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How to Respond to Negative Online Reviews

You’ve worked hard using the tips in How to Get More Online Reviews to build your online reviews and it’s going great! Then a disgruntled customer — or worse, a fake one — leaves you that 1 or 2-star review, and it’s there, on your “permanent record,” for the whole world to see. What can you do?

Lots actually. Take a deep breath, then follow these guidelines:

  • Don’t panic. If you mostly have all 5-star reviews, a stray bad review or two can actually be a good thing. People often don’t trust all 5-star ratings. It’s makes people question their legitimacy. Are the reviews fake? Are they all from family and friends? Are you paying or giving incentives for positive reviews? Are you screening out negative reviews? A bad review or two shows you are a real company with nothing to hide. Additionally, if you have all great reviews with only a couple of bad ones, it makes the good reviews shine. Whoever left the bad review likely just looks like a cranky person at that point.

  • Figure out why the customer was unhappy. Generally bad reviews come because the customers’ expectations weren’t met. In a Yotpo study of 1.3 million reviews, the most commonly used words in negative reviews were “disappointment” or “disappointed,” which was mentioned 20,000 times. The next most popular word, “bad,” only occurred 7,500 times. Disappointment generally means some form of expectation wasn’t met. It doesn’t necessarily mean you did a bad job. If you can figure out what that disappointment was, then you may be able to fix the issue.If the complaint is about cost, then there’s not a lot you can do to change that. You can, however, explain that your company takes pride in their work and customers service, doesn’t cut corners, carries insurance, etc. That may not appease your unhappy customer, but may win you some others in the future.

  • Be proactive. Whether it was warranted or not, the negative review is now out there for all to see. Ignoring the review makes it seem like you don’t care about what your clients think, and that can look worse than the review itself.

  • Respond quickly. The sooner you can affirm the customer’s feelings and negative review, the better it looks – and the less time the customer has to sit and simmer over whatever he or she did not like about your service. In fact, one article said that 33% of negative reviews on Yelp turned positive after someone took the time to respond to their review. That said, if you can’t respond without getting angry, then wait until you can.

  • Respond positively. If you respond to a negative review in a positive manner, you can make your company shine and look professional. Never attack the customer, even if it’s warranted. You can apologize without really apologizing… “I’m sorry you feel we did not meet your expectations.” You’re technically empathizing with their feelings, not taking the blame.

  • Remember the big picture. Yes, this customer may be a pain, or even a liar, and someone you never want to deal with again, but remember you’re not just responding to your customer any more. Online reviews are for everyone to see, and your response will be read and judged by potential customers as well. You want to come across as someone who is reasonable, not someone who blames the “victim” in the situation.

  • Respond carefully. Unhappy customers want to feel like they are being heard. A canned response does not make them feel valued, and an angry one certainly does no good. Apologies disarm angry customers. If you messed up, own it, then tell what measures you’ve taken to prevent the same problem from occurring in the future. You might even thank them for bringing the issue to light. This lets future customers know that you run toward problems, not away from them. If it’s warranted, provide the service free of charge, or at least discounted, then fix the problem.

  • Take the conversation offline. Ask them to call you to discuss the situation further and to determine how you can resolve the issues to their satisfaction. This gets the problem out of the public eye and you can look like a professional. If they continue to write negative things, again ask them to contact you directly. Rinse and repeat.

  • Respond to positive reviews too. This makes your customers feel valued, even if it’s a simple “thank you.