Running a business can be incredibly challenging. Whether you’re assisting a business with its digital transformation, published a mobile app, are a retail outlet, chances are that you’re not going to meet the expectations of your clients someday. In a social world with public ratings and reviews, your chances of getting some negative online reviews are almost imminent.
As public as the negative rating or negative review may be, it’s imperative that you recognize that your response to that negative rating or review is just as important – if not more important. A good response to a negative review can drive more respect and trust for your business. Modern businesses and consumers recognize that every business interaction won’t be perfect… but how a business responds when it goes awry is absolutely important.
I’m writing this article based on my anecdotal experience in how I’ve seen businesses overcome a negative review – I’m not going to cite studies or data because I think that each business has a culture and process that can’t always be accommodated in a bunch of statistics. Here is my list of tips and a process for responding to a negative review.
- You Must Respond… Immediately – An immediate response is necessary to provide other consumers and businesses with the impression that you are listening and that you do care. That doesn’t mean that you should jump to conclusions, though. Sometimes responding is simply saying that you’ve heard the complaint and are investigating the situation as well as how to resolve it.
- Be Empathetic – Notice how I didn’t say “show” empathy? This isn’t a time to pretend you care, it’s a time to really think about the perception of the customer or client that feels that they received poor service. When you respond to this person, pretend that they’ve just had the most awful day of their life. I once had a leader tell me that every time he engaged in a concerned conversation with an employee that he pretended that employee just lost a family member. I think that’s good advice online as well.
- Be Thankful – While there is a very small percentage of people out there that are just unhappy trolls, the majority of people are publicly complaining because they care about how you treated them and hope that you don’t do it to other customers in the future. That someone took the time to write about an issue at your business that may be impacting even more people is priceless feedback for you to improve your business.
- Listen – If expectations weren’t met, listen carefully to your customer on how you might improve your internal processes. You’d be amazed at how many customers simply want to be listened to as they vent. Sometimes just asking, “How could we have done better?” could lead to some incredible feedback for your business that will improve overall customer satisfaction.
- Be Factual – It’s not uncommon for people to exaggerate a situation when they leave a negative review. Sometimes, online reviewers lie altogether. It’s okay to provide a factual response to the negative review as long as you avoid attacking the reviewer at all costs. It’s a delicate situation, but you should never let a lie about your business go.
- Find a Resolution – Seeking out a resolution is an imperative. I made a significant investment in a home service provider a few years back and the entire situation was a disaster. After I left a lengthy review online with all of the details, the owner of the company (who wasn’t aware of the situation) reached out to me personally and asked, “How can we make this right?”. The solution wasn’t perfect, but I removed the negative review after the company invested time and energy to try and resolve the situation.
- Take it Offline – Having a debate back and forth online or even via email isn’t going to help your business’ reputation. The old adage that we “praise in public, correct in private” is applicable in a negative review situation. Always push for the opportunity to speak to someone in person so they can hear your concern and you can let them vent their frustration. Reading text provides no level of compassion in a response. If the reviewer wishes to keep hitting you online, it’s okay to simply respond that your door is always open but you need to take it offline.
- Put a Face To Your Response – No one likes the copy / paste autoresponse from a giant corporation. When you write your response, put your name and contact information so the person sees there’s a real person that’s taken responsibility for resolving the situation.
- Be Brief – The shortest possible response is the best response to a negative review online. Thank the person, acknowledge the issue, work to a resolution, and provide contact information to pursue a resolution offline. No need for writing paragraphs and paragraphs that no one is going to read or value.
- Follow Up Online When Necessary – I often see negative reviews online about mobile apps that refer to bugs that were corrected in future versions. It’s absolutely critical to publicly declare that the issue was resolved and thank the person that reported it. This isn’t the case for personal resolutions… just public processes or product changes that resolved the issue for multiple customers. A reviewer doesn’t want to see you airing their personal situation’s resolution online as a means to promote your business.
The Customer Is NOT Always Right
The customer isn’t always right. I think that’s one of the worst sayings ever. I’ve run into quite a few very rude customers in the life of my business. I always leaned on facts when it came to those situations and avoided emotional responses or accusations. Especially when it came to my employees who absolutely went above and beyond in trying to resolve the situation.
I’d rather keep and defend a good employee than lose a bad customer that lied about a situation.
One restaurant I worked with had suspicious, anonymous, negative reviews that commented on dishes that they didn’t even offer. They responded factually to the review while avoiding any confrontation with the reviewer online.
NEVER Attack The Reviewer
Don’t ever attack or insist that your reviewer is lying or get in an argument with a reviewer online. Responding to a negative review with more negativity is a sure-fire way of burying your business’ reputation as a caring, compassionate, and reasonable business. It’s okay to defend outright lies about your business by utilizing facts… but never, ever attack the reviewer or insist that they’re wrong. Calling a customer who paid you a liar online is never going to drive more business your way.
Examples of Negative Review Responses
I wanted to provide some examples of negative review responses that may assist you in crafting an appropriate response that helps you improve your overall reputation online. Here are some situations:
- A Negative Review You Need to Research More
[Name], thank you for bringing this to our attention. We take our customers’ feedback very seriously and always want to exceed expectations. We are investigating this issue and our staff will be in touch within the next 2 business days. We would appreciate hearing more about this situation and will value your feedback. Would it be okay if we contacted you by phone? Feel free to direct message me [My Name] or call my extension [X] at [Phone Number].
- An Anonymous Negative Review
Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We take our customers’ feedback very seriously and always want to exceed expectations. We would appreciate hearing from you to learn more about this situation. Would it be okay if we contacted you by phone? Feel free to direct message me [My Name] or call my extension [X] at [Phone Number].
- A False Negative Review
[Name], we don’t offer that product. Could you please contact me [My Name] or call my extension [X] at [Phone Number] so we can find out more information about this situation?
- A True Negative Review
[Name], thank you for bringing this to our attention. We always want to exceed customer expectations and this looks like a great opportunity for us to do so. We’d like to speak to you personally to make this up to you since your business is important to us. Would it be okay if we contacted you by phone? Feel free to direct message me [My Name] or call my extension [X] at [Phone Number].
- A Negative Reviewer That Keeps Going
[Name], unfortunately, until we speak to you personally to investigate this situation, we won’t be able to resolve the situation here. Please direct message me [My Name] or call my extension [X] at [Phone Number].
- A Resolved Process From A Negative Review
[Name], thank you so much for bringing this issue to our attention and spending time with us to resolve the issue. As an FYI to anyone following this issue online, we have modified our product / process and eliminated this issue as of [date].
It’s Okay To Give Up On A Negative Review
Sometimes a business engagement simply doesn’t work out. You may try everything to resolve a negative review and it may not result in any type of resolution that makes the customer reverse course or remove the review. It’s going to happen.
As long as consumers and businesses see that you’ve done everything in your power to try and resolve the situation that led to the negative review, they’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.
The Best Response To Negative Reviews is MORE POSITIVE Reviews
If your business is battling a few negative reviews that just won’t go away, the best remedy is soliciting happy customers and pushing them to provide glowing reviews for your company. While many consumers will jump to reading the negative reviews (I do), there’s no doubt that an overwhelming percentage of great reviews will have an impact on their view of your reputation.
And, of course, seeing a thoughtful response to every negative review where you tried to come to a resolution will help even more!