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How to Respond to A Negative Online Review

How to respond to a negative online review

Helpful tips for Managing Your Business’ Online Reputation

The internet of today is a vast place full of cat videos, funny memes, and people expressing their opinion on everything and anything. It seems like no matter where you turn you’re likely to find someone sharing their thoughts (does anyone even read comments sections anymore?!).

As a small business owner this can be equal parts exciting and terrifying. Exciting because people are talking about your business, terrifying because people are talking about your business and you can’t control what they’re saying! Platforms like Facebook, Yelp, and Google have made it easy for people to not only remark about your business but leave ratings too. Believe it or not these ratings can be influential to not only the decision making process of a potential new customer, but also in how easily your business can be found across the internet.

Since you can’t control what your customers are saying, the best thing you can do is control how you respond. Here are a few tips that will teach you how to respond to a negative review in a way that is fair to both your business and your customer.

Take a Deep Breath: We get it! Your business is your baby and it hurts to read when someone talks badly about it. The first step to handling a negative online review is to take a deep breath and step away. Responding to a review with a hot head typically doesn’t end well for your business’ reputation. If you come off as angry or accusatory, other customers will never give your business the benefit of the doubt.

I once saw an exchange spiral horribly out of control over a negative Facebook review. After reaching out directly several times a customer left a negative review on a company’s Facebook page complete with photos of shoddy work that the company had done at the customer’s home. Instead of responding calmly and getting to the bottom of the issue, the business owner left an angry response.

Unsatisfied with the customer service and work that they had received, the customer then took to a Facebook group of more than 5,000 locals to share their experience and the subsequent online altercation that resulted from it. The group members then went to the business’ Facebook page to not only stand up for their friend on the review's thread but to also leave more negative reviews for the business and their (lack of) customer service. The business owner continued to respond angrily and the whole situation quickly spiraled out of control effectively ruining the business’ Facebook page and online reputation. Had the business owner calmed down before leaving a response the situation could have ended very differently.

Talk it Out: Another important step to being able to fully answer a negative review is to look at it from all angles. If you were not present at the time of the incident talk to the employees who were. Start with the person who was directly involved and then hear the story from someone else who witnessed it.

If you were present it is still important to talk it through with another witness. This will help you to see the story from another point of view and try to understand either why the mistake happened or where the customer is coming from with their complaint.

Timing is Everything: Take the time you need to cool off and to get to the bottom of the issue but try your best to have a response to the customer within 24 hours. Even if you need to research further it is always ok to say “We are so sorry to hear about your experience! Can you please pass along your email address to us so that we can further address the issue with you?”. This will give you the extra time that you need to investigate as well as make the customer feel like their issue is important to you.

Remember that both positive reviews and negative should be responded to quickly. The customer is taking time out of their busy life to tell the world about their experience with your business and deserves your attention.

Empathize: It is important to keep in mind that no matter how bad the review is do not immediately jump to the conclusion that the poster has it out for you. Chances are the customer was not starting their day thinking "How can I take down this business today?". In most cases they were just trying to share feedback about the experience as they saw and felt it. Try to have a little empathy, most likely there is more to their story than what you see in the post.

Analyze: We’re not saying that you need to dive into the root of every negative review that you see, but every negative review can be a learning opportunity. If one customer was frustrated enough to put a review online others could be noticing the issue too, but just don’t say anything. Don’t make yourself crazy over it but keep in mind that there is room in any business for positive changes. If you notice a pattern of complaints regarding the same issue then it is definitely worth an exploration because an issue is clearly present.

When it comes to reviews it’s important to keep the 10:1 rule in mind. For most businesses for every 1 negative review they receive there is typically 10 transactions that have gone undocumented. If you focus on a negative review as a way to grow and improve your business there should be much less fear when it comes to the world of online reputation management. Contact us today for more information on how we can help you maintain a positive reputation online.

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