Co-founder Mazuma
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How to deal with a bad client review

A bad review from a disgruntled client can have a catastrophic effect on an accountancy firm. But there are other ways of dealing with this than begging the client to remove it. 

16th Sep 2019
Co-founder Mazuma
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Unhappy and disappointed customer
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Ping! An alert pops up on your screen. Amid the usual daily onslaught of messages and push notifications, this one grabs your attention. You open it up and your heart sinks. Someone has left you a one-star review on a review site.

Your stomach flips and your mind swirls with an anxiety-induced fog; you have so many questions. Who? How? Why?

You’re desperately trying to read the review but the words are blurring together as you panic and catastrophise the situation – “this is it” your brains tells you, “my business is ruined!”.

Sound familiar? If it does then don’t worry, you’re not alone.

In today’s world people can play it fast and loose with their feedback. If they’ve got a complaint (legitimate or otherwise), there are myriad ways that they can voice their displeasure.

Gone are the days of writing a strongly worded letter to the manager. Nowadays we take to Twitter, or a Facebook page or any one of a variety of review sites. If you’ve got an axe to grind then all it takes is a few clicks and a couple of sentences and you can let the whole world know your feelings about a company. If you’re feeling really vengeful you can copy and paste that review to several places across the web in a few minutes.

There isn’t any decent-sized business out there who hasn’t had to deal with an unhappy customer. And increasingly, you’ll have to deal with what those customers say about you in a very public setting.

Rightly or wrongly, nowadays it’s par for the course. Naively I used to believe that simply being good at what you did would protect you from negative reviews, but as I have become wisened and older I realise how foolish that opinion was – especially in an arena where you may have to be the messenger for the foibles of HMRC.

Of course, if you spend enough time on review sites you can see certain patterns emerge. People who are happy enough with things tend not to review it. It’s those that are ecstatic, incentivised or annoyed that are inclined to leave the reviews. A little browse around TripAdvisor always throws up some gems.

“It took nine hours for our flight to get from the UK to Antigua but the Americans at our resort said it took them just three.” – moans one unhappy customer.

“There was no sign telling you that you shouldn’t get on the hot air balloon ride if you’re afraid of heights.” – writes another consumer.

While reviews like those are good for a giggle, it’s also worth noting that those one star reviews have skewed a business’s Net Promoter Score. Maybe not by much if you’re a huge company with thousands of good reviews; but if you have only collected 10 reviews so far and one is bad, it can mess with your figures and have an impact on the purchasing decisions of future customers.

So if it happens to you, what do you do?

First of all, don’t panic. While your inclination might be to find the customer and beg them to remove it, that strategy rarely works. In doing that you’re not addressing the issue and it makes it look like you’re trying to censor people. There is a much better way of dealing with it.

  1. Publicly reply. Address the issues in the review and if appropriate, say you are looking into them.
  2. Follow up with the customer. Contact them privately to let them know that you value their feedback and would like the opportunity to improve things.
  3. Follow through. If you said you’d take an action then make sure you do it when you said you would and feed it back to the customer. They might not change their rating or review for you, but they’ll at least see that you care about them.
  4. Own it. No business is perfect and everyone makes mistakes.
  5. Learn from it. Chalk it up to experience and try to improve if there is anything your end that needs addressing.

If you ever get a review in error (it happens) then you can contact the review site to get it moderated or removed, but that can take time. In all instances, a public reply is necessary – even if it’s to say that you think they have the wrong business or aren’t a customer!

Even though a one-star review might feel like a blot on your report card and a black mark against your name, just remember that it’s not the end of the world as long as you deal with it professionally.  Even 17% of Trustpilot’s scores on their own site are one star!

A final thought on the reviews culture is to have a good communication strategy with your clients. If they feel that they can come to you first and foremost without resorting to a public review, you’ll hopefully be able to resolve any issues they have before they feel angry enough to go public. 

And in the interests of karma, I always try to leave positive reviews for companies who have served me well. Trying to get people to review things that they are satisfied with is really hard. So having experienced both sides of the coin, I try to pay it forward a little in my own life.

Most small businesses are just out here trying to make a living after all.

Replies (20)

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David Ross
By davidross
17th Sep 2019 10:18

Simples! Why expose your work to 'review' in any forum?

Be like The Queen, not Megan Markle.

Thanks (2)
Replying to davidross:
7om
By Tom 7000
18th Sep 2019 09:51

Because google lists your business and you cant stop it or delete it.

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By JDBENJAMIN
17th Sep 2019 10:33

I've never known anyone bother looking at online reviews for small firms. As far as I am aware, there is not a single review of my practice anywhere, good or bad. It's just not part of the culture. So a one star review will not matter a damn.

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Replying to JDBENJAMIN:
7om
By Tom 7000
18th Sep 2019 09:52

Until someone puts a bad one on and then other clients come in and tell you about it

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By Ian McTernan CTA
17th Sep 2019 10:45

This is what you get from people whose only aim is to grow their practice and who care nothing for their clients.
Stack them high, grab as many as you can, then sell up before the proverbial hits the fan.
These are the sort of firms that are huge on marketing, social media, etc and who need to manage their internet presence to pull in the punters. They have all the buzzwords.
So a bad review can have a huge impact on them, so they learn how to manage that review - rather than learn how to deal with clients and make lasting relationships with them.
I guess it's just different ways of doing things and different life goals.

