Updated: Aug 19
We know that online reviews are critical to a business’ success, but how you handle your customer feedback is just as important as receiving them. Regularly monitoring and responding to feedback is good for your reputation, and lets your customers know that you are invested in their experiences with your company ─ which is why businesses must respond to negative reviews as well as positive.
It feels great to hear back from happy customers, and it’s easy to respond to their positive reviews. Address the reviewer by name with a genuine thank you, and provide additional information/value about your business ─ this simple template will more than suffice as a response to someone who is already happy with your services.
But how do you handle a negative review? Keep these tips in mind when deciding how to respond to a negative review:
Cooler Heads Prevail
It’s easy to get emotional about a negative review, especially when you feel the customer is attacking your business, or being unfair or untruthful. But responding to a bad review with anger and indignation is quite possibly worse than not responding at all. It can give viewers the impression that your biases color your judgment, which may actually give credence to the negative review. It is also unprofessional, and paints a poor picture of your customer relations. In short, don’t allow negativity to breed more negativity. Wait and think before you respond, assess the situation as objectively as possible, and respond as graciously as possible.
Evaluate the Situation Internally
As a business owner, it’s often impossible to be involved in every customer interaction and experience. Make sure to hear the other side of the story from your employees that were directly involved in the negative review situation. You might even find a mistake or weakness that your business can correct and grow from. For example, a review claiming to have received conflicting information from different staff members could lead you to realize that your office has an inefficient workflow which results in miscommunication with your front desk. Try to approach each negative review as an opportunity to reap something positive for your business.
Ignoring a bad review sends the message that you do not care ─ not only to the person who left the review, but to anyone who views it. 89% of consumers read businesses' responses to reviews, so it follows that your response must be public. Do not hide behind a private message in the hopes that the reviewer will reach back and remove the negative review after you’ve resolved the issue. There is no guarantee that the reviewer will respond to your private message at all, or that they are even interested in resolving the issue. Your public response is for anyone who may be viewing the review and your response, not just for the negative reviewer. Be sure to respond publicly to negative reviews!
Simple Template For Negative Review Responses
A negative review response typically require more personal attention and thoughtfulness than a positive review response, but there are a few key points every negative review response should touch on.
1: Acknowledge and apologize
Acknowledge the customer’s concern, regardless of whether or not it is founded. Online reviewers leave public reviews on highly visible review platforms because they want their feedback to be seen, and they believe it will have an effect on a business (which it does!). “Hello [name], I’m sorry to hear about your bad experience.”
2: Abide by the HIPAA Privacy Rule
If you are a healthcare provider, you must abide by the HIPAA Privacy Rule in any and every public forum, and that includes review platforms. Be sure to mention this right off the top so that it doesn’t seem like you are avoiding or talking around the subject. “Due to HIPAA privacy rules, we cannot speak about the particulars of your case on this public forum.”
3: Offer to make it right
Offer an appropriate solution, but try not to include specific dollar or other compensation amounts publicly. Keep those details between yourself and the reviewer. If you do not have enough details about the situation, keep your response open-ended so that you can determine appropriate compensation after learning more details. “Please call or visit us and ask to speak with Linda, our general manager, and we will do all we can to make it right.”
4: Move the conversation offline
You don’t want to discuss all the nitty-gritty details of a bad review publicly, and often cannot legally. “We’d like to understand more about this situation, so please call us at [office number] at your earliest convenience. Or, if it’s alright with you, we’d be happy to call you directly.”
Or in a direct message after leaving your public response, “My name is ____, I am the owner/manager of [business name] and I’d like to discuss this matter with you personally. Here is my cell phone number/personal email address, please feel free to contact me as soon as you are able.”
Dealing with negative reviews can be tricky, not to mention stressful and time consuming. But showing customers, both current and potential, that you actively care about their feedback goes a long way in garnering a positive reputation. Responding to both positive and negative reviews professionally and productively will pay off for both your online ratings and your customer loyalty.
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