Online reviews are the lifeblood of every business today. They can make or break your business. Eventually, your business will likely run into getting its first negative review. That’s when it’s time to figure out how you’re going to respond because a response is absolutely necessary.

This article will help you understand the importance of responding to negative reviews. There are 13 tips that will help you strategize and understand how you should respond to negative reviews before the time comes.

It’s best to prepare and understand all these tips before you actually have to use them. Otherwise, you risk missing one or making a hasty decision to respond too quickly with a poor response. Once you respond then you can’t take it back without looking a bit flippant.

Before we get into the all important tips, you need to understand overall why reviews are essential to your business online.

Why Reviews Are Essential To Your Business Succeeding Online

Reviews have been a part of the online business landscape for quite some time. Whether you’re buying products online or deciding to use a service, reviews can be helpful in making your decision easier.

Moreover, they can make an impression on your potential customers, which is important because, according to online review statistics, 97% of people say reviews impact their decisions. In fact, 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

But reviews are not just a way to gain trust from your customers. They can also help you sell more products or services in the long run. There are many ways to increase your online business by getting reviews online and even benefiting from negative online reviews if they do happen.

Almost 70% of people say they trust what others have said about them via social media over any other form of information source!

Online reviews are the ultimate social proof for businesses. If you’re not familiar with social proof in general terms, it’s the idea that people will want to do business with those that others are doing business with.

You see, people are social creatures, and we take our cues from others whether we think we’re independent thinkers or not. Even the most independent and unique person in the world still wants and needs acceptance from others. So, people just want to do business with someone they feel they can trust. Part of that trust comes from whether others also like them.

It’s why the majority of people choose a bank based on their experiences and recommendations from other customers. We are flocking creatures, and we want to do what others are doing. Reviews are social proof in that they tell potential customers that others trust and like your business. 

What Impact Can Negative Online Reviews Have On A Business?

Most people hate to see their favorite brands criticized, especially on social media. We want our companies and products to be perfect, or at least as close as possible. The trouble is that perfection doesn’t exist; sometimes things just don’t work out the way we planned. But even when a negative review has its basis in an honest mistake or misunderstanding, it can still have consequences for your business.

This is especially true because reviews are now more public than they’ve ever been. The public nature of current review methods means they have more of an impact than ever before. In the old days, reviews were simply word of mouth and never permanent. The most permanent review was perhaps a complaint to the BBB or local commerce department. Those weren’t easy to access and customers weren’t typically seeking them out.

Today, reviews are online, visible to everyone, and nearly permanent.

Just 53% of people would consider using a business with fewer than 4 stars, according to BrightLocal. A single one-star review often leads potential customers away from a product or service because they assume that there are more negative reviews elsewhere on the web (there may or may not be). In fact, only 3% of consumers will consider using a company with 1-2 stars, according to a BrightLocal survey, while over 50 percent will consider using a 4-5 star rated company.

Negative reviews aren’t a death sentence for your business, though!

In fact, people tend to think a business with a perfect 5-start rating must have a lot of fake reviews. Those with an average of between 4 and 4.5 look much more realistic because people understand nothing is perfect, even subconsciously.

So, don’t fret if you receive a 3-star review or 4-star review. What you should be concerned about are the 1 and 2-star reviews. They also aren’t a death sentence, but you do need to address these negative reviews positively.

To minimize the negative effect of these customer service lapses, you should respond to them in a careful and planned way. A quality response will gain your business some authenticity in return if you respond thoughtfully and professionally to every negative comment made about your brand online.

Why do people write negative reviews?

People write negative reviews for many reasons. Some people who wrote a negative review had unrealistic expectations of the product, service, or experience they received. They were upset because their expectations weren’t met, but others have been satisfied with what they experienced and have nothing bad to say about the business.

There was also sometimes a disconnect between their perception of your business and what you offer. You might not be meeting the customer’s needs even though you think that everything is okay.

A few customers might have written an overly negative review as an act of vengeance; perhaps there was some sort of miscommunication either before or during the interaction that contributed to them feeling mistreated by your company in some way (for example, if they felt like they weren’t treated with respect).

Others may simply be trying to get attention from other potential customers by casually dropping in information about how terrible their experience has been at your establishment.

