How One Writer Turned a Bad Review into Prospecting Gold

photodune-4727189-negative-feedback-xsI groaned when I read the email subject line, saying a former client had written a bad review of my business on a very popular online site.

This client had been a problem for several weeks, and finally requested a refund. Despite my no-refunds policy, I agreed.

Because of a postal delay, that refund check didn’t arrive by the designated deadline. The client then sent an obnoxious email and posted negative reviews to Yelp and Thumbtack.com — sites where my profiles generate a combined 85 percent of my new client calls. Negative reviews on these important prospecting tools could tank my business.

Plus, the Better Business Bureau contacted me for a written response to his complaint there.

No question — it was a client disaster in the making.

I know clients need to trust professional resume writers like myself, so this was a “do or die” situation.

How can you make a bad review work for you, and not against you? Here’s what I did:

 

Calm Your Emotions

My first reaction was frustration and slight panic.

Then I remembered what a former boss once told me: “How you react to a negative situation reflects on how you handle your business.”

Another mentor told me to stick to the facts and not add any emotional responses to resolve complaints.

I analyzed the bad review to determine how to best respond professionally. Once I focused on the issues and trusted my instincts, the responses flowed smoothly. Plus, by focusing on the facts, you show professionalism and a calm demeanor while respecting the client. That impresses prospects that you won’t trash them online, either.

Stick to the Facts

This client claimed I missed multiple deadlines, including his refund, and attacked my integrity, work ethic, and work hours. And he claimed I was dishonest because I’d required full payment up front.

Here’s how I addressed each issue, showing ownership for what I could control:

  • The U.S. Postal Service perhaps delayed delivery of the refund, which I can’t control. Once aware, I cut a new check and sent it certified mail. He received it in 48 hours.
  • To speak to my character, I mentioned a public service I provide the unemployed, and that I rearrange my schedule to meet writing deadlines.
  • I mentioned that payment up front is the norm for professional resume writers.

Reach Out to Happy Clients

Wanting positive reviews to round out my page, I contacted past clients and sent my Thumbtack link. These bolstered my ranking and helped offset the impression given by the single negative review.

Thumbtack’s support team and the BBB raved at my professional responses, and the positive comments I solicited .

By staying positive, I’ve been able to find new clients and earn $1,100-$1,500/week, avoiding the typical seasonal famine that afflicts resume writers. And my new clients are excited to work with a professional.

Have you gotten a bad online review? Tell us how you responded in the comments below.

Linda A. Hamilton is a California-based resume and freelance writer. She blends storytelling with crisp content that connects with readers, for career advancement or meeting business objectives.

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18 comments on “How One Writer Turned a Bad Review into Prospecting Gold
  1. Stacey says:

    I’m so sad to hear this happened to Linda. I am glad though that she managed to turn it around and make it positive.

    Often when I look at reviews I do seek out the negative reviews on a product or service to see what the professional has to say. Often my deciding weather I want to go ahead and purchase that product or service is dependent on how the professional handled the bad review. If they responded professionally, responding to every concern then I am more likely to trust them. If they resonded unprofessionally I won’t give them my buisiness.

    You did exactly the right thing and now it’s paying of (literally!) good on you!
    Stacey recently posted…Put your loved ones at ease about your travel plansMy Profile

    • Linda H says:

      Thank you Stacey. I’ve had several clients tell me they did the same thing as you described when determining whether to call me for services or not.

      As a former manager told me, which I mentioned in my reply, how you reply to a negative situation reflects on you and helps determine when you should be promoted or discharged. Having been in many difficult situations in Corporate America I learned the value of waiting to reply to a negative situation to gather my wits and maintain clear logic.

      The long-term payoff is often the result of better judgment without the emotional tirade.
      Linda H recently posted…What Do You Say When an Interviewer Asks — Why Should I Hire You?My Profile

  2. Angie J. says:

    Linda, excellent job on flipping that situation. It could’ve been a nightmare (I recently read a thing about a company who freaked out over bad reviews… and they are no longer in business) and you really did handle that well.

    That said, some people are absolutely impossible to please. Hopefully if you ever encounter one again, you’ll see it ahead of time. 😉

  3. Lem,

    I find in my specific business that emotions often run high with clients due to stress factors beyond my control. Recognizing this does help in handling escalations if they occur.

    However in any situation keeping your emotions in check and dealing with the facts removes blames and aids in resolving the issue. Accepting responsibility without pointing fingers will often place you in most positive light with other clients.
    Linda Hamilton recently posted…What Do You Say When an Interviewer Asks — Why Should I Hire You?My Profile

  4. Hi Linda,

    Great resolve! Smart idea to collect yourself before firing off a response, it can be quite difficult when we’re attacked personally and allowing emotions to blind us.

    Thanks for sharing this experience, it’s definitely helped put new light on previous client interactions that haven’t gone as well as I’d hoped. Glad to see you managed to turn it around.

    Best wishes,
    Jake.

