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How to Respond to a Negative Review in the Best Way Possible

Customer dissatisfaction can happen in any business, and in Canada, where politeness is common, negative feedback can be expressed more strongly. While it may seem insignificant, online reviews play a crucial role in a brand’s reputation. Statista data reveals that 94% are more likely to use a local business due to positive online reviews, while 92% are less likely to do so based on negative reviews.



negative review

If you own a business, eventually something will go awry, and for one reason or another, a customer will end up being upset.

Oftentimes, this won’t amount to much of anything, especially here in Canada, where many of us are pretty timid and most of us are exceptionally polite.

But when a customer feels your product or service didn’t live up to their expectations, even here in the Great White North, sometimes they want to tell the world.

And some of them will express their discontent much more loudly and rudely than others.

As I’ve learned firsthand, it’s not fun to be on the receiving end of this sort of thing. Egos get bruised, tempers flare, and the knee-jerk reaction is to immediately go on the defensive.

But there’s a much better way to respond to these situations that will not only save your business’ reputation but also give you the chance to win back that unhappy customer.

At this point, you might be thinking this whole online review thing seems pretty insignificant, and you may be wondering why you should even devote any of your time to this.

If this sounds like you, I understand where you’re coming from, but like it or not, online reviews, both good and bad, are incredibly important to the reputation and perception of your brand.

Survey data from Statista, for instance, found that 94 per cent of respondents are more likely to use a local business because of positive online reviews, and 92 per cent said negative reviews make them less likely to patronize a local business.

What’s more, according to a report from ReviewTrackers, over 40 per cent of consumers are more likely to visit a business that responds to negative reviews.

This shows that it’s not just the reviews themselves that are important, but also how you respond to them, and this is especially true for the bad ones.

Unfortunately, in the age of the internet, it’s way too easy for hot-headed customers to take their grievances online – whether legitimate or not – by writing bad reviews.

And even if you’ve done nothing wrong, and they have no real reason to complain, when a customer doesn’t feel that their situation has been properly resolved or they feel like they haven’t been listened to, word of mouth can spread like wildfire.

You’ve probably witnessed this many times yourself when a company has supposedly wronged an irate customer and suddenly everyone is adding their story to the mix. It can get ugly very fast.

But when it comes to your brand’s reputation, how you handle the situation can make all the difference in the world, and the right response to a bad review can turn a potential disaster into a real triumph.

So, if you’re wondering how to respond to a bad review, then you’re going to want to keep reading.

Because in this article, I’m going to highlight some of the biggest mistakes business owners make when responding to bad reviews, provide an example of how we’ve responded to one, and explain how to respond to negative reviews in the best way possible.

Mistakes to Avoid When Responding to Bad Reviews

Before I offer my advice on how to respond to a negative review, let’s talk about what not to do.

With that in mind, here are some of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen business owners make when responding to negative reviews online:

  1. They take the review personally, get defensive, and decide to have an online shouting match with the customer.
  • They have friends post fake reviews on their behalf in an attempt to run damage control.
  • They escalate the situation by denying there was a problem to begin with or start blaming the customer, which makes them even angrier, resulting in an even more negative impact.
  • They become downright rude, hurtful, or make snide comments about the customer.
  • They refuse to take responsibility, and instead just point their fingers and blame something and/or someone else.

Aside from these classic mistakes, many business owners will tend to avoid monitoring their reviews at all and think, “What I don’t know can’t hurt me.”

But if you have this kind of attitude, not only will you be unaware of these bad reviews, but you’re also giving up the chance to respond to them, and you really don’t want to do that.

Because as we saw from the data above, consumers are more likely to visit a business that responds to negative reviews, which means not responding to these reviews can actually be worse than getting them in the first place.

Now, before I move on here, I think it’s important to talk specifically about reviews on Google, as this is where most people are looking up reviews on businesses.

People are known to leave bad reviews on Google for no good reason, and one of the reasons they do this is simply to mess with their competitors’ reputations.

We’ve experienced this ourselves with the one bad review we have on Google.

When we got this review, we knew something was up right away, as no comment was left, and the user simply gave us a one-star review for no apparent reason.

However, when we looked into it, we found that this person worked for one of our competitors and was probably just trying to mess with us.

So, we flagged this comment for removal, as what this user is doing more than likely violates Google’s guidelines when it comes