One of the inevitable parts of business is that you’ll eventually work with clients who leave negative feedback. Whether it’s a mismatch in expectations, or just different styles, beliefs and personalities, you shouldn’t be too despondent as long as things stay professional. After all, as much as we might try, it’s unrealistic to expect that you’ll be able to please everyone.
However, with the internet now a common place for anonymously communicating one’s opinion to the masses, while also functioning as a make or break marketing tool for photography businesses, how much attention should you pay to negative reviews left by clients? When you consider the internet is a virtual CV and portfolio for photographers, it’s easy to worry about the implications of such publicity. In most cases however, the reality is that one bad review shouldn’t tarnish your reputation. Consider these responses to negative reviews.
Some professionals, and photographers in particular, are very uncomfortable with negative feedback or criticism. Therefore, the first thing you want to do is maintain your composure and a thick skin. It’s unwise to reply to negative reviews while you’re still trying to come to terms with the comments within. Instead, sit on your response for 24 hours or so and allow yourself to remove some of the emotion. Never delete a review you don’t agree with.
Once you’ve put yourself in this calmer state, then formulate your response. Avoid any inferences you may draw which turn the criticism back onto the reviewer, or which imply that they’re lying. At all times retain a professional approach to your reply, and keep the language clear. If you’re the emotive type, perhaps ask a close friend or family member to read your response before you publish it. Finally, avoid airing your grievances about a bad review on other platforms.
Once you’ve been able to empathise with the client’s negative experience, try to work to the bottom of the matter. Seek to understand what specifically may have led to the disappointing outcome, or if there were other elements of the service which the client had a greater view towards. From there, you may wish to offer some clarifications about the service you provide, other (positive) reviews, or your creative vision.
These approaches are beneficial with one eye focused on prospective clients who may be reading the review. Where plausible, try resolve the client’s grievances, or instead offer clients’ alternative ways to address the dispute. Sometimes this is as simple as asking them, or proactively reaching out to them to understand what would make them happy. Clients, even disappointed ones, like to be valued. Prospective clients will also look upon this favourably, knowing you want to retain their business.
If you’re fairly confident that the review posted is disingenuous, then you may want to lodge a dispute with the platform hosting the review. When it comes to your first line of action, it should be to investigate whether there is an appeal process to have the review in question challenged and verified. This takes the burden off you and a public response.
Should you be unable to have the review investigated and/or removed, then don’t turn a blind eye. Avoid an aggressive or argumentative tone. Instead, defend the aspects that you believe are misrepresented, and offer a conciliatory tone to any potential misunderstandings. Where you can, subtly challenge the reviewer to provide more context around their disappointment and negativity.