Every customer has their own preferences, expectations, desires, and wishes. In a perfect world, you would satisfy every customer; but in the real world, you can’t; and in the digital world, anyone can publish an online review of your business.

Given the power of online reviews, public negative reviews can seriously damage your business’s reputation and influence your customers’ decisions. But while you can’t control what other people post online about your business, you do have some control over the outcome of a negative review.

Getting a negative review for your business can be a downer, but if you know how to respond to negative reviews, it can be easier.

In this post, we’ll go over:

  • Helpful tidbits to make negative reviews less intimidating.
  • How to deal with the emotional aspect of a negative review.
  • Guidelines and best practices for addressing the unhappy customer.
  • Tangible ways to restore your reputation.

By the time you’re done reading this, you’ll feel confident about not only responding to negative reviews, but also maybe even turning them into positive ones (I’m not crazy, I promise).

General Considerations When Responding to Reviews

Before we get into the specifics of how to respond to a negative review, let’s go over some general tips to keep in mind. These will help ease the burden, pressure, or even intimidation you feel when it comes to reviews.

Respond to negative and positive reviews.

It's important to respond to both positive and negative reviews.

We highly recommend responding to every negative review (that’s why we’ve written an entire post on it), but don’t forget to respond to positive reviews, too. Responding to positive feedback provides opportunities to:

  • Engage with customers.
  • Reveal more of your brand personality.
  • Educate your audience.

Review responses are public.

Your responses are visible to the public, meaning they don’t just convey messages to the reviewer but also to every other current and potential customer. When you take the time to reply to a review, you demonstrate that you’re attentive to feedback and committed to customer satisfaction. This can help to:

  • Build your reputation.
  • Earn trust.
  • Encourage more reviews.

Negative reviews aren’t altogether bad.

If your business has a few negative reviews in the mix, don’t sweat it. In this age of transparency, there are actually several opportunities that can come from negative reviews:

  • They make positive reviews more sincere.
  • They humanize your business. A negative review with a proper response might have more of an impact on a consumer than a positive review with a mere “thanks!”
  • They (ironically) can facilitate trust. A string of generic positive reviews can be underwhelming or even a little suspicious. Having a mix of positive and negative reviews shows that you’re genuine and have nothing to hide.

Negative reviews actually encourage consumers to spend more time on a review site, according to this stat.

We talk more about why a bad review isn’t the end of the world here (even when it feels like it is!).

You can learn just as much from positive reviews.

Negative reviews are learning opportunities, but don’t forget that positive reviews reveal aspects of your business that make you stand out. For example:

  • Customers may even mention things that you might not have noticed yourself or thought to highlight in your messaging.
  • You can learn about the little things that matter to customers that may just come as second nature to you
  • You can identify strengths to harness and use to distinguish yourself from competitors.

Alright. With those important points covered, it’s time to navigate into the negative. But fear not. With these tips, you will be equipped to respond to any review that comes your way and keep your business in the best possible light — in a genuine way.

Preparing to Respond to Negative Reviews

As a business owner, you want to provide a response, and not a reaction, to negative online reviews. This requires some preparatory work to help you get into the right mind-state.

Before we begin, let’s take a deep breath…

GIF Source

Okay, now we’re ready.

Think positive.

You’re passionate about your business and you care about your customers, so negative reviews are going to sting. However, a negative state of mind will only make the situation worse. So take a big step back and a few minutes to process the review. Remind yourself that negative customer reviews don’t make you a bad business; they are an inevitable part of running a business. Think of them more positively as a challenge to tackle and an opportunity to learn.

Think of the customer.

The best way to respond to negative reviews is to work with the customer on their terms. Prepare for this by thinking about your customer beyond just your business — their lifestyle, personality, mindset, habits, occupation, and their pace of life. This can help you to understand their side as much as possible, enter the situation with the proper empathic mind state, and communicate with them in the most productive manner.

Find the root of the problem.

This does not mean finding out who to blame but rather finding out where the breakdown occurred. Being able to explain the breakdown shows the customer that you cared enough to look into the issue and may even get them to see the situation differently. It will also help you to come up with the most effective solution, as well as prevent it from happening again with other customers.

Keep in mind that your initial response to negative customer reviews will not likely contain this information. There’s a time and a place for providing your findings, which we will cover later on in this post. There will also be times that you can’t find a breakdown on your end. Even still, you should still approach the situation with the same willingness to take responsibility.

Responding to Negative Reviews

Follow these steps for responding to negative reviews online.

Now that you’ve achieved the right mindset and gathered the important information, you’re ready to actually respond to the negative customer review.

Follow these steps.

Apologize

Regardless of what went wrong and why, always apologize to your unhappy customer. Your initial message when responding to negative reviews is that you feel sorry that they are in distress and would like to work with them on changing that. Apologize promptly to show that you care, and keep it concise (long explanations will come off as defensive).

…Publicly

This initial response to negative online reviews should take place on the platform on which it was made. This will help with your online presence and allows you to show both your customer and other visitors to the site that you are prompt and proactive with your customer service. Responding to negative reviews online is particularly challenging, as online communication can easily be misperceived, so make sure your message is clear.

Then Take it Offline

After promptly, clearly, and publicly expressing your apologies and willingness to take action, you should then propose to take the conversation offline. Offer to reach out via phone or email for a one-on-one conversation, or provide your contact information for them to reach out if you don’t have theirs available. This enables a deep dive into the situation and eliminates noise such as additional comments by other users. It’s also during this more in-depth conversation that you can share your findings about the root of the problem.

Repairing after Negative Reviews

Once you have prepared and apologized to your unhappy customer, it’s time to take action: first to make the customer happy and second to get your business back on track.

Make the Customer Happy

After you respond to a negative review, think about how you can make your customer happy and fix the situation.

The priority when responding to negative reviews is not your company, it’s the customer. Therefore, your response should always include some form of compensatory action. You might provide a refund, offer the same service free of charge or at a discount, give a gift certificate, or an additional service at no additional cost. Find out from your customer what will make them happy, and serve that need to the best of your ability.

Compensatory action in your response to negative customer reviews could mean the difference between simply satisfying your customer and actually retaining them. This is something that you can discuss with the customer during your follow up conversation if it’s not included in your initial review response.

Get More Positive Reviews

A proper response can lead customers to edit, remove, or even replace their negative online reviews. Some customers even turn into fans of your business! However, this isn’t always the case. While you can’t delete reviews made on other platforms, you can reduce the review’s prominence. Get more positive reviews to push the negative review further down the timeline. If it’s on a mixed media platform, publish additional content such as stand-out blog posts and company updates to increase the amount of positive and beneficial content.

Also, remember that negative online reviews are not entirely a bad thing. Visitors who see a negative review with a prompt followup and positive customer reaction may favor the transparency over a competitor that has only positive reviews.

Stay on Top of Online Reviews

You can’t respond to negative online reviews if you can’t find them! With the power of online reviews today, reputation monitoring is crucial to your business success. Use reputation monitoring to stay on top of what customers are saying about your business online, to make improvements where necessary, and to identify strengths to harness.

Knowing how to respond to negative reviews, especially those that occur online, is the key to customer relationships and continued success. Negative online reviews aren’t the worst thing in the world, and when handled properly, can be turned into opportunities to better satisfy your customers and improve your business.

Download this guide from LOCALiQ to get even more details on managing your online reputation.

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