You work hard to make your business what it is. Seeing even just one negative review about your business online can feel devastating. Before a bad review sends you into panic mode, think about how you can use it as an opportunity to improve your business. Don’t simply stress about how that one review could potentially tarnish the reputation of your business. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pay attention to negative reviews at all. Instead, you should have a game plan for responding to negative reviews so that they don’t hurt your reputation.

Do take reviews into perspective.

If you see a bad review pop up on Google or Yelp, it’s easy to let it get to you. But first, think about how many total reviews your business has as well as your overall rating. If your business has 4-5 stars and a general trend of positive feedback, a bad review is likely the result of one customer’s bad day or an employee’s mistake on their first day on the sales floor. In other words, it’s probably an isolated incident.

Do respond quickly.

No matter what prompted a bad review, it’s best not to let it go unanswered. Publicly respond to the review on the site where it was posted within 24-48 hours. When crafting your response, remember to be polite and sympathetic. If the customer left a detailed account of their experience, address their specific concerns. Apologize for that negative experience in your response. If the review is lacking in detail—think “I would leave zero stars if I could”—ask for more details. Try to discover what was unsatisfactory without going on the defensive. For example, you might respond with: “I’m sorry that you weren’t satisfied with your experience! If you wouldn’t mind sharing more details on what wasn’t meeting your expectations, I would love to hear more from you.” This shows that you are willing to hear customers’ concerns and find ways to improve their experiences in the future.

Do offer solutions.

Usually, customers are happy with an acknowledgement of their complaints and an apology. Sometimes, though, it’s worth going the extra mile with a tangible solution. For example, if a customer was unhappy with a specific employee, let them know that the issue has been addressed with the employee. You can also offer things like gift cards, discounts, or freebies to get the customer to come back and give your business another shot. This shows that you are willing to go the extra mile to make things right when someone is unhappy.

Don’t take negative reviews personally.

Unfortunately, not all negative reviews will take the high road. Some—likely written in anger or frustration—may take some low blows with your business, or even attack specific employees. When you read a review like this, take a few minutes away from the computer before you respond. Cut to the core of what the review is about and address only that aspect when responding. For example, a customer may write a fuming review if they were overcharged at your restaurant and the server failed to correct the issue on the spot. Your response should be focused on how to correct the discrepancy in the check and not on any negative comments about the server.

Don’t delete negative reviews.

You might think it’s not worth bothering to respond to negative reviews when you can simply delete them instead. However, this can backfire in a big way. If a reviewer sees that their comments have been deleted, they may write a new review that is much more negative than the original. They may even post it to multiple sites.

Additionally, people put more trust in businesses that have a mix of reviews—not just positive, glowing feedback. This shows a level of authenticity with the business. It also shows customers how you might react when negative feedback does come through. A negative review with a public response will have a much stronger impact than a complete absence of negative reviews.

The only exception to the don’t delete rule is when the review is not from a genuine source. For example, you may recognize a review from a competitor. Or, you may get bad reviews from people who haven’t actually visited your business. In these cases, contact the review site where the comments are posted to curate your review listings for accuracy.

Do put yourself in the customer’s shoes.

Chances are, you have had not-so-great experiences at a business you patronize. Try to relate to a customer who reports a bad experience with your business. Throughout your response, think about what you would want a business to do if you were in the position of the customer. This will add a level of sympathy and authenticity to your response. It will show that you’re not just trying to make your business look good, but instead want to provide a higher level of customer service for each and every client.

Do consider following up with a private message.

In some situations, it may be appropriate to follow up with a customer via email or private message, rather than just in a public setting. For example, if the review is for a doctor’s office, the reviewer may not feel comfortable discussing details of a bad visit online. So, it may be appropriate to respond to the review publicly by saying: “I’m sorry to hear about your visit! I’ve sent you an email to provide you with a chance to discuss your experience further.” Alternatively, you can invite the customer to email or message you. That way, they won’t feel like they are being badgered to follow up with their review.

If you are concerned about your online reputation, but simply don’t have the time to keep up with reviews, local listings, and other critical details, Pennington Creative is here to help. We know how important your reputation is for your business. We offer a wealth of solutions to keep your business framed in a positive light. Send us a message to start talking about your reputation management needs today!

About the Author

Marissa - Digital Marketing Manager, Account Services
Marissa Storrs

Digital Marketing Manager, Client Engagement