Responding to a Negative Review: Do’s & Don’ts

June 15, 2016


Negative reviews. No one likes them, but they can cause serious damage to your business if you don’t respond appropriately. In a 2016 survey, 80% of consumers said they trust reviews as much as personal recommendations, so how should you react if you get a poor review? Here are a few do’s and don’ts to help you turn a negative review into a winning marketing effort:  


1. Don’t ignore it

If you don’t respond at all, it might seem like you simply don’t care. If prospective customers see a negative review that isn’t acknowledged by the business, they may assume this is the standard of your customer satisfaction. Every public move you make, or do not make, is a reflection of your business, leaving a negative or positive impression on prospective customers.


2. Don’t take it personally

As the business owner, you might feel responsible for everything that happens at your business but keep in mind the reviewer probably didn’t mean to make you feel personally attacked. Letting every harsh word hit you in the gut is a fast way to make your confidence crumble and lead to less than ideal responses. The worst thing to do is to reply in the heat of the moment when you are feeling emotional about a negative review. Take a moment to cool down and re-assess the situation objectively before making a response. That said, you should always respond in a timely manner to minimize damage to your reputation.


3. Do analyze the complaint

Research the issue. Talk to the people mentioned in the review, and ask for their take on the situation. Look closely for issues you can explain, or causes for the complaint, so you’ll have something to discuss in your response. Check all social media channels and review sites to see if the same review was posted elsewhere. If it was cross-posted on multiple sites, reply accordingly so you’re responding to each review and salvaging your reputation on each website.


4. Do correct inaccurate information

Most reviews are inherently subjective, and you can’t correct an opinion. But if someone accuses your business of something factually incorrect, make sure that information is corrected publicly. If the review is slanderous, untrue or fraudulent, you may request the review site to have the review removed. Each site has their own terms and conditions for what constitutes a valid review but if you have reason to believe that the review came from a competitor and not an actual guest, it doesn’t hurt to make a request.


5. Do show empathy

Start with an apology for bad experiences but note the difference between: “I’m sorry we made a mistake” and “I’m sorry you feel that way”. Both carry an apologetic tone but the former shows you admit your business made a mistake which caused your customer’s bad experience while the latter means you feel sorry that your customer didn’t enjoy his or her visit even though it was not your fault. Even if what went wrong was out of your hands, apologize anyway – blaming others (especially the guest who wrote the review) will make you look unprofessional. Also, make sure your responses are personal and customized. When someone is upset, they want to feel like they are being heard and understood. Crafting a personal and thoughtful response shows your customer that his or her opinion is heard and valued. This makes it easier for the conflict to be resolved and shows your prospective customers that your business cares about each customer.


6. Don’t offer free things publicly

It’s a good idea to make up for someone’s bad experience by offering them something complimentary and inviting them back to give your business a second chance, but don’t offer it publicly. If you offer free things publicly, some people may write negative reviews on purpose just so they can get free things too, and that’s not what you want to encourage.


7. Don’t respond only via private message

On the other hand, you shouldn’t only communicate with your reviewer privately. At least one public response must be made so other customers don’t think you’re ignoring the problem. When you get to the point you want to take the conversation offline, publicly state “I’m sending you a private message to address this issue.” It might also be a good idea to post an update after the issue is resolved.


8. Do explain what you are doing to resolve the issue

Sometimes negative reviews provide you with a chance to fix a problem you didn’t know you had. If a negative review includes specific things your business did wrong, make sure to explain what you are currently doing to solve the problem. It’ll show your customers that whatever the reviewer complained about won’t be an issue in the future.


9. Do encourage positive reviews

Your best defense against negative reviews is positive reviews. Remind your happy customers to share their experience. People are often motivated to write negative reviews while neglecting to write positive reviews unless prompted, so take the time to ask your satisfied customers to write reviews.


10. Do have a review management procedure in place

At the end of the day, responding to negative online reviews is like putting out fires. You can drastically cut down on the chance of a bad online review meltdown if you designate someone to be in charge of handling online feedback and sketch out a few guidelines for how to respond to negative comments or reviews. Also, consider posting a note on your website and social channels to encourage customers to contact you before posting about the issue online.

Hopefully, these tactics can help you resolve the situation and use the negative review as an opportunity to engage customers and improve your business.



If you want to learn more about reputation management, check out our webinar “Increase Sales by 9% by Managing Your Online Reputation”.

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