How to Respond to a Bad Online Review without Getting Backlash that Shuts Your Business Down

by | Aug 25, 2013

 They said WHAT?!.. Understanding how to respond to bad online reviews can keep your business going strong.

Being a business owner can be one of the most rewarding experiences you can have as a professional. Business is the daily tasks, employee training, and fiscal responsibility, but it is also interpersonal interaction. As you may know, dealing with customers and clients has the potential to be wonderful; you have a chance to connect, give suggestions, and have a client for life. You also have the opportunity to run into individuals who do not see eye-to-eye with your business philosophy.

That’s right…we are talking about the bad (maybe even downright NASTY online reviews.)

Bad reviews happen to the best of us. It does not matter what caused the review. Maybe it was a bad day for the customer, a misunderstanding, or simply unfortunate circumstances. What does matter is how you respond to these bad reviews. It is essential to any good business practice to address negative reviews in a specific, positive manner.

In other words, even if your first thought is to go on a rant slamming the reviewer, it’s better for your business’s future to make a different choice. Take a deep breath, and put yourself in online reputation protection mode!

Though every situation or review is unique, there are some tips and tools any business owner can use to combat and overcome negative reviews. So let’s take a look. Here are five of the most helpful strategies I’ve found and used for responding to negative reviews in the right way as well as some resources to have on hand, should you find yourself in this situation.

#1 Be Familiar with the Process of Responding to Reviews

First and foremost, you want to brace yourself for negative business reviews before one ever happens. If you are here because you received a bad review, well, it’s never too late to learn! Familiarizing yourself with the review process is half the battle of responding to online reviews.

To start, you will want to have some familiarity with responding to reviews of any kind. Walk yourself through tutorials on your online review site for an understanding of the process and formatting of leaving a comment. You have a treasure trove of examples already available to you on the site itself. Mirror your responses to those you feel are productive from a business standpoint. If you see a business responding effectively and consistently each time they comment, you want to do similarly for your own comments and responses.

Next, you want to make responding to reviews a normal part of your routine. Do not let your presence on online reviews sites remain silent and stagnant! Keep in mind, if a business only responds to negative reviews, it can often come across as a stunt to put shush naysayers; it’s not genuine.

Instead, you want to respond to a range of views.  For positive reviews, recognize the things the customer outlined that made them happy. For “okay” reviews, give suggestions to make the customer’s next visit even better (always assume there will be a next visit). For short reviews, simply thank them! For negative reviews…well, we will get to that. The point is, have an online presence for a wide audience and a range of customers.

#2 Be Professional, Even If You Don’t Feel Like It

Just like dealing with individuals in person, some people are easy to talk to and some are a little more difficult. It is the more difficult individuals who sometimes have the biggest voices and some of the most important things to say.

Every review happens for a reason. If your page comes across a negative review, it means the customer or client felt they had a legitimate reason for their dissatisfaction. Since you care about your customers and clients, you also care about their satisfaction. This is important to remember when writing comments and we’ll expand on it in our next strategy.

Any customer or client deserves your best business practice, regardless of their current satisfaction level. Using professional language, being specific with your feedback, and remaining objective is how you can translate your best business practice into the wording of your response.

For professional language, make sure you use your manners: “please,” “thank you” and “we apologize” when appropriate. This goes a long way in making your comments sound sincere. In addition, you want to mirror the same language the client uses. If they mention a certain product, repeat that product in your response.

Finally, keeping your response objective will help shield you against any backlash. No bad review is a personal affront, so try not to take it as such. It’s good practice to write out a comment, leave it for an hour, then come back and reread it. How does the tone sound? Is the response overly emotional? It may mean it is time to revise or have a friend or colleague look it over.

#3 Focus on Customer Satisfaction by Creating Solutions

In addition to remaining objective, as our previous strategy described, it is best to focus on creating a solution, rather than dwelling on the problem. Try thinking of the review in the following way: It is not you against the customer; it is the company against the problem. Previously mentioned, a bad review never comes out of nowhere, so it may be likely there is an underlying issue. Keep this in mind to adopt a growth mindset.