Whatever the reason someone wrote your business a negative review, it’s your job to respond with a level head and make it better. Or, at the very least clarify for potential customers the issue and how you’re resolving it.

Why Responding To Negative Reviews Helps Your Company

When a customer has a bad experience with your company, how you respond can make all the difference. A negative review on your business’s Facebook page or Yelp profile could lead to more lost customers and fewer repeat visitors. But there’s no reason to panic, online reviews don’t have to be the end of the world for your brand.

Responding appropriately is one way businesses can turn what might otherwise be an upsetting situation into something positive that strengthens their reputation and builds customer loyalty over time. The trick is not just responding but doing it in a way that actually benefits both you and the reviewer as well as anyone else who sees it online.

Potential customers read through online reviews before deciding whether they want to do business with you. By being proactive instead of reactive when dealing with criticism, you take back control of managing your brand’s image.

Instead of the negative review dictating how people see your business, it becomes more about how you responded to that negative review. If you respond inappropriately to a negative review, then you will chase away potential customers. If you respond well and resolve the issue appropriately and positively, then you may actually gain more customers than if you had never received a negative review in the first place!

Unhappy customers are an opportunity for your business as long as you find the path to proper response.

Tips To Help You Respond to Negative Reviews Effectively

The Internet is full of people who enjoy nothing more than ripping apart others work and putting them down. While it can be hard to see your business name next to a negative review, it’s important that you don’t take the criticism personally.

Responding negatively will not only encourage further attacks, but may also cause your customers and potential future clients to have second thoughts about doing business with you. If you find yourself becoming upset because of a review, then you know you need to take a step back and first learn how to respond properly to negative reviews.

These steps will show others that you value ALL customers enough for their feedback and opinions to be responded to in a reasonable and constructive manner. These steps will help you turn negative reviews into an excellent customer service experience that may even rival the importance of your positive reviews.

Just remember, negative feedback is a blessing in disguise. Treat it as such by responding to every bad review and turning a negative experience into a positive.

Tip 1: Respond in a Timely Manner

A survey by ReviewTrackers found that 53% of customers expect that businesses respond within a week while 33% expect a response in less than 3 days!

That’s quite the expectation for business owners and executives who may be busy managing many other aspects of their business. While responding in a timely manner is important, it can also take quite the effort to respond to all reviews and negative reviews too.

But, bad reviews should be your focus to respond to them in a timely manner. While you don’t want to hastily respond, you also don’t want to wait too long. It’s a fine balance between the two. Even with the pressure of a quick response, being too quick risks that your response is emotional and hasty even if you think it’s not.

So, make sure you understand there is a time requirement for how soon you should respond, but also keep reading these tips to understand other important factors in responding to negative reviews.

Tip 2: Don’t Take the Negative Reviews Too Personally

It’s hard, I know. But, when someone leaves your business a negative review, it’s not about you. At least not likely unless you actually did something malicious to the customer but let’s just assume you did your best and thought the service was amazing.

Negative reviews are a part of life for most businesses, and some even embrace them as an opportunity to connect with their customers on a personal level. Even though negative feedback can be discouraging at first, using it as an opportunity to learn about how you can improve your business will benefit both you and your customers over time.

So don’t take it personally! Instead, understand that the person who wrote the review is just a person like everyone else who reads it. They had an expectation or hope, and they felt it wasn’t met. That’s okay, and it’s a great opportunity for you to make it better and provide exceptional customer service.

Chances are good they’re not talking directly to you. They might just have had a bad day or experience that prompted them to write something that could help other readers avoid making similar mistakes they did.

It’s your job to help resolve their issue, so they no longer see their purchase or service as a mistake. By not taking the negative review personally it will help you respond better.

Tip 3: Address the Reviewer

In the event of a negative review, you want to make sure that your business is perceived in a positive light. You can do this by taking responsibility and showing empathy for the customer’s experience. Address what went wrong and how you plan on making it right.

This will help you show customers that although problems are inevitable, they don’t have to become dealbreakers. Even if there isn’t much you can do about an issue (as with some service-related complaints), be sure to respond quickly and courteously so as not to leave the impression that poor customer service is okay with your business.

