Criticism doesn’t always feel “constructive.”
These tips will have you responding to negative reviews with confidence.
As a business owner, seeing a negative online review is probably your greatest nightmare. How many people have seen it? What will they think? Is your career as an entrepreneur over?
While unhappy customers are pretty much unavoidable, you can weather the storm by responding to negative reviews in a professional way.
Don’t Ignore Negative Reviews!
You’ve heard it many times from moms and preschool teachers: Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you.
But the truth is that negative feedback can hurt your business.
According to a 2021 survey, more than 99.9% of consumers read reviews “at least sometimes” and 96% routinely seek out negative reviews.
If your reviews are filled with reviews from unhappy customers, that can have a huge impact on your online reputation. And in this day and age, your online reputation is your reputation.
Negative customer reviews are unavoidable, but the good news is that it isn’t the review itself that’s the problem, but how you respond to a negative review that makes all the difference.
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How To Respond to Negative Reviews
The first few times, responding to negative reviews might feel like a punch in the gut. But like any other skill, you can learn how to respond to negative feedback.
With enough practice, it can be as easy as responding to a positive review.
1. Respond to as many reviews as you can.
A negative online review isn’t a bully; you won’t give them power by responding.
In fact, responding to negative reviews is more about showing potential customers what it’s like to deal with your business than dealing with one unhappy customer.
Leave a response to as many reviews (good and bad) as you can, but make a more concerted effort to respond to the negative ones.
2. Respond in a timely manner.
Do your best to respond to every review within a few days they’re posted.
Responding to negative reviews in a timely manner doesn’t just show that you’re taking their concerns seriously, but that you take a proactive approach to customer service.
3. Be professional and courteous.
Some reviewers can be ruthless. But as the business owner, it’s your job to take the high road.
This means refraining from name-calling, blaming, insults, and bad language, even if they called you every name in the book. It also means keeping a level head and addressing them by name, if possible.
If you’re feeling particularly emotional, it can be helpful to take an hour or two to calm down before you respond. Take a walk. Have a cup of tea. Read a few of your favorite positive reviews and come back to it later.
4. Thank them for their feedback.
While it’s tempting to think of unhappy customers as internet trolls intent on bringing down your company, the reality is far less nefarious. In most cases, these are just everyday people sharing their thoughts about a bad experience.
Even a simple “thank you for bringing this to our attention” can be the olive branch that turns a negative experience into a positive one.
Sometimes, customers will have valid complaints. Other times, their negative experiences might be completely out of your control.
Either way, take a minute to put yourself in their shoes. Empathizing with a bad experience in your response to a negative review can go a long way toward mending fences.
6. Hold yourself accountable.
No one likes to admit that they’ve fallen short, but if you look at negative reviews as an opportunity to improve, your experience with them will vastly improve.
Reviews show us areas that we fall short in providing great customer service. If a bad review was warranted, there’s no shame in acknowledging where you slipped up and vowing to do better in the future.
7. Say “I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry” should be in every response you make to a negative review. If the customer was wronged, it says “I should have done better.” If the customer was way out of line, it says, “I wish you felt differently.”
In either case, it gets the conversation back to a positive place where the two of you can move forward (and you can save your reputation).
8. Make things right (if you can).
This tip really only applies to legitimate complaints where your business could have done better. When this happens, saying “I’m sorry” should be followed by an attempt to make things right.
This can take the form of a refund, a discount on future services…anything, really. You don’t even have to make the offer in your response. Which brings me to my next point….
9. Take the conversation offline.
You should always make a public response to a negative review, but that doesn’t mean plastering the entire conversation on social media.
Provide the reviewer with a way to contact you offline—such as a phone number or email address—so you can discuss the issue further.
In some cases, they’ll take you up on it and you have a second chance. But even if you never hear from them again, other potential customers will see that you were willing to go the extra mile.
10. Don’t take it personally.
Every business gets bad reviews sometimes, so don’t let it ruin your day.
In fact, having some negative reviews is actually a good thing. PowerReview’s survey showed that half of all shoppers are suspicious of businesses or products with an average 5-star rating.
Even Walt Disney World—the literal Happiest Place On Earth—has a 4.7 rating on Google.
If Mickey Mouse can’t make everyone happy, what makes you think you can?
We Make You Look Good
Responding to negative reviews is a skill that every business owner should know. But there are a lot of other strategies that can help boost your online reputation.
If you’re worried about negative reviews harpooning your business, reputation management can help.
At Clarity Creative Group, we’ll not only help you respond to negative reviews, we’ll help you collect positive reviews, optimize your Google Business Profile, remove SPAM and off-topic reviews, and more.
And when you’re ready to grow even more, we offer website design and SEO services.
Give us a call today to schedule a free strategy session.