How to Respond to Negative Reviews: 8 Tips

There are so many places your business can be reviewed online — Google, Yahoo, Yelp, TripAdvisor, LinkedIn — the list is long and always evolving.

If you’re doing something right (or seriously wrong), you’re sure to have at least a few reviews out there.

People are more likely to post online reviews in extreme cases — either they’ve had a really great experience, or something went horribly wrong.

A waitress was having a bad day; a hotel room smelled like smoke; a project didn’t flow the way it should have. Whatever the reason, now you’ve got a negative review out there and you can’t do anything about it.

Collage of 1 star, thumbs down, and sad faces for negative reviews

8 Tips for Responding to Negative Reviews

Don’t stress too much about bad reviews. Bad reviews may actually increase conversion rates. They definitely won’t destroy your business. Still, you should have a plan for how to deal with them.

Here are some tips for handling negative reviews so that you can turn them into positive feedback in the future.

1. Be thoughtful about your timing

To demonstrate that you take reviews seriously, your response should be punctual, but not so immediate that it seems reactionary. In order to do be punctual, you have to know when online reviews come in. Get Google alerts for your company name, your name, and if you’re brave or interested, your competitors. Start watching what’s published out there about you and your industry.

If you’re a HubSpot customer, you can use your Social Inbox to keep track of what’s being said about you on Twitter — and what people are saying about your competitors as well.

2. Respond – don’t react – to negative reviews

If you happen upon a negative review, don’t react immediately with snappy retorts. Wait until the initial surprise of the review has passed, and you’re ready to consider what aspects of the review have merit. Whatever you do, don’t tell future customers about your negative reviews and complain about their inaccuracy. Especially when you haven’t fixed the problem.

3. Look at each review as a chance to get it right

Reviews are invaluable feedback that you would never get by simply asking. Use that information to fix what’s wrong. Then, respond to negative reviews (some sites let you respond as the business owner directly to the reviews) with a detailed list of how you addressed the issue.

4. Ask for another chance

If you can identify the customer, see if he or she will give you the opportunity to resolve the issue offline, then ask them to update their review. You’ll find when you satisfy a previously unhappy customer you’ll be creating one of your strongest advocates.

5. Do nothing

We can’t always be perfect — and that’s ok. There are times when responding can turn a small blip into a big problem. In those cases, you’ve done everything you could on your end to rectify the issue, but the client or customer still isn’t happy. Just let it go — these things happen in business.

6. Get more good reviews

Encourage your customers to post reviews on the above-mentioned sites. I’ve seen tour groups give out a card at the end of the tour asking for TripAdvisor reviews; restaurants who ask for Yelp, Google or Zomato reviews after a customer finishes dining. Don’t be afraid to ask — many satisfied customers are happy to share their experience online.

7. Take it in stride

If the reviews are piling up, you have some work to do. Take them seriously. But if you’re finding one or two among a pile of happiness, then let it roll off your shoulders. Consider an appropriate response but don’t stew over it. Move forward and do the best you can to remedy the problems and get more good reviews.

8. Most importantly, don’t hide from negative reviews

Regularly check out your listings on the sites mentioned in this post and make sure you know what’s going on with your brand image; how people feel about you. As a small businesses owner, it’s your responsibility to use these bits of public information to build relationships, improve customer service and enhance your products.

Is it really that important to address negative reviews?

Just how significant are bad reviews for the future of our businesses? They’re significant, but not for the reasons we immediately think.

Negative reviews make us aware of and provide us with an opportunity to fix genuine problems and turn opponents into staunch allies.

Unjustly negative reviews are often exposed as petty and have little sway with intelligent consumers, and in the case of outright illegal reviews you generally have a remedial process to get them removed.

The number one rule when responding to all criticism, even the negative type, is to stay positive. Adding more negativity to the conversation by letting yourself be drawn into a fight with a customer or user will only reflect poorly on your business.  If you know you’re doing the right thing and doing it the best way you’re able, integrity always comes out on top.

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