In addition, by addressing the reviewer, taking responsibility for problems, and showing empathy for the customer’s experience, you will be more likely to ensure that future customers don’t necessarily take their business elsewhere. They’ll understand that you see the bad experience, have acknowledged it, and take it seriously that you don’t want it to happen again.

Tip 4: Say Thank You

When someone leaves you a bad review, they’re doing you a favor because they’re directly telling you how you can improve your product or service. Feedback is hard to come by sometimes, but even if it is negative, the customer has done you a favor by giving you feedback.

That’s why it’s important to thank them even for a negative review. They’ve taken the time to provide you feedback without you even having to ask or provide incentive for doing so. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean incentives are off the table for you. Even after apologizing, it’s still important to rectify the issue and that might mean giving them a reason to give you a second chance.

Your thank you might be as simple as this:

“thank you for letting us know about the poor service (fill in whatever was wrong and the reason why they’re leaving a negative review) you received, we take your feedback seriously and would like to work with you to resolve the issue.”

It could be as simple as that to defuse the situation and get the customer to open up and allow you to resolve the issue.

Tip 5: Apologize and Sympathize

When a customer becomes frustrated, they sometimes react. The problem is that most companies don’t have a plan for the reaction because it rarely happens. They also think that saying “sorry” will make things better.

So, when the review comes in about the cashier taking too long, or the oil stain left from an in-home service, they say sorry and move on without any further follow-up or action. Even if what happened was an uncommon instance or an isolated case, it can derail a business rating online for years to come.

That’s why it’s essential to go beyond saying thank you and then sorry. You have to actually put yourself in the customer’s shoes and sympathizing with them. Apologize and then acknowledge that the issue would be frustrating and why.

“I can understand why you would be frustrated with the delay in your appointment… It seems we had some miscommunication with our service technician, and they didn’t show up as promised.. We are going to fix this right away and get someone over as soon as you have availability… Please let me know a specific day and time, and we’ll be sure to be there!”

It can be something as simple as that to apologize, sympathize, and resolve the issue for future customers to see.

Tip 6: Take Responsibility

We should learn from all feedback, whether negative feedback or positive feedback, and use it to make things better. That means you should start by taking responsibility and owning the mistake.

You’ve heard that the customer is always right, right?

Well, that’s completely wrong in many circumstances, but it doesn’t really matter. Even if the customer is wrong, calling them out on it won’t ever help anything. That’s why even though the statement is not true, we have to pretend and act like it’s true.

No matter if the customer is wrong, we have to take responsibility as if they are right. When responding to negative feedback it’s crucial that we take responsibility for our actions or omissions as this demonstrates empathy towards customers, builds trust and shows them we are willing to go above and beyond.

Use phrases like “I’m sorry…” or “We apologize…” when needed but don’t overuse them as they lack sincerity if said too frequently. Always remember: the goal of handling negative feedback isn’t just crisis management, it’s also about preventing future crises and improving your products and/or services.

Tip 7: Make Things Right

If you can’t do anything to fix a problem, explain why. If the issue was beyond your control, apologize and offer an explanation. That should be an exception that rarely if ever happens, though. There should almost always be a way to make things right even if it costs you more than you made.

Sometimes you have to take a hit to properly resolve an issue. As long as it’s a one time hit in order to prevent a larger loss of business down the road, it’s worth it.

If an appointment was missed, for example, you can at least begin to improve things with a simple conversation such as: “We’re sorry that we were unable to resolve this situation in a more timely manner. We had hoped to resolve it by [date] but unfortunately [reason for delay], so I understand how frustrating that must have been for you.

You can also make them a priority the next time if they slipped through the cracks the first time.  You have high expectations for your business, so make sure in addition to making it right, you use language that tells customers about your high expectations, that you provide excellent customer service.

People who feel heard are happier than those who feel ignored. Those who feel heard AND have their issue resolved feel even happier!

Tip 8: Keep It Short

While it’s tempting to try and explain in great detail why you think the review is unfair or inaccurate, that won’t help you at all. Most people won’t read your response if it goes on for more than a couple sentences. Second, by trying to defend yourself too much, you come off as desperate or defensive. Third, any explanation of yours doesn’t change the fact that your customer was unhappy. You can’t “explain away” bad reviews with a longer response.

