How to Respond to Negative Reviews Online

How to Respond to Negative Reviews Online

Nobody likes to get a bad online review. As a business owner or employee, when you see a bad review about your business, your first reaction might be to take the reviewer’s comment and low-star rating as a personal insult. That’s why it’s so important to learn how to respond to negative reviews.

Taking it personally isn’t the best way to deal with them, and getting upset or angry isn’t going to solve your problem. Not only do you have a dissatisfied customer, but you also have one who has publicly put their bad experience with your company online for the whole world to see.

57% of consumers will only use a business if it has 4 or more stars, so it’s more critical than ever to ensure that your online reputation is a shining representation of your business and that negative reviews are kept to a minimum.

After reading this article, should worst comes to worst and you do receive a less-than-glowing review, you’ll know exactly how to respond to negative reviews successfully.

The 10 Steps to Respond to Negative Reviews

Here are some tips on how to respond to negative reviews online, and hopefully turn an unhappy customer into someone who might even be willing to go back online and change their bad review into a good one.

1. Keep calm and take a breath

When you see a bad review about your company, the first thing you should do is stop, take a breath, and think.

Don’t hastily respond to the ticked-off customer without thinking things through first. If you need to step away from your computer and walk around the block, do that. Anything to settle your emotions down. Never respond when you’re angry.

When you reply to a person who’s had a bad experience with your company, it helps to have a set of standard review responses that you can use to respond. These “canned” responses will give you a starting point when you write a response to the reviewer.

Now, don’t re-use the same responses over and over, but having a starting point – especially if you’re upset – can help a lot. Take a canned response and customize your response for each individual reviewer’s feedback.

2. You must respond to the negative review

If you think you can ignore a low-rated review, you’re wrong. Not responding to a negative review is responding. It’s telling everyone that sees the bad review that you don’t care about your customers’ feedback or experiences.

Responding to complaints can help increase customer advocacy. Not responding to a negative online review decreases customer advocacy.

Often a grumpy customer just wants to be heard. If you show that customer that you’ve heard what they had to say and that you’re happy to resolve the issue, sometimes that’s enough to appease them. Replying to and resolving the issue quickly and in one “transaction” is important (known as “first contact resolution.”) Customers who receive a successful first-contact problem resolution are twice as likely to buy from you again.

70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated, so make sure all your customers feel loved – even the unhappy ones.

Responding to negative reviews also makes you stand out from your competitors. A lot of your competitors still won’t be paying attention to reviews, so customers (and potential customers) will remember the companies that do pay attention to what their customers think. That means they’ll remember you.

3. Resolve the issue

Don’t just respond to the negative reviewer; fix the problem, too. In some cases, depending on the situation, it may mean asking the customer to contact you by phone or to stop by your place of business so you can discuss the issue/problem in person.

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When you show you’re actively trying to fix the problem, that shows the customer (and others) that you truly want to solve the issue. With trust in reviews as high as it is, going the extra mile is important. Not only does fixing the issue make that customer happier, but other potential customers will see how important satisfying your customers is to your business.

4. Get a second opinion

When you’re responding to any type of review, good or bad, it’s best to let an impartial third-party read your response before you post it online. Ask a friend, family member or co-worker to double-check your reply for message and tone to make sure it reads well to a third-party.

You know your business better than anyone, so if there’s some complex process you need to explain, it could be that feedback from the uninitiated will be what makes your response easier to understand.

5. Look at the positive in the negative

If you get a bad review, really look at and carefully consider what the person wrote. Were they unhappy with a staff member? Did they have a bad experience at your location? Did your product/service not work like they expected? If you evaluate what the customer has said, you may discover bigger issues that you need to work on at your company.

When you get a bad review, take this opportunity to get insights into what your company might be doing wrong. You may discover ways to improve your business, so always try to look at hidden opportunities lying withing a negative review.

6. Consider the type of reviewer you’re dealing with

Obviously everyone is different, but there are a handful of types of reviewer which most people fall into.

Taking these into consideration and using our tips on the different reviewer types, such as sharpshooters, first-timers, and serial complainers will ensure you make the response process faster and more effective.

7. Take the debate offline

Let’s face it. Few people like to pick up the phone and call businesses any more. According to Harris Interactive, 75% of customers believe it takes too long to reach a live agent on the phone. That means more and more people are using social media and review sites to get customer service and voice their opinions. When online, customers expect an almost instantaneous response. And some of these people like this very public forum, because it gets attention.

If you’ve received a negative review, remember that everything you say to that reviewer is out in the public for all to see. That means you don’t want to do battle with that customer online.

The best way to handle these attention-seeking people is to take the discussion offline as soon as possible. Simply let the customer know you heard them and then ask them to call you personally so you can resolve the matter. Even if the person doesn’t call you back, anyone that sees that review discussion will at least see that you tried to rectify the situation. That goes a long way toward building trust with future customers.

But that doesn’t mean to publicly ignore a complaint. Remember that responses to reviews (or, a lack of these!) are visible to potential customers, who could be discouraged from choosing your services if they think you’re the sort of business that ignores their customers. Once the debate is over, write a polite follow up explaining your side of the story, and the actions you took to help this customer have a better experience.

8. Ask for a do-over

If you’ve worked closely with an unhappy customer to remedy the situation, there’s nothing wrong with politely asking them to update/change their review to reflect that the situation has been resolved.

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If you can turn a bad review into a great review – you’ve won!

9. Get more positive reviews to push down the negative reviews

If you get a bad review about your business, you want to try and get a few more positive reviews to help “push down” that negative review.

You won’t even need that many. Our research shows that the vast majority of people read an average of 10 reviews before they make a decision to use a business. With reviews often ordered chronologically, if you keep a steady flow of positive reviews coming in you should soon see those negative reviews move out of the field of influence.

To get more positive reviews, make it easy for happy customers to leave reviews about your business. Use a review generation tool to build more positive reviews and develop an exceptional and trustworthy online presence.

10. Monitor reviews closely

It’s important that you know what customers are saying about your business online. Did someone leave a bad review about your company? Do you have 5-star reviews? What review sites do your customers use to leave reviews about you? Does a review look fakeShould it be removed?

Use a review monitoring tool, such as BrightLocal’s Reputation Manager, to see what your customers are saying about your business on the top online review sites, and respond to reviews quickly – before they have a chance to impact the opinions of prospective customers.

This will help you keep tabs on what your customers are saying about you online. You want to know about the good and bad reviews and respond to all reviews as soon as you can.

What do you think?

Do you now know hot to respond to negative reviews about your business? What tool are you using to monitor your online reviews? How do you deal with unhappy customers? Let us know in the comments below.

Sherry Bonelli
About the author
Sherry Bonelli
Sherry is the former Local Search Evangelist at BrightLocal. She led BrightLocal's Research and Content programs and championed the needs of their SEO Agency and SMB customers. Having worked in digital marketing since 1998, Sherry has a Master’s Degree in Internet Marketing along with numerous digital marketing certifications.

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