  5. Lem Enrile says:

    That’s a very sad story. Glad that you made the negative situation turn into a positive light. Though I haven’t any experience like that, it feels so irritating on why there are people like those who make negative comments about somebody even without trying to know the real reasons behind it.
    Lem Enrile recently posted…List of Recommended Horror AnimeMy Profile

    • Linda H says:

      Lem,

      My colleagues and I find that people who tend to be negative are trying to lift themselves up usually because they have a control complex or simply don’t believe they have enough value to offer. Arrogance is sometimes a false face for something lacking.

      Staying positive and maintaining your own self-confidence results in you remaining professional in the midst of others who show their lack of tact and diplomacy. They hurt themselves.

      It’s sad, but it’s unfortunately too much a reality today.
      Linda H recently posted…What Do You Say When an Interviewer Asks — Why Should I Hire You?My Profile

  6. Elisha says:

    Awesome approach. Calm down of emotion and thinking out the positive approach not minding who’s fault works.

  7. Shahrukh says:

    Thanks for the advice, would love to read more from you.

  8. Thank you Rohi. Hope you never have to encounter this but if you do make the best of it and see what new adventures it will bring you.
    Linda Hamilton recently posted…What Do You Say When an Interviewer Asks — Why Should I Hire You?My Profile

  9. Shahrukh,

    Success is learning to fail forward (Mary Kay Ash). By keeping your wits and staying calm your mind connects with better options to deal with any stress factors and find creative solutions that build character.

    As Gregory Peck said in “The Big Country”, “I’m not responsible for what others think, only for who I am.”

    In a job situation managers are watching you, so how you deal with negativity, even from your supervisor, is observed. Many times I’ve seen individuals get promoted over their supervisors because they made better choices under pressure. If you keep your positive attitude moving forward, I’ve no doubt you’ll succeed.

    I’m sorry about your office experience but can so relate to when I worked in corporate America.
    Linda Hamilton recently posted…What Do You Say When an Interviewer Asks — Why Should I Hire You?My Profile

  10. So true, Lemuel. Treating each client with respect and doing your best in every situation projects your professionalism. You never know what struggles the client is facing, so staying calm and letting negativity bounce off is a hallmark in being your own boss, or even as an employee.
    Linda Hamilton recently posted…What Do You Say When an Interviewer Asks — Why Should I Hire You?My Profile

  11. Shahrukh says:

    I have also gone through a similar situation at workplace, but the problem was not a client but my supervisor. This person was blaming me for the overall flaws being done at a project. I also acted with patience but forgot to include necessary facts in my defense.

    I later on realized this point and how important a good p.r is for any individual. I fully agree with you Linda that we must not act in a panicked manner. I am hopeful that i will learn from my mistakes and make changes in my attitude. Your article makes me feel more human and realize that anyone can make similar mistakes.

    Anyways, it was a nice read. Keep posting 🙂
    Shahrukh recently posted…Freelance SEO Content WriterMy Profile

  12. Cherese Cobb says:

    Linda,
    I have not had any costumer complaints yet, but thanks to your post, I now have a few tools to deal with them.

    Thanks,
    Cherese

  13. As the saying goes, you cannot please everybody. There will always be people who are going to complain about your work. Never argue with the client because you will only get yourself stressed. You can defend yourself in an appropriate avenue. Be comforted with the fact that there are a good number of people who still believe in what you do.
    Lemuel Danilo recently posted…Prioritizing Job Descriptions in your ResumeMy Profile

  14. Gina,

    My first thought after reading his comment was “attitude is everything.” And attitude often drives control of any situation, especially a negative one.

    Responding to an issue with facts not emotion keeps it neutral. When I worked in a call center handling client escalations a key component for resolution was not to get hooked to that emotional factor. That attitude helps you stay in control of the situation to more quickly diffuse the issue in your favor.

    Like you, several colleagues have mentioned similar experiences. It’s unfortunate but knowing how to maintain calm amid chaos goes a lot farther with clients.
    Linda Hamilton recently posted…What Do You Say When an Interviewer Asks — Why Should I Hire You?My Profile

  15. Rohi says:

    Thanks a ton, Linda.

    Now I know exactly how to deal with undeserved criticism.
    And I loved this line:
    “How you react to a negative situation reflects on how you handle your business.”

    Kudos to you.
    Rohi recently posted…How James Chartrand Helped Me Publish 6 Kindle Books in 5 MonthsMy Profile

  16. Gina Horkey says:

    Linda,

    I love how you took a bad situation and made it better. I’ve had a couple instances where I’ve bit my tongue, taken a deep breath or two before I fired back an email.

    My first instinct would be of defense (and sending a clever insult or two as a reply), but after taking a breather and a step back I’ve been able to reply professionally and resolve the issue, rather than escalate it. Thanks so much for sharing your story!
    Gina Horkey recently posted…5 Things You Should Know Before Launching a New Freelance CareerMy Profile

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