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How to Handle Negative Reviews Like a Pro

By: Kris Gerner

A whopping 90% of consumers check online reviews before they even step foot inside a business’s doors 1 . People love to read reviews and look at pictures from others’ experiences. It makes them feel safe and comfortable which, in turn, makes them more likely to spend money.

Unfortunately, even the best companies have off days and that’s typically when bad reviews happen. Negative reviews can be a nightmare for business owners. But even though it’s stressful, coming back from a bad review doesn’t have to be hard.

Bad Reviews Aren’t the End of the World

Have you ever met someone or been somewhere that just seemed… too perfect? It’s an experience that can be off putting - even scary. We’ve been conditioned to be skeptical of people, places, and situations that don’t have anything apparently wrong with them. We’re really just waiting for the other shoe to drop because, well, there must be a catch, right?

That’s how people feel about businesses with no bad reviews.

So it makes sense that seeing a negative review here and there will actually make a customer feel better. The trick is in how you handle them. As a business owner, this is your time to shine. It’s your chance to listen, respond, and learn. After all, 45% of consumers feel they’re more likely to visit a business with negative reviews that have been responded to 2 .

Intimidated? Don’t be. BlueTone Media has put together a handy list of do’s and don’ts to help you handle your negative reviews with class and dignity. Let’s get started.

What You SHOULDN’T Do When Handling a Negative Review:

  • Don’t get angry. As much as a bad review may feel like a personal attack, it’s not. Stay calm, cool, and collected. Don’t engage in name-calling, swearing, or passive-aggressive language. Getting angry is only going to call attention to the bad review and make you look bad.

  • Don’t ignore bad reviews. For simple issues, it’s usually best to offer a sincere apology and move on. For bigger problems, you may need to write a slightly longer apology/response and offer a discount or refund, if applicable.

  • Don’t take responsibility if it wasn’t your fault. Some bad reviews simply aren’t going to be legitimate. Example: Someone complains that your restaurant is very noisy, but they were there on a day when there happened to be a large group with a bunch of children. You can let the upset customer know you understand their complaint without taking the blame for an issue you didn’t cause.

  • Don’t encourage bullies. Some people have nothing better to do than to be mean to others online. If you think that’s what’s happening, don’t engage in a back and forth conversation on a review platform for all to see. If you have already apologized to a bully that keeps coming back, it’s ok to throw up your hands and walk away.

  • Don’t try to hide bad reviews. If you suddenly start rewarding or soliciting customers for good reviews after getting a bad one, people are going to see right through you. It’s tempting, but it’s also sketchy. Just relax and step back - negative reviews will get buried with time.

What You SHOULD Do When Handling a Negative Review:

  • Do research the issue. It’s always good to be prepared before starting a discussion with an angry customer, so find out everything you can about what happened. This may include looking at receipts, reviewing an order, or getting the scoop on what happened from one of your employees.

  • Do be sincere. Offer a genuine response that shows concern and empathy. Oftentimes, this can be as simple as, “We understand your concern and are truly sorry this happened to you” or something of that nature. Remember, replies don’t have to be lengthy, but they do have to be heartfelt.

  • Do reply ASAP. No reason to let an upset customer sit and stew in their own anger. Responding quickly also makes you look better to other customers. It shows you’re readily available to address concerns.

  • Do try to resolve big issues offline. Having a long back and forth discussion in a public forum is NOT a good idea. If the issue cannot be resolved with one or two comments, ask for the customer’s contact information (email, phone, etc.) so you can get in touch with them directly and privately.

  • Do thank customers for their feedback. Good or bad, reviews help you improve your overall customer experience. Plus, thanking customers for their input makes them feel heard and appreciated.

  • Do ask if the client will update their review. Once the issue has been resolved (privately or publicly) ask the client if they’d be willing to edit their original review to reflect your efforts to resolve the initial issue. Not everyone will agree to do this, but it’s worth politely asking.

You may not remember to take each of these suggestions to heart, and that’s ok. When it comes down to it, the most important thing you can do after receiving a negative review is to make sure you learn something from it.

Remember, customers are 21% more likely to leave a review after a bad experience than they are after a good one 3 . If you don’t fix the issue, you will go through this process with customers time after time and, eventually, there won’t be any fixing it. Respond to bad reviews, evaluate the problem, develop an action plan, and make the change and you’ll reap the rewards of excellent reviews!

1. https://www.brightlocal.com/learn/local-consumer-review-survey/

2-3. https://www.reviewtrackers.com/online-reviews-survey/

 
 

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