How to Respond to Negative Online Reviews

As a business owner, you know that you are going to get negative online reviews from time to time. It's inevitable. However, how you respond to those negative reviews can make all the difference in the world. If you react negatively, it could lead to even more negative reviews and could damage your online reputation with potential customers. On the other hand, if you handle the situation gracefully and professionally, you may be able to salvage the situation and even turn a bad experience into a positive one for your business.



Why are Online Reviews Important?


It may seem like reviews are an afterthought for some companies, but customer reviews are the best form of marketing for most. They provide social proof that your business is credible and trustworthy. They also help improve your SEO ranking and can be the deciding factor for potential customers on the fence about using your product or service.


People are trusting online reviews more than ever. In 2021, 77% of consumers reported that they always or nearly always check online reviews before purchasing.


Negative reviews can have a lasting impact on your business if they're not handled correctly. In fact, 68% of customers say they would leave a bad review for a business after just one negative experience. Moreover, 78% of consumers use the internet to research local businesses more than once a week. This is why taking control of your online reputation is essential.


In other words, online reviews, both negative and positive reviews, are important because they can make or break your business. It's important to keep an eye on what people are saying about you online and to have a plan in place for how to respond to negative reviews.


Should I Respond to Negative Online Reviews?


The answer is a resounding yes. You should always respond to negative online reviews, and you should do so quickly. Another study shows that 89% of consumers are more likely to use a business that responds to all its online reviews. Handling negative reviews positively and professionally assures potential customers that you're a business that cares about its customers and is willing to go the extra mile to make it right. Showing that you take responsibility for an issue is vital for reputation management.



How to Respond to Negative Online Reviews


You know that your online reputation is critical when you're a small business owner. Growing a business from the ground up is hard work, and finding the balance between work, life, and family can be difficult. You're constantly hustling to get new customers in the door while keeping your regulars happy. So when you see a customer complaint as a negative review pop up online, it's only natural to want to jump into action and defend your business.


But before you start typing away, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Here's a quick guide on responding to negative online reviews like a pro.


Remember, you can't please everyone

Take a deep breath and remember that not everyone is going to be happy all the time. You want to strive to make every customer happy, but the truth is that some are harder to please. It can be disheartening to know that you've done your best and that someone still isn't satisfied with your business. But, everyone will have a negative review at one time or another. The critical thing to remember is that it isn't the end of the world. Opinions are just that - opinions.


Don't take it personally

It can be difficult not to take negative feedback personally but try your best to separate yourself from your business. It's important to remember that people often leave reviews when they're upset or have had a bad experience. This doesn't mean they're right or you're a terrible business owner. This person is leaving a review for your business, not you as a person.


Don't get defensive

When responding to a negative review, it's important not to get defensive. This will only make the situation worse and turn potential customers away. Instead, take a step back and try to see the customer's perspective. It can be helpful to think about how you would want to be treated if you were in their shoes.


Empathize with the customer

Once you've taken a step back, it's time to start crafting your response. Empathizing with the customer is a great way to show that you're taking their concerns seriously. Consider the response you'd like to hear if you were posting a negative review. Responding with empathy and understanding is a great place to start the conversation.


Address The Concerns

The next step is to address the customer's concerns directly. This shows that you're paying attention and that you care about resolving the issue. If there are multiple issues, address them one by one. Acknowledge that there was a problem and thank the customer for bringing it to your attention. Then, let them know your steps to resolve the issue. Make sure they know customer feedback is always welcomed.


Apologize

A simple and sincere apology can go a long way in diffusing stressful situations. In some cases, an apology may not be necessary, but if the customer feels like their experience was truly bad, an apology is in order.


Again, be sincere and do not try to make excuses. Simply state that you're sorry for what happened and are dedicated to customer satisfaction. This is where it counts to take the high road. An unhappy customer can be swayed with the right approach.


Take Action

Once you've acknowledged the problem, take action to resolve it. If possible, do this as quickly as possible. Depending on the situation, you may need to reach out to the customer directly to get more information or resolve the issue offline. However you do it, make sure it's done in a timely manner.


In some cases, a refund may be necessary. If this is the case, do not hesitate to offer one. It's always better to err on the side of giving too much than not enough in these situations.


Finally, be sure to follow up with a phone call with the customer after you've taken action. This shows that you're genuinely committed to resolving the issue and providing a positive experience.



Responding to Negative Reviews


It can be hard to think of a response on the spot. Take your time to craft your response and cool down before you post. Here are some helpful negative review response templates. Make sure to write your response in the right tone and voice. Maintain consistent branding throughout.


As a negative review response example, let's say you own a restaurant, and a customer had a bad experience with their food. You might say something like:


"Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We're sorry that your meal didn't meet your expectations. We'll be sure to speak with the chef and general manager and ensure this doesn't happen again."


If the issue is more complex, you might need to take some time to resolve it. In this case, let the customer know what steps you're taking to resolve the issue and when they can expect a resolution. For example:


"Thank you for bringing this to (company's name) attention. We're currently working on a resolution and expect to have it resolved by the end of the week. We'll be sure to keep you updated."


