7 Tips for Handling Negative Reviews

No one wants to get reviews like these:

This Agent won’t even call you back!! Not to mention his office said that his cell phone is un-disclosed when I asked for his cell phone number or direct line. What kind of a real estate agent keeps his number un-disclosed???

I had one of [name redacted] agents represent me and I have to say that it will be a cold day in Hell before I buy or sell a house with them again in the near future.

As a real estate agent, you take pride in the services you provide your client. Of course you want to provide stellar customer service and have all your clients sing your praises to everyone they meet.

But let’s be honest — no real estate agent is the perfect agent for every human out there. And as you well know, there are many hands involved in the real estate transaction pie. You scramble on a regular basis to orchestrate all the players and do everything you can to hold a transaction together.

Then one day, BOOM! The lender calls and says, “We can’t fund this loan.” The inspection report comes back and says the home needs a new roof. The title company says, “Oops, there is a cloud on the title.”

And we all know who gets the blame — the real estate agent. And a negative review gets published.

Negative reviews happen. So how do you deal with them?

7 Tips for Handling Negative Reviews

  • Respond to the review. The agent review system on Zillow (and many other review sites) allows the person being reviewed to respond directly to a review, be it positive or negative. You should respond to all reviews. Ignoring negative ones won’t make them go away.
  • Don’t be defensive. Maybe the reason you didn’t return a call immediately was legitimate. You were busy, you were in the hospital, you were at your kids soccer game. Maybe you just screwed up and missed the call. Things happen. Getting defensive though puts the reviewer on the spot and makes them defensive in return. Other people reading the review and your response are far more likely to side in your favor if you don’t try to defend every aspect of the negative review.
  • Don’t attack.The last thing you want to do is launch into a personal attack. Maybe the reviewer was a complete jerk, maybe you did nothing wrong. But attacking will immediately be seen in a negative light by anyone reading your response. Take the high road. Stick to the facts.
  • Say thank you. Regardless of the tone of a review, the reviewer took their personal time and made an effort to give you feedback. Thank them for their time.
  • Say “I’m sorry.” Two of the hardest words for people to say are, “I’m sorry.” A heartfelt apology goes a long way toward repairing a relationship. And when other people see an apology, they empathize with you. Everyone makes mistakes. Admitting you made one (if indeed you did) can speak volumes about your character. Even if you didn’t make a mistake, saying, “I’m sorry” makes it hard for anyone to hold a grudge.
  • Look for the real message. Try to separate your feelings and emotions from the picture. This isn’t easy to do, but if you can you may just find that the reviewer is actually giving you valuable feedback. Perhaps making a small adjustment in your approach in certain situations can end up benefiting you and future clients. Let’s say your reviewer is blaming you for what was in fact a low appraisal that caused the deal to fall apart. A gut reaction reply might be, “I have no control over the appraisal, it’s not my fault.” But maybe the real message is, “you didn’t explain to me in a way I understood what might happen if the appraisal came in low.”
  • Consider the positive aspects. There are many out there that have a hard time believing a page full of five star reviews. After all, no one is perfect. Having a less-than-stellar review mixed in with all the glowing opinions can add credibility to all your reviews. A well-handled response to a negative review shows others how you deal with adversity and can help demonstrate your professionalism in a way not easily seen on line.

Here are some sample responses to negative reviews:

“I’m sorry we couldn’t connect. My goal is to return contacts as quickly as possible, and you’re welcome to email me or call and we’ll try to get this worked out. Thanks!”

“Unfortunately, sometimes things out of both our control can happen. I appreciate your review and want you to know that I’ve beefed up my “education process” with clients to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

“To be perfectly honest, I can not connect this review with any particular client or situation. I understand why sometimes people don’t want to use a real name when leaving a review so if this reviewer would like to contact me, I’d appreciate so that we can resolve their concern. Thank you!”

“I am sorry you did not experience a completely flawless transaction, that is always our goal and we work hard to ensure every client is treated to world-class customer service. I appreciate the feedback and we plan to incorporate some of the things we learned in this transaction to improve the experience for all our clients.”

“I have attempted to contact the reviewer off-line to address any concerns they have with our service. Real estate transactions are complex, and all are different. While we see what happened here differently than the reviewer, we do appreciate all feedback from our clients.”

Photo Credit: “Board of Negativity” by quinn.anya on Flickr. CC Licensed.