The bottom line is that responding at length does nothing but make things worse or gets you ignored. Not only that but your response won’t help convince potential customers that you resolved the issue and are actually a good choice, they simply won’t read what you wrote at all!

Tip 9: Take If Offline After Resolved

Don’t just take the issue offline to stop the bleeding and prevent any more public humiliation. You need to resolve it completely online and visibly as a response to the review. You want potential customers to see that you resolved it positively.

You should take it offline only when the issue is mostly resolved, and you need to take care of finer details that could contain personal details, or you need to provide that personal last touch.

By simply trying to take it offline while providing absolutely no substance, will harm you more than help. Taking it offline isn’t beneficial to the customer if you’re not providing excellent customer service in the response.

In addition, trying to take it offline but then not even answering when someone reaches out is even worse, as you can see here.

A Google review gone wrong by trying to take it offline without providing a resolution then not responding.

You have to assume the review won’t come down and that you can’t resolve it to the point the customer will remove it or change it. Sometimes you will, but assume you will not, because it could stay up forever, and you want to turn it as positive as possible.

It may be as simple as signing off your response by asking them to contact you with a phone number and email address. Just be sure you do more to resolve the issue than just try to take it offline. Nothing looks more disingenuous than that.

Tip 10: Ask For A Second Chance

Try asking for a second chance by going above and beyond what they’re expecting from you. Say something like this: “Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. We want every customer to have an extraordinary experience that exceeds their expectations. I am very sorry we failed to meet your expectations today” and then offer them the opportunity to give you a second chance.

If you truly believe this was a one-off experience and want to make it better, you shouldn’t have a problem offering the product or service better. If it’s a product that you can’t make better, offer a full refund. If it’s a service, correct the issue or do it again.

At a restaurant, the expectation should be that if the service wasn’t up to part then a coupon should be offered. If one meal was terrible and the customer left a review online, give them a coupon for a free meal.

Always give the customer a reason to give you a second chance. A coupon, refund, or a VIP experience for free are a few things you can do to earn a second chance. If you can make things better the second time around, the bad review will all of a sudden turn into a positive review.

Even if the customer doesn’t update the review, the fact that you offered it publicly in response to the review speaks volumes!

Tip 11: Ownership Of The Process

This may not apply to you if you’re a small business and the only employee. For any company that has multiple locations, figuring out who owns the review response process is essential. You can’t leave these things up to chance.

Figure out who’s going to be the face of your company. This person should have a firm grasp of how each review site works and also be aware of any restrictions you may want to put into place (for example, not responding to customer reviews that are less than three months old).

When it comes time for you or someone else at your company to actually respond, having consistency will lead to an overall better strategy.

Tip 12: Create a Review Response Policy

People come and go from companies. Therefore, while you should have an owner of responding to reviews, including negative reviews, you should also have a written policy. It doesn’t have to cover absolutely every detail, but it should at least set the stage for consistent review responses.

It’s also a good idea if you operate a business with multiple locations. If you do, chances are more than one person will be assigned to respond directly to online reviews. An organization-wide policy will help guide your company on how to respond to negative reviews as well as positive ones.

Your policy should cover things like what language and tone you should use, what the timeline is for getting back to customers is, with whom the reviews will be shared in your organization, when escalations become necessary, what the ideal response rate is and other items that may affect how your company handles reviews.

The goal of such a review response policy is not only customer satisfaction but also improving brand image through building good relationships with customers by providing quality services or products.

Tip 13: Use A Negative Review Resolution As A Testimonial

Document the process of resolving a negative review by taking screenshots or documenting the text. If you can resolve the issue and turn a 1-star review into a 5-star review, then that makes a great testimonial.

It acknowledges that you’re a real company that makes real mistakes. But it also shows that you make a real effort to resolve those mistakes and provide exceptional customer service. Showing that on your website or as a social media post is great social proof that you really do care and do everything to show it.

Don’t Respond Simply For The Sake of Responding

This applies to all reviews, not just negative reviews. Not every review requires a response and, in fact, some do not. Negative reviews always require a response as long as there is content in the review to respond to.