Growth mindsets, as opposed to a fixed mindset, aim to make change for the better. Companies with a growth mindset are consistently looking for ways to better their practice, and not punish for ignorance. Perhaps employees need more training for dealing with certain high-stress situations. Maybe a system needs updating to be more customer-friendly. Perhaps you need to add a policy or procedure. Whatever it may be, listen to your customer or client’s criticism and find a way to improve your practice based on it. Not only will it help overall business, but it will also prevent further bad reviews on the same topic.

#4 Watch for Responses

Often, a review will have comments below the original, usually from other customers. These comments are just as important to notice as the review itself because they can give you a better idea of the bigger picture. Some customers may come out and agree by responding with their own story, and some may outright disagree with the original review. Take note of what these people say and compare it to what you know about your business. To know how to respond, you ought to know how a range of people feel about the situation.

In addition to checking for comments on the bad review, make sure you check back for comments on anything you post. If you fix the problem, it is common for the reviewer to mention their satisfaction with the changes. This is a great way to build a healthy rapport with a customer who was once unsatisfied.

#5 Have a Plan

One final strategy for responding to bad reviews may be the most important of all: have a plan of action. It is wonderful to have all of the previous tips in mind, but if the way you craft a comment is not up to par, all your work may be in vain.

We are not all the best writers, especially under pressure, but there are ways to work around that. A writing template will keep your words concise and cohesive, as well as help you focus on the content of your response. Templates are a quick and useful way to get your ideas organized in the best format possible.

There is a range of templates available for the possible reviews you may encounter. Make sure you’re familiar with the templates before encountering a bad review; it will save you both time and stress.

Speaking of templates, I have the perfect solution for you. You know I’m not going to leave you hanging! Download these Bad Review Response Templates especially designed with businesses like yours in mind. Be prepared and ready to respond to online reviews to keep your online reputation as strong as it can be.

META: Does your business have bad reviews? There is a fine art in responding to them – here’s what you need to know.

Voicing one’s opinion online can develop into a bloodsport on occasion and nowhere is this truer than in the realm of online reviews.

Opinions count, at the very least insofar as they affect your business, and ensuring that you manage your online reputation is more important than ever. Poor reviews are going to come up.

You can’t please all the people all of the time. What’s vital however is ensuring that they do not influence much of your  audience, and that your brand is viewed as one that cares and addresses issues that surface, not contests, refutes or hides from them.

How to deal with a negative review

Here are three steps to proactively cope with occasional bad reviews.

  1. Make customer service a top priority – A big part of the reason companies find themselves in the position of having to deal with a negative online review is that often there is a failure with their customer service or support. Often times customers are reaching out through various channels, including email, Facebook, Twitter or in blog comments. Often they are overlooked for far too long, leading to one mad customer, who feels as though they have no solution other than to vent their aggravations on an online review site. In fact, usually the entire scenario may have been avoided by paying a little more attention to your social and internal channels.
  2. Be professional at all times – The very last thing you want to do is get in to an online shouting match with a client. This won’t work out well for you, ever! Even if you are right, you’re wrong to engage in this fashion, as it will scale this issue to heights you wouldn’t think possible. Strive to remain professional, generous, and attempt to keep that customer, or at least make sure you don’t lose more of them! Since this type of customer typically represents about 1% of your customer base, it’s just not worth the trouble it causes.
  3. Foster positive reviews – One of the ways you can proactively help your online reputation is encouraging positive reviews of your product or service form your satisfied customers. Most are glad to help you, and if these appear consistently, the chances that the occasional negative review will stand much of a chance of remaining high in the search results are small. Consider it as not just as managing your online reputation, but as a way of promoting your business, for free!

The bottom line in managing negative reviews is to be informed when they occur, handle customers with respect and professionalism, and make maintaining your online reputation a high priority! In this day of instant communication, you virtually have no choice!

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