How to Respond to Negative Reviews

Using Negative Reviews as an opportunity to improve your brand perception? — Yes, it’s completely doable.

Few things can be as frustrating and infuriating as seeing a negative review of your company online. While it’s not anything you think you’d ever want to look forward to, it can be something beneficial for your company. I’d like to show you how to respond to a review and why it can actually turn out to be a good thing. Here’s a few things to keep in mind that’ll help you help yourself.

  1. Attitude – Keep your attitude in check during the entire process. Things said and done in the heat-of-the-moment are likely the wrong ones.
  2. Understanding – Seek to understand before responding. You may be able to reconcile things with the customer and have them retract their review.
  3. Respond – If reconciliation (where they retract the review) isn’t an option, reply.

Attitude – This is really where it all begins. Understandably, you won’t like seeing a negative review out there for your company. You take pride in what you do and you’re ready to passionately defend it. However, gaining control of your emotions will help you to think rationally about the entire situation and will help you going forward. Don’t let the bad review turn your pride and passion against you. Keep the “long-game” in mind. Your response will influence how future prospective customers see you, no different than the review itself. Your response means a great deal – more than you probably know. I’ll get into that later. 

Understanding – Normally, it boils down to “we screwed up” or “the customer’s unreasonable”. Speak with your staff to get an understanding of their side of the situation. Then, you’ll want to reach out to the client and hear their side. It’s good to follow up with the customer before responding to see if the relationship can be salvaged. Hopefully, they can be appeased enough to retract their review. 

Responding – Here comes the “fun” part. The “we screwed up” is the easier of the two. You can just respond by owning up to the mistake and make every effort to communicate that it’s not how you normally do business. These reviews can actually be beneficial (in moderation). This gives prospective clients a feel for how you actually run your business. When life happens and someone makes a mistake, you owning up to it and admitting your shortcoming shows them how you handle situations when mistakes happen. As long as you have an overall rating of 4.7 or so, your average customer will be happy to keep you in their consideration. In fact, having a 4.7 is better than having a 5.0. Why? Because 5.0 is perfect and perfection is suspicious. A 4.7 or 4.8 is more believable. Getting a bad review once in a blue moon isn’t a bad thing.

Now, what should you do when the customer is completely off-base? Remember to keep a level head. Your future prospective clients will read this and you want to make sure to come off as the most sane, calm and collected of the two sides they’ll be reading because that’s who they’ll trust. Letting the client have it “full-bore” is not what you want to do (as much as you may want to). One thing that is good, because your client has chosen the battleground, you are well within your right to share some details about the relationship to prove your point, just don’t overshare. It’s important to approach this from more of a factual standpoint than loaded with emotion. The facts will convey the emotion, you don’t have to incorporate it yourself. Essentially, you’re playing the part of the defendant and the public is your jury.Tips:Reviewer Aliases – Something that we see fairly frequently is someone using an alias in their review. Call them on it. If it’s something that looks like it could be a real name, acknowledge that you have no record of them in your system. If they pitch out a “John Doe”, come right out and state that the fact that this person isn’t willing to associate their name to their review shows that they are taking a cowardly stance. After all, they didn’t have any problem using your real name, why should they hide behind not using theirs? This isn’t you being mean, it’s you being insightful. 

Trying to influence only positive reviews – We’ve seen this sometimes, too. 

“We only request you leave us 5-Star Feedback online which helps us keep our prices low by helping us spread the word organically.”

This doesn’t fly with Google. Doing anything that discourages people from leaving you a review comes off as dishonest and untrustworthy. Customers are savvy enough to see right through that ploy. Don’t be “that guy”. 

Angry Mr. Business Owner – Whatever you do, don’t come off as defensive. Don’t react out of frustration by calling them every name in the book. This was sent to me about two weeks back – In short, don’t do this: 

Mary, who let you out of Crazy Town? You are a serial liar. Your whole story is false and a lie. You cannot buy a Honeywell setback thermostat for $24 as I told you on the phone and I tell you now. You just wanted something for nothing. He wanted to crawl over a dollar to pick up a nickel. You need to go to church and find your goodness that you have lost. I do not find you to be a good or credible person. We offered all your money back, just like you wanted. I even offered for you to call another company out and we would pay for it. There is nothing in this world that will ever make you happy because you are a very unhappy person and that is the life you choose to live. I’m truly sorry I could not make nothing work for you. I wish you all the luck in the world. I feel sorry for you and the next company you call out. John from Ace Heating & Air Conditioning.

I’ve taken some liberties with what you see above and have updated some of the content to hide the identity of the company. The original version of the above when shared with me was riddled with even more poor grammar, lack of punctuation and no capitalization. I’m sure it was quite literally painful for his potential clients to read. I fought myself to leave in the double-negative and the other negative aspects to this response. At this point, the business owner comes off as angry, poorly educated and immature. Not exactly the guy I’d want to call to fix my furnace. 

If you’re not the best at composing a response, that’s okay. No one is expecting you to be an expert linguist but having someone review your response that is good at composition is a great idea. The saddest thing about this is “John” may have been right. I’m sure he felt justified with what he said. The bottom-line, though, is he ruined his chance to make it better by how he chose to respond. If you have a website company that handles reputation management, you can even reach out to them to help you compose a response. We do this for our customers on a regular basis and they really appreciate it. We show them how they can go from being frustrated by the review to, at the very least, acceptable of the review and the fact that it happened. Don’t make a negative review worse by your response. Use it as a tool to prove to future prospective customers why you are the best choice for their home comfort needs.

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