The best ways to handle negative online reviews

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It’s always stressful when you get critical feedback online since bad reviews influence customer decision-making and it. Those negative reviews are powerful because social proof may influence how people might think about your company and its reputation for trustworthiness.

In fact, did you know that 95% of customers read reviews before making a decision and that 82% of them will specifically seek out negative reviews? Follow the lead of smart marketers and leverage the powerful voice of your critical customers by acknowledging their concerns strategically.

Read on to discover tips for protecting your business—and strengthening your customer relationships—when responding to negative reviews.

What to do when you receive a negative online review

Don’t ignore negative reviews

No response is a response—and it’s usually not the one you want to make.

As a business owner, ignoring complaints isn’t your best option. Provide public responses to unfavorable online reviews to show your company’s commitment to customer satisfaction. This simple outreach might even help you fix the relationship.

Taking the time to respond thoughtfully to reviews and comments will help set you apart from the competition. Positive or negative, it’s good practice to respond to all feedback left for your company. Thank those customers who share praise and respond accordingly to those that alert you to problems you weren’t aware of so you can try to turn things around.
Did you know that 95% of customers read reviews before making a decision and that 82% of them will specifically seek out negative reviews?Tweet this

Think about the customer’s point of view

Before you craft your response, try to empathize with your customer’s side of the story. Avoid using a defensive tone, and let them know you take their feedback seriously. Putting yourself in their shoes and interviewing staff members (if applicable) can help you get a better understanding of exactly what happened.

Give a clear apology

Even if the customer’s report of the situation is different from how you see the situation, it’s important to apologize to them and offer to find a solution. Be sure to clearly state your apology so that your customer knows you value their opinion and experience.

Don’t give a scripted response

Response templates may save you time, but they often sound monotonous and insincere, which can frustrate your customers and make them feel as though you aren’t really listening to their concerns. The last thing you want is for your customers to end up more upset than they were originally. Be personal and address their specific concerns in your response.

Tips for responding to a negative online review

Apologize and acknowledge the issue

It is important to respond to the customer in a sympathetic and sincere manner. Acknowledge the issue they are reporting and apologize for their inconvenience.

Even if you don’t think your company did anything wrong, the customer may believe you did. Your response is about making the customer feel validated and important to your company—not making their problems seem trivial.

The positive thing about negative reviews:
Yes, some times it’s okay if your company has received a few less than stellar online reviews. Why? Authenticity. Negative reviews will give your leads an idea of what might be the worst thing that could happen (not to mention that they can give you an opportunity to improve). If you only have are glowing online reviews, it can hurt your credibility with some potential customers and make your endorsements come off as fake or disingenuous.

Write personalized responses

Customers can tell the difference between a scripted response and a real one. While you can have certain statements prepared to use as a guide for responding to online reviews, make sure to tailor them to each individual customer.

Keep in mind that while you are responding to the customer who submitted the negative review, you’re also communicating with all the customers who see your response. Just as your customer will appreciate the time it took you to personally address their situation, others will take note of how you handled the problem.

In some cases, this can actually end up being a positive thing—frank feedback may increase conversions for your company because potential customers will see how you manage issues in a responsible and approachable manner.

Offer a solution that feels appropriate

Depending on what kind of business you are, the solution you propose may vary. Whatever resolution you offer to a customer as a part of your response and apology, make sure it is something that will benefit them in some way and demonstrate that you are willing to sacrifice normal processes to ensure their satisfaction.

Keep your initial response short

In your response to the negative review, be professional and courteous. If the problem is complicated or requires a private solution, consider moving the conversation to an offline forum. This will show the customer that your attention is focused on their problem and how to solve it.

Follow up with the customer

If you have the customer’s contact information, it’s a great idea to follow up after the resolution to ensure they are satisfied. This will show them that you sincerely care about them as a customer and that you truly want to make sure their concerns are resolved.
As a business owner, ignoring complaints isn’t your best option. Provide public responses to unfavorable online reviews to show your company’s commitment to customer satisfaction.

Examples of responses to negative online reviews

Try to satisfy your customer the best way you can, and adjust processes accordingly to prevent the same problem from happening with another customer. Below you’ll find a company that avoided their problems and a company that embraced theirs.

❎ Ineffective response

After the video of a racist rant between a man and woman aboard a Ryanair flight went viral in 2018, Ryanair didn’t respond right away. When they did, they didn’t apologize or offer to compensate the victim in any way. Instead, they stated that they had contacted the police.

✅ Savvy response

KFC had to close several locations in the UK after running out of chicken. The company paid for a full-page ad in two UK tabloid papers that issued a humorous apology about the situation. They apologized to their customers, thanked their staff and partners, and ensured that they were working hard to fix the problem.

Respond to online reviews like a pro

Don’t be afraid of online reviews. In fact, encouraging customers to leave them is a great way to stand out from the competition. With a strategic plan in place covering online reputation management, even the most critical online reviews can create a positive effect for your business.

Need a strategy for handling your online reviews? Let’s talk
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Tatum

About the author | Tatum Hindman

Tatum is the president of TBH Creative and is responsible for building long-term client relationships. She enjoys the strategy behind web design and collaborating with clients to define and execute online marketing goals. She likes to blog about hot topics in web design and digital marketing, as well as share tips for strengthening your online presence.

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