No one likes to get negative reviews. They are bad for your online reputation and often drive potential customers and profit away. It may be tempting to ignore them or send a heated reply, but neither of these methods will get you anywhere.
One of the first things to understand in business is you cannot please everyone. The more business you do, the more customers you serve, the more likely you are to get an unhappy person at some point. The idea here is not to completely eradicate negative online reviews, it’s more about how you respond to them when they do happen.
How you respond to negative online reviews sets the tone for your whole business. People are watching what you say and will decide for themselves whether or not they should do business with you. If you have a blowout with an unhappy customer in front of everyone, they might decide to take their business elsewhere. In fact, if you handle the negative reviews very well, that can turn into a positive point for people to see you as a real business that works hard to make sure they do right by their customers.
You might not be able to please everyone, but you can try your best to please as many people as you can. Customer satisfaction is very important when it comes to your online reputation. If a lot of your customers aren’t satisfied with their experiences, expect to get tons of negative reviews on sites like Google, Facebook, and Yelp. The more customer issues you address and do your best to fix, the better your reputation will become.
The key to dealing with negative online reviews is to keep calm while acknowledging and apologizing for their experience, responding with sympathy and respect, and taking responsibility to make it right. People innately understand that there will be some completely unreasonable customers. That is beyond your control. How you respond to those people should display character and instill trust in others who are looking for you online.
The first thing you should do is acknowledge the review. It isn’t going anywhere and ignoring it will just make things worse. Your customers need to know that you care if they have an issue. They need to feel heard.
Let’s say a customer has had a bad experience at your business and has come online to complain. They have given you a 1-star review and left a long list of complaints. It seems as though everything that could have gone wrong, did.
You dread responding to this review and are tempted to ignore it. However, you know that not responding will leave a bad impression on the rest of your customers.
Your customers are human beings, right? And human beings are social by nature. Acknowledging their feelings with a reply helps to create a connection with that customer. Plus, as a bonus, when they see your reply, it creates another impression for your business.
Time is also of the essence. The quicker you respond to this review, the better. So, you go to the review and open it up to respond.
But what should you say?
Customers who leave heated complaints usually do so immediately after the experience. The customer may still feel angry about what happened, so apologizing should be at the top of your list. A simple apology may make the customer feel better and help them calm down.
You should also be sympathetic to your customer. Telling them you understand why they are upset will help them feel validated.
Let’s say a customer leaves an angry review over being mistreated by an employee. In this situation, you could say something like:
“(name of customer), I am so sorry that this happened to you. I understand how you must feel. We have all been in situations where someone at a business wasn’t thinking of our needs and best interests. We strive to make sure that all of our employees treat people how they want to be treated. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.”
Whether you respond as a single person or on behalf of the entire business is up to your discretion.
You should always take responsibility for your business or employees. Make sure you let them know that the situation will be dealt with and you will work with your team to change things.
Never start an argument online with a customer. Remember, others can see your interactions with them. It is important to take responsibility and be the bigger person when it comes to customer service because it reflects poorly on you and your business if you respond in the same nasty manner as a negative online review.
Always speak respectfully with customers, even if they do not. Stooping to their level, especially in front of everyone else online, can be catastrophic to your reputation. How you act when dealing with tough situations will show your customers who you really are.
Regarding the situation from earlier, you could continue your response with this:
“This type of behavior is against company policy as well as our values and it will not be tolerated. I will personally address this situation to help ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
If the conversation must continue, try to take it offline. You can offer your email or phone number to the customer so that the discussion can be continued out of the public light. Here, you can speak freely to the customer to help them with their problem while avoiding the attention of the masses.
The customer may want to continue airing their grievances, and it’s better for them to do this directly toward you instead of publicly. The key here is to turn a public conversation into a private one.
Depending on the platform, you could either exchange emails with the customer or directly message them if the review is on a social media site like Facebook or Twitter. Alternatively, many people feel more comfortable with a simple phone call.
“Please email me at (your email) with any other details or further concerns you may have so that I may handle this appropriately.”
“Please direct message me with any other details or further concerns you may have so that I may handle this appropriately."
“Please call me at (your phone number) with any other details or further concerns you may have so that I may handle this appropriately.”
The last thing you should respond with is an offer to make it right with the customer. This can be done in several ways, such as a coupon, refund, or free sample. Of course, depending on the type of business you have and the specific situation, these can vary.
Most customers will appreciate that you took the time to respond to their reviews fairly and kindly. After you have helped them, you may want to request that they either take down their negative review or even better, change it to a positive one.
When a negative review is changed to a positive one, other customers will be able to see that you helped a customer with their issue and didn’t ignore them. This will paint you in a better light and customers will be more likely to trust that if they have a problem, you will help to fix it.
“Thanks for bringing this to my attention (their name). I really appreciate your feedback. On behalf of the company, please accept this (offer).”
Sometimes, you will come across reviews that are illegitimate. These can include internet trolls and people who leave unreasonable reviews. These types of reviewers will not be satisfied with anything you have to say.
Trolls have most likely never visited your business and are not customers. They are only leaving negative reviews to mess with people. For example, someone could leave a review of a restaurant talking about a horrible experience they had, but they’ve never actually been to the restaurant.
In most cases, illegitimate reviews can be requested to be taken down as long as they meet certain criteria. Each website has its own rules on what can and can’t be taken down. For example, Google Support has a detailed list of content they do not allow users to post.
Google does not allow the following:
Spam and fake content
Sexually explicit content
Dangerous and derogatory content
Conflict of interest
Other websites have similar rules on posting, with differences here and there. Make sure to brush up on the specific rules of content posting before you report a negative online review. But, if these types of posts are not allowed, you may be able to have them removed easily.
Until and unless that review is removed, you could add a note similar to:
“Thank you so much (name) for bringing this to my attention. I am having trouble finding you in our system and cannot see that you have actually done business with us. I would be happy to help resolve this issue and would love to hear any additional feedback you have about our services. You can call me at (your phone) to help me with a better understanding of the issue and how we can resolve it for you.”
Unlike trolls, who leave illegitimate reviews, people who leave unreasonable reviews most likely are customers. However, they are only complaining based on their personal preferences that have nothing to do with the quality of the product or the service they received. Reviews like this often complain about the price of items they purchased or interactions that were blown out of proportion.
These types of reviewers, if not able to be reasoned with, must simply be tolerated. Unless they break the rules of whatever platform the review is on, people are allowed to post their opinions, no matter how unreasonable.
Negative reviews can easily make you feel overwhelmed, but by staying calm, being respectful, and talking it out, you might be able to flip the switch from negative to positive.
Don’t be afraid of negative reviews, as they have some benefit to your business in providing feedback as well as authenticity. In fact, according to CallSource.com, research shows that "businesses whose reviews are 15-20% negative earn 13% more in annual revenue than businesses whose are 5-10% negative, and businesses with a rating between 3.5 and 4.5 stars earn more revenue than any other rating." The truth is that people are more likely to leave negative reviews than positive ones. With a little customer service, you can help reviewers with their issues and improve their experience with your business.
How you respond to negative online reviews defines who you are in the eyes of your customers. You can drive your business forward by being attentive and responsive to both your positive and negative reviews.
Learn more about how negative reviews affect your business reputation online by reading our other article.