If there’s no information in a review then you can’t properly resolve it, the most you can do is ask for more clarification in the view, so you can hopefully gain a path to resolve it. If you respond to all reviews whether there’s content to respond to or not you may look disingenuous.

Real caring and real steps to a resolution are the only way you can resolve a negative review.

Respond To All Reviews

You don’t just want to focus on the negative. Responding to all reviews of substance, even if your response is a simple thank you, shows that you care. Of course, there are some exceptions to responding to all reviews which are covered next.

If you want to learn more about all the subtleties of responding to all reviews, then we do have an entire article answering the question about whether you should respond to all reviews, good or bad, or not.

By not responding, you will risk appearing to take satisfied customers for granted. By responding to reviews you’re also adding more content and terminology into your reviews. That’s why it’s helpful to reiterate and reinforce the main message of the review. It shows that you are appreciative and also reinforces the details of the review in your profile.

You can simplify responding to all reviews by using a local marketing management tool like Loclmark or you can even hire companies like Professional Review Response to respond the right way for you. Your path to responding to all reviews effectively, especially negative reviews, is up to you.

Exceptions To Responding To All Reviews

If you receive a large volume of reviews, your business might consider not responding to every review. For example, if you’re a small business that receives 10-15 reviews per month on Yelp and those reviews are all ratings only or very short, it may be best to prioritize the more detailed feedback in order to provide as helpful an answer as possible within the constraints of time.

If you’re consistently receiving dozens or hundreds of positive reviews across multiple sites like Facebook, Google, and Yelp (and other local review sites), your reputation is probably pretty solid. In this case, you can focus on maintaining high quality customer service with well managed social media accounts instead of worrying about responding to every individual review.

When deciding which specific comments get a response from your business online, choose detailed responses that lend themselves to informative content by focusing on quality rather than quantity.

There are ways to make it easier to respond to reviews. You can use the review response section in Loclmark to quickly respond to all reviews from multiple different sources. It’s helpful to use a local marketing automation tool to manage more than just reviews.

Loclmark quick review response

This is a great way to not only get more reviews but manage your current reviews by seeing an overview and responding quickly to all reviews.

Prioritize The Review Sites That Matter to Your Industry

While reviews on popular sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google are important for most businesses, the type of business you run may affect which review websites matter to your bottom line. For example, restaurants benefit from responding to feedback on sites such as Facebook and Zomato in addition to getting their share of star ratings on sites like Yelp.

Most local businesses will have a presence on more than one review site. However, it makes sense for certain types of businesses to focus their efforts more heavily in one direction or another based on how those customers tend to leave reviews. For instance, local services such as plumbers or auto repair shops might want to put their effort into beefing up reviews at Angie’s List and Google.

Retail stores could put extra effort into driving traffic toward store-specific sales pages on Amazon or other major online retailers that rank higher in search results. Do your homework and become familiar with the most popular locations where consumers typically leave feedback in your industry.

Prioritizing review sites for your specific industry and location is important. It will help you guide new reviews to the right spot in order to maximize your ranking in search engines and the business you get.

Conclusion

When it comes to customer service, the saying “The customer is always right” isn’t exactly true. Online reviews can be an excellent way for your customers to tell others about their experiences with your company, but sometimes even positive reviews can contain criticism that you need to respond to.

It’s important not only that you listen and respond effectively when someone leaves a review online, but also how you present yourself in those responses will determine how potential customers perceive your brand in the future.

Since online reviews stick around forever, you can’t just ignore them. Consumers say they are more likely to buy from a business they find helpful and friendly. Businesses with negative reviews with no response aren’t seen as helpful and friendly. If anything, they’re seen as neglectful.

This means that if there’s something negative posted about your company online, responding with professionalism and kindness might turn disgruntled customers into potential advocates for your brand instead of turning them away completely.

Responding to all bad reviews is important, but having a more holistic review management strategy is also important. You need to get reviews consistently, respond to most if not all of them, and keep tabs on the overall sentiment of your business online. The only way to do that effectively is with a good local marketing automation tool. It will help manage many of these processes, making it possible for you to do them all with limited time.

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