Has your financial firm every had a negative review? Perhaps a past client left a scathing comment on your business’s Facebook wall, or someone wrote a damning assessment of your service on Google Reviews. It can leave you shaken, often confused and wondering what to do next (or if you should do anything at all).

There are a few things to recognise from the outset that can help you deal with negative reviews in your financial marketing. First of all, it’s important to acknowledge that, given enough time, most businesses will get a review like this. Even the best companies and products eventually attract criticism. In other words, there is nothing strange about what’s happened to you.

Secondly, it’s important to note that a negative review is not inconsequential. Sometimes, our marketing team here at CreativeAdviser stumble across a financial planner’s Google My Business profile and see a 1-star reviews, many months old, which have not been answered. This reflects poorly on the financial planner, since the audience is left to conclude one of two things. Either the business is unaware of the negative review, or they feel it is beneath them/unimportant to merit an answer.


Dealing with the emotions involved

Waking up to a negative review on Facebook, Google, TrustPilot or another platform can feel like a punch in the stomach. Yet it’s crucial that you do not react impulsively. As tempting as it might be to immediately write an emotional response (“how could you say this?”, or “this is completely groundless”), instead take some time to breathe in slowly.

If it helps, you could write down your emotional response on a piece of paper or .txt file. For some people, this can allow you to process what you’re feeling in a safe manner, without exposing your raw frustrations to the wider world. Quite often, writing your thoughts like this can be calming and bring more clarity to how you can respond professionally and productively.


Accepting criticism

Sometimes negative reviews are completely ridiculous and can be fairly labelled as slander. Other times, the client or prospect may, indeed, have a point and it’s important to not dismiss this possibility out of hand. Once your head has cleared a bit from the initial shock of reading the review, ask yourself: “Is any of this fair and legitimate criticism?”

For instance, could the reviewer have a point about your slow response times to emails or your frequent “out of office” automated replies which give the impression that you are often absent? Has your company been quick to solve problems raised by a client, or are they generally deflected or given glib reassurances which are not followed through?

Sometimes you can come to a decision on these sorts of questions yourself. However, quite often it can help to consult members of your team to ask them if they feel the criticisms are reasonable. This can then bring clarity about how to deal with the review.

For instance, if the client’s criticism is fair, then perhaps the public review can be responded to along the lines of: “Thank you for your feedback X. We are sorry to hear this and would love the opportunity to address the concerns you have. Please check your inbox for the email we have just sent you to arrange a suitable time to discuss this together.


Don’t hide

Many financial advisers and planners like the idea of gathering Google Reviews for their business – until they are faced with a negative review. Indeed, sometimes here at CreativeAdviser we have seen businesses want to go as far as closing down their Google My Business accounts to try and “hide” the one negative review they have received, and prevent the possibility of future ones.

This is a bad idea. In today’s digital age, people typically now expect businesses to have a presence online and to display honest reviews from their consumers. Whether it’s a product on Amazon or a pension service offered by a financial adviser, people will be suspicious if they cannot see feedback from those who have tried and tested what’s on offer.


Seize the opportunity

It is often tempting to see the emergence of a negative review simply as a disaster. Yet there are usually marketing opportunities to seize if you look carefully. For instance, this could present a chance for you to increase the trust and credibility of your brand.

How is this possible? Consider the reviews you may have seen for an Amazon product. How do you feel when there are only a few 5-star reviews, and no 1-3 star reviews? Interestingly, the effect is not usually to increase trust in the product. Instead, people get suspicious because we intuitively know that even the best things attract criticism.

As such, having a few negative reviews here and there could actually work in your favour if you respond to them correctly. If people only have positive things to say about you, it starts to look like you’ve just asked people who like you (e.g. friends and family) to review your business! That doesn’t inspire trust from the wider market.


Respond. Don’t ignore

There are many natural human reactions to criticism. One is to react defensively, whilst another is to simply ignore it. When it comes to reviews of your financial services business, neither of these options is particularly wise. It’s important that you respond appropriately, as this shows that you care about your customers and also about the perception of your brand.

Here are some general ideas about how you could respond:

  • Be polite, professional and respectful.
  • Put yourself in the shoes of an impartial observer of the conversation. If the reviewer comes across as emotional, disrespectful or even hysterical whilst you appear professional, attentive and polite, whose story do you think they will be more inclined to believe?
  • Address the criticisms head-on, but be careful about hanging out dirty laundry in public. If possible, try to encourage a private conversation with the reviewer to address their comments.
  • Thank the reviewer. This might go against your instincts, but it is polite and it is helpful to know what your costumers are thinking rather than be unaware.


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