How to Respond to Negative Reviews

It doesn’t matter how perfect your business is. If you work with the public, you’re going to get a bad review. Here's what to do about it.

We’ve shown you why local reviews are important and how to get more of them. But what do you do about the bad ones?

It doesn’t matter how amazing your employees are or how perfect your business is. If you work with the public, you’re going to get a bad review from time to time.

So, what do you do about it?

Throw a tantrum? Write a long-winded response berating and belittling the reviewer? Ask for it to be taken down? Charge them for their bad reviews?

In a word -- no.

Negative reviews are golden opportunities wrapped up in ugly, angry packages. If you just let them sit, they can accumulate and drive away potential customers. If you respond -- and respond well -- you may not only win back those frustrated ex-customers, but turn the negative reviews around entirely.

So, what do I do?

There’s a proven process for responding to a negative review, which is actually quite simple:

  1. Definitely respond to it. You may be able to ignore its existence, but it will be read by countless people who are trying to decide whether or not to give you their business. That one review may be the tipping point between “going” and “going somewhere else.”
  2. Take 24 hours to think about it. Many business owners have their feathers ruffled by someone openly, publicly - and often angrily - criticizing their establishment. Don’t respond right away. Take some time to clear your head, before you do something you’ll regret.
  3. Investigate the matter. While you’re taking your 24 hours, talk to any staff members who were mentioned in the review, or that may have been working when the customer visited your business. Is the same hostess or receptionist named in multiple reviews for being rude or unhelpful? Maybe the fault isn’t with the reviewer. Or did you just have a really busy night and forget to add that extra slice of lemon to the customer's water glass?
  4. Write a response. Calmly, politely, and professionally. Remember that this is public, and you won’t win any points or redeem yourself by attacking your customer. Address their concerns. But do your utmost to keep it concise and clear. Don’t write a response the length of the Bible. Write a verse. And at the end, offer to make it up to them somehow. Invite them back for a second chance, in hopes that they’ll revise or remove their initial review. Oh, and before you hit “Post”, we recommend having someone trustworthy read over what you’ve written.

That’s it. That’s all there is to it.

What does a good negative review response look like?

To help get you started, we’ve created a short and sweet response to a fictional negative review. However, we don’t recommend copying-and-pasting this as your own response. A personal response is the best course of action. Always.

“We’re very sorry that you had a bad experience with us! Please send us an email or give us a call -- we’d love to talk with you more about your experience and see if there is anything we can do to remedy the issue. Whatever happens, we’re grateful for your honesty and your patronage.”

We hope that you’ve found this three-part series on reviews helpful and informative. If you haven't already, now's the time to visit your Google My Business and Yelp business pages and check out your reviews. If there’s a negative one, you know how to handle it!

Written by Jackson Armstrong on October 10th, 2014

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