Ah, the Internet. I have a love/hate relationship with the Internet. On one hand, I view it as my own personal world of opportunity providing me with free education, marketing, and entertainment. On the other hand, I view the Internet as a cold dark place full of criticism. But alas, I think of myself as a weenie. As a person, I’m emotionally driven rather than logically driven. It can be one of my greatest weaknesses, and sometimes one of my greatest strengths.
I’ve been pursuing photography professionally since 2008 and I’ve had quite an unusual career for a wedding photographer being that I’m located and based in Las Vegas, a rather unique market of elopements and wedding chapels. Because of that, I’ve photographed over 1,500 weddings and elopements since the beginning of my career. Having worked in a “wedding mill” environment like a wedding chapel, I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs with clients and couples. Because a wedding chapel doesn’t allow you the opportunity to seek out your ideal client, I’ve had some tough client experiences. As someone who runs purely on emotions, I’m really thankful for the experience because now I have the tools and the tough skin to deal with criticism in business.
Now, back to the issue at hand: the Internet. The Internet in all its glory, and anonymity, and passive aggressiveness, plays such a huge role in marketing efforts for small businesses and entrepreneurs. As photographers, a lot of us don’t have a storefront and rely solely on our reputation on the Internet. This is why it's probably every entrepreneur’s nightmare to receive a bad review online. Not only is our Internet reputation our only public persona these days, but we all know how weighty reviews are within the consumer experience and how a bad review can adversely impact our businesses.
Take the stress of never wanting to receive a bad client review, and add the rising trend of competitors using online reviews as a way to drive business away from their competition, and you’ve got the perfect storm of “how to give a photographer an ulcer” which is, coincidentally, the title of my next post. Kidding.
With that being said, I have a few tips for you regarding how to respond to or dispute a negative review.
If you receive a review from a legitimate past, current, or prospective client here are a few ways to handle it:
- Check all your emotions at the door. Only respond to reviews when you have a clear and level head. It can be hard not taking negative criticism personally, so make sure you’ve taken time to digest the review before you respond.
- Acknowledge the concerns, then offer professional responses and, if possible, solutions. Often, clients may not feel “heard.” Make sure you’re acknowledging concerns, while also explaining why something may or may not have happened. If you’re able, try giving alternative solutions to a concern. This will help your client feel like they have choices while also showing the public that you’re willing to address and work with client concerns.
- Don’t argue or tell the reviewer they’re wrong. If anything, you can use non-apology statements like, “I’m sorry you feel this way” and then offer an explanation or solution.
Once you’ve responded to a negative review in a professional manner, ramp up your client review receiving efforts to begin receiving more positive reviews.
If you receive a review from someone you’ve never worked with, or interacted with, or who you believe to be another professional posing as a client, here are a few tips to go about disputing a review.
Before you respond, check to see if the site where the review was left has a dispute option. Oftentimes with industry-specific websites like WeddingWire or The Knot, these websites will offer a dispute option which puts the burden of proof on the reviewer to prove that their review is true offering you a quick and easy way to get the false review taken down.
If you’re unable to have the review removed or disputed (sites like Google have a much more convoluted process that puts the burden of proof on the receiver of the review to prove the review is false), then sit down to begin a thorough and professional response. In these cases, you’re not really responding to the reviewer, but rather you’re responding for the sake of the public to see how you would handle a negative situation. Keep this in mind while drafting your response.
Keep it short and simple. Try being as concise as possible, leaving your response at 5-6 sentences if possible.
Negative reviews are never fun, but they can absolutely be used as a way to show the public how you handle tough interactions and can actually help your public persona if handled correctly. Don’t dread bad reviews anymore. If they happen, you’ll be ready to respond in a professional manner that will help bolster your professionalism.