Online reviews matter.
We all know it, whether we understand exactly how and to what extent they matter, at least in terms of organic visibility across search engines.
Google said so itself: positive reviews and customer-business interactions improve organic visibility.
But, more importantly, customer reviews impact real business outcomes and the decisions potential customers make to patronize or not patronize certain outfits.
Just like their influence in the real world (offline), reviews not only give people a better idea of the effectiveness and quality of a specific product, service, or business – they reinforce a better-than-average customer experience, something all consumers seek.
That’s why all brands must be accepting and engaging with customer reviews – good or bad, always.
Responding to the positive ones isn’t usually all that hard.
It’s the negative feedback that is usually the most difficult to handle, and with good reason.
It’s hard to take harsh criticism.
It’s even harder to deal with an angry customer that can sometimes, in these circumstances, becomes stubborn and overwhelming.
As such, here are the best 16 tips for handling negative reviews that all businesses will undoubtedly receive.
1. Answer Quickly
If someone is upset enough to leave a negative review, they usually do it pretty soon after the negative experience takes place.
And they’re going to expect a fairly swift response back.
It’s the right thing to do and it also helps limit the damage done.
2. Answer Thoughtfully
On top of being quick on the return, all review responses – especially the negative ones – need to be appreciated for their true value.
All feedback is critical, and even more so when it’s negative.
This feedback likely gives your team an understanding of some of the not-so-smooth aspects and pain points customers experience throughout their everyday experiences with your brand.
Appreciate their effort to communicate that with your brand’s stakeholders, and make a difference based on it.
3. Answer Honestly
No one is perfect.
Neither is any one business.
On top of being quick and thoughtful in your response, be honest.
Transparency goes a long way.
Most negative reviewers – and customers in general – prefer an honest response to a genuine mistake with the understanding that their complaint is addressed in a fair and heartfelt manner.
This typically results in an outcome that is better for the customer as well as the business in the long run.
4. Be Kind & Keep It Appropriate
There’s no doubt: some reviews get downright nasty.
Regardless, a business should never stoop down to that level of unprofessionalism.
Keep the same attitude you’d want an employee to use in person.
Stay buttoned-up, remember to think of the customer and their displeasures, and always offer an apology.
Remember, there’s so much more to lose for businesses that don’t act professionally and don’t rectify a negative situation by satisfying a displeased customer.
5. Give Each Response a Custom Response
Customers want to be heard.
They want to make an impact on the people operating the business being reviewed, but also the future of that business so that others don’t experience the same hardships as them.
One of the easiest ways to illustrate that to people is to give them the attention they deserve.
There’s no better way to do that than with a custom response showing empathy and compassion.
Genuinely caring through emotion – the same emotion a quality business runs on – will go a long way.
Just don’t confuse it with getting personal.
6. Never Get Personal
Be thoughtful and give a unique response, but don’t get personal and certainly don’t ever attack or retaliate.
Even if you remember the exact person leaving the review and know they were not completely – or even slightly – acting in the right way, handle it like a true business professional with so much more to lose.
And remember, you actually have much more to gain.
7. Take It Offline
A standard best practice for handling negative reviews is to take the communication offline as soon as you can.
The key to doing so is to make it easy to move communication offline without overstepping boundaries.
Don’t try and make the unsatisfied customer reach out to you.
Get their contact info, ask for the best way and time to communicate, and apologize for their displeasure with your product or service.
For this reason, the first response to a negative review is the most important one.
8. Be Thankful & Appreciative
All feedback is useful feedback.
Be thankful someone took the time to give you criticism, even when it’s harsh, and appreciate the fact that they are still offering you the chance to make it right.
Negative reviews can (and should) actually be a good (and free) way to keep customers coming back.
Some customers will never do that.
Scorned once and never to engage again would be a worst-case scenario.
Take it for what it’s worth and improve the company’s imperfections, and be sure to express that in your response.
9. Take the Extra Step
While you don’t necessarily have to go above and beyond, it’ll almost always help.
This could vary depending on exactly what the issue was and how big of an impact it had on the reviewer.
But sometimes simply apologizing just won’t be enough.
And offering a credit to be used at your business isn’t always going to be the answer either.
Take the extra step to show that you’re not only sorry, but that you want to make it right and earn the person’s trust.
Offering a gift of peace could be the first step in that direction.
A gift card or flowers could certainly make an impact. So could sending a heartfelt gift of appreciation and/or forgiveness.
But it also doesn’t have to be something expensive to win over a once-upset negative reviewer.
Get creative and think about what would matter to you as a customer.
Even something as simple as a custom video or image could not only improve the reviewer’s perception of the company and how it operates, but it will likely impact many other people for years to come, too.
Those who come across a review – and its response(s) – could quickly shift from once-uncertain or even unhappy customers into brand advocates.
And let’s not forget the impact word of mouth has, especially in the days of social media.
All you’ve got to do is go the extra mile and you’ll likely make an impact.
10. Take the Appropriate Action to Correct the Issue & Show That to the Customer
Again, customers want to be heard and know they had an impact on the business in question.
Take all reviews seriously and, when it comes to negative ones, look for commonalities for real ways to improve your business.
Use what you learn from these reviews and bring it back to the employees interacting with people and making decisions that are impacting customers.
This will make the changes that need to happen become a reality.
Then explain to people how this feedback affected your business.
There is good to be found in every review.
Find the good in the bad ones.
11. Follow up With Negative Reviewers
Always follow up with negative reviewers.
Make sure their issue(s) has been remedied and that they ended up a happy customer after the experience.
If they are, ask for them to remove the negative review if they haven’t already.
It won’t always happen, but more often than not, a person will take a bad review down because they felt as if they were treated in a fair way and reached what they considered to be a fair resolution.
12. Offer Compensation for Hardship, If Necessary
Many times, offering compensation when a negative review is posted is not necessary.
But other times it very much is.
Again, people just want to be heard and their opinions cared for.
But if someone suffered financial loss or personal damage, compensation – at least in the form of a money-back guarantee – is the very least a business can do to soothe the grievances of an upset customer.
13. Encourage Customers to Leave Reviews
The best way to ensure happy customers are leaving positive reviews is to recommend customers leave reviews.
Good reviews work alongside negative reviews to build a brand’s reputation.
All businesses will get both good and bad reviews.
But if you want to constantly improve your reputation, consider the power of reviews, the power of good business, and recommend those happy customers take it to popular review platforms like Google, Facebook, Yelp, and other mainstream sites, but also to industry-specific sites that affect brand reputation in your respective niche.
14. Understand How Reviews & Rating Sites Work
To fully understand the impact of reviews, business stakeholders also need to understand how reviews and rating sites work.
Different platforms are useful for different reasons at times.
To get the most out of these reviews, understand how the platforms work and which is best suited for your reviews in terms of customer impact and business reputation.
15. Request Fake or Misleading Reviews Be Removed
Not all reviews will be authentic.
Sometimes it’s the competition.
Sometimes it’s a former employee.
Sometimes it’s even a potential customer who never became an actual customer and they try to take it out on the brand for whatever reason.
These types of reviews are against most terms of service agreements and can be removed when reported to the proper leadership of each platform.
16. Monitor Your Online Reputation
Monitoring your online presence is the one sure way to stay on top of all reviews consistently.
By doing so, you’re able to apply the all the previously mentioned guidelines for handling reviews and ensure your business is positioned for success online and beyond.