If the negative review isn't about a specific experience but is simply someone expressing their opinion, you can still respond in a way that acknowledges their feedback. For example:


"Thank you for your feedback. We're sorry to hear that you didn't have a positive experience. We're constantly working to improve our customer experience, and we'll consider your feedback."


No matter what, always thank the customer for their feedback and let them know that you're taking it seriously. This will help show other potential customers that you're committed to providing an excellent experience for everyone.


If the negative review concerns a specific experience, start by apologizing for what went wrong. For example:


"I'm sorry to hear you had a bad experience. We're constantly working to improve our customer experience, and we'll take your feedback into consideration."


Then, try to offer a solution. For example:


"I'm sorry to hear that you had a bad experience with (business name). We're constantly working to improve our customer experience and we'll consider your feedback. If you'd like, I'd be happy to help you resolve the issue offline. Please feel free to give me a call at [PHONE NUMBER]."


If the negative review is about a general issue with your business, you can still apologize and offer a solution. For example:


"I'm sorry to hear that you're not happy with our [PRODUCT/SERVICE]. We're constantly working to improve our offerings, and we'll take your feedback into consideration. If you'd like, I'd be happy to help you find a [PRODUCT/SERVICE] that better suits your needs. Please feel free to give me a call at [PHONE NUMBER]."


If the negative review is about a specific employee, you can apologize on behalf of the business and offer to take the issue offline. For example:


"I'm sorry to hear about your bad experience with [EMPLOYEE]. We strive for high standards to provide the best possible experience for all our customers, and we'll be sure to address this issue internally. If you'd like to discuss this further, please don't hesitate to give me a call at [PHONE NUMBER]."


When taking the concern offline, make sure to request their contact information. If the review is on a public forum, like Facebook, it may be easier to find their information.


Review Sites to Monitor


In addition to responding to negative reviews as they come in, it's also important to actively monitor your business reviews and online reputation. This way, you can catch any negative reviews before they have a chance to do too much damage.


There are a lot of forums for reviews on the internet today, and not all are created equal. With so many places to monitor, it can get tricky to keep an eye on it all. Here are a few of the most important review sites to focus on:


Yelp:

Yelp's star rating system can be confusing for business owners - a one-star difference can significantly affect how potential customers see your business. As one of the largest and most popular review sites, Yelp is definitely one to keep an eye on. Not only do they have a lot of users, but their algorithm also puts more weight on recent reviews, so negative ones can really hurt your business if you're not careful.


Google Reviews:

Google is the other monster regarding reviews and search engine results. While you can't control what people say about you on Google, you can control your response. Google also allows businesses to control their own Google My Business page, including valuable information like your business's hours, location, phone number, and website. In addition, potential customers are likely to search for your business on Google before checking out any review sites, so it's important to have a good reputation there.


TripAdvisor:

TripAdvisor is a must for any business in the hospitality industry, as it's one of the most popular travel review sites. Even if you're not in that industry, it can still be worth checking out TripAdvisor reviews, as they can give you some good insights into what potential customers are looking for. Start taking notes on how other companies respond to negative reviews to ensure you're on the right track.


Facebook:

Facebook is another important one, especially if you have a local business. People are more likely to leave reviews on Facebook if they had a bad experience, so it's important to keep an eye on that. You can also use Facebook to your advantage by responding to negative reviews and trying to turn the situation around.



Tips for Responding to Negative Reviews


While it can be daunting to sit down and face negative reviews, it's important to remember that they offer valuable feedback for your business.


When you do sit down to start responding to negative reviews, keep the following tips in mind:


  • Don't get defensive. It can be tempting to come out swinging when you see a negative review, but it's essential to remain calm and level-headed.


  • Take the conversation offline. If possible, try to take the conversation off of the review site and into a direct message or even over the phone. This will allow you to understand the customer's concerns better and work towards a resolution.


  • Be apologetic. Even if you don't think the negative review is warranted, it's important to apologize for the person's bad experience. This shows that you care about your customers and their satisfaction.


  • Offer a solution. If the customer is unhappy with a specific product or service, see if you can offer a replacement or a discount on their next purchase. This shows you're willing to go above and beyond to make things right.


  • Prevent negative reviews in the future. Once you've dealt with the negative review, take a step back and see if there's anything you can do to prevent similar reviews in the future. Maybe there's a flaw in your product that you weren't aware of or a hole in your customer service. By taking steps to fix these problems, you can ensure fewer customers have a negative experience with your business.


  • Use positive reviews to your advantage. In addition to responding to negative reviews, ensure you're also taking advantage of any positive reviews and testimonials from happy customers. Post them on your website and social media pages and use them to help attract new customers.


Negative reviews are a fact of life for any business, but they don't have to be a death sentence. By way of review management, taking the time to respond thoughtfully and taking steps to prevent future negative reviews, you can turn a bad review into an opportunity to improve your business.


Use these tips on responding to negative reviews, and you'll be able to protect your business's reputation—and attract new customers.


Do you have any tips on how to respond to negative reviews? Share them in the comments below!