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Replying to Ian McTernan CTA:
7om
By Tom 7000
18th Sep 2019 09:54

No that's a bad answer. Theres always going to be that one ''insane client'' you can do nothing about. So you kick them out and they leave a bad review...

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Profile
By indomitable
17th Sep 2019 12:07

Totally agree with remarks left, why would you go on review sites, nobody quite believes them anyway. Definitely agree with all the comments here.

I did at one stage consider using a review site such as 'trustpilot' and even set up an account. When I delved a little deeper into how they work and considered how it looks I decided against it and am glad I did. I think Ian is right when he says you may end up spending more effort in managing your online presence than providing a quality service for your clients

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Replying to indomitable:
7om
By Tom 7000
18th Sep 2019 09:54

Google

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By agknight
17th Sep 2019 12:23

I don't actively use any review sites, but do encourage reviews on Google and Facebook. The former is vital for search ranking and anyone searching via Google can't help see your star rating.

Unlike comments here, I think most accountants growing a business should encourage Google reviews. But I've given up following any of my listings elsewhere as over ten years they've been completely unproductive.

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Replying to agknight:
7om
By Tom 7000
18th Sep 2019 09:56

Exactly. Google reviews drive business to you as does facebook reviews. Theres no point in advertising in newspapers anymore, no one reads them. Your advertising has to be digital and people want to read reviews.

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By Trethi Teg
17th Sep 2019 14:38

I would send my senior compliance manager - Mr Thomas Shelby - around to see the client who complained and ask him / her, nicely, to withdraw the complaint and post a positive review.

Works every time and when word gets around the problem is solved.

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Replying to Trethi Teg:
7om
By Tom 7000
18th Sep 2019 09:58

Wouldn't that be wonderful if we could simply solve things like that.

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
17th Sep 2019 16:33

I think this article really goes into the mind of the millennial bought up on facebook "likes", now actually running a business.

its OK, us oldies (I am an incredibly ancient 45) would just shrug and not worry about it, then again I am not chasing huge volumes of sign ups to replace the churn this type of business (and its not really an accounting practice) must generate.

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Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
7om
By Tom 7000
18th Sep 2019 09:59

On average I reckon clients last 6 years. If you don't renew them... you are sinking.

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7om
By Tom 7000
18th Sep 2019 10:11

Ok here's my tale

We had a bad review. Actually it was shocking and libellous. Despite umpteen pleadings to google they take no notice. So we have one review on google that's bad. And I have no idea how to get rid of it....anyone got any ideas? there's a prize if you can get it deleted....

Incidentally we had 1100+ positive reviews on checkatrade. Built up over a number of years. Which I showed a potential client and got a huge job once based on it.

Then checkatrade was sold and the new owners said they wern't having accountants anymore and closed the category. I wasn't happy - but hey what can you do... please take my money... no thanks they said.

So to combat one bad review and who can quantify the damage it can do. All I could think of was to drawn it out. We now positively encourage clients to leave a review by asking on the footer of every email... it says this....now... so now we have 100+ good reviews.....but its taken a year +

We simply say
You can check our Google reviews here and if you have a moment to add a review we would be very grateful.
To receive our weekly tax tips, like our Facebook page here.

Its also really hard to respond and leave details to combat the one bad review without breaching confidentiality. Because you still have to be the grown up and be professional.

And every Friday before I go to the pub I have to think up a tax tip....sigh....

I did have another accountant email me and say I like your Friday tax tips, its CPD....
Treetops Chartered Accountants if you want to see the gems/nonesencse I try to think of to put on there...

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Replying to Tom 7000:
By Red Leader
18th Sep 2019 10:49

Very interesting. What number do you bat at?

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Replying to Tom 7000:
Lone Wolf
By Lone_Wolf
18th Sep 2019 10:59

This site is for accounting professionals I'm afraid. As helpful as your post may be, please take it to the racist cowboy forum.

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By Mr J Andrews
18th Sep 2019 12:28

Perhaps I'm just thick skinned . CBA

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By AndrewV12
24th Sep 2019 12:40

Blimey the heading strikes fears into all accountants and businesses.

How to deal with a bad client review

Reviews are all loaded against Accountants, one numb-tee client who does not hear what he wants, or does not get the outcome he wants, and guess what its all your fault.

However I think people are sceptical of reviews anything really good could have been written by a mate and poor reviews without a reasoned argument are seen as sour grapes or a hatchet job by rival competitors.

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By Balancing
26th Sep 2019 14:19

When the firms do nothing. When the regulatory bodies do nothing. I guess all you have left are review sites? I noticed ICAEW have hundreds of 5 star reviews on Facebook from people in countries with very different syllables. I wonder if they were paid for to drown out those people they were ignoring?

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