to my mind. The first thing that comes to my mind includes a plethora of inappropriate words. So not professional.

So what I have learned to do is to write something like this: ”I'm very sorry that you were unhappy with your visit to our salon. We would appreciate the opportunity to make this up to you. Please feel free to contact our front desk coordinator and we will do what we can to make the situation right.” Nine times out of ten, you will get no response. What are these clients going to say? They know that they are writing untrue statements. What this does is it makes you look very caring and professional. When a client is looking up your salon and they come across this negative review, they will see how you responded. I personally have higher opinions of businesses, and people for that matter, who take accountability for their actions. Even when you KNOW that you are not in the wrong in a given situation, letting potential clients see that you are taking accountability shows that you care about how they really feel. It shows that you value their opinion and are willing to right any situation.

Being nice when you really want to inflict pain on someone is the way to go, especially in this business! I try very hard to take this approach when I have to deal with a disgruntled client face to face or over the telephone. That being said, I have had to "fire" clients. One particular client came in about four times a year for a haircut. Every time I saw her name on my schedule I would get anxiety. She was extremely negative about everything in her life. Well, she would transfer all of that negativity over to me and my inability to give her the most amazing haircut she's ever had. When I would ask her how her last haircut was, she would inevitably insult me and say that it did nothing for her and she couldn't get it to do anything. Each time, I wanted to scream at her, “Why are you here?!” She never liked her haircuts but kept coming back. This last time she was in, I was not in a good frame of mind. I was 7 months pregnant and completely miserable. I won't bore you with every little detail of what happened.

I cut her hair exactly the way she described it to me. When I finished styling her she went on and on how it looked exactly like last time and the last haircut wasn't good, blah, blah, blah. I finally looked at her and very directly said, “You never like your haircuts.” She looked at me and said, “You are known to give these great haircuts but you never cut my hair the way that I want it.” I then replied “That's because you don't know what you want.” There were no other clients in the salon at the time otherwise I would have probably bit my tongue. She starts to get up to pay and leave. I stopped her and said, “You know what? You don't have to pay, just don't come back.” The relief that I felt as she left was amazing. I honestly did not feel guilty for what had just happened because I had been trying for years to please her and nothing worked. If I would have allowed her to continue to be my client she would have continued to insult me by telling me she hates her haircuts. That, in turn, would have been horrible for my confidence and my anxiety would have went through the roof. I'm going to take a stab in the dark and say she's been fired before. I'm not saying that this would be the proper way to handle a situation like this for you, necessarily, but it was how I chose to handle it - and it worked for me.

Thankfully these situations do not present themselves often. I have so many clients that rock my world. They have become a part of my life. I'm beyond grateful for them… and their gray hair!

-DJ Victory

DJ Victory is a Hairstylist, Makeup Artist, and Salon Owner who believes that you get what you you should always give 100%. She loves cheap jewelry, sky high platforms and thinks that everyone needs a little glitter in their life.

[Image courtesy of DJ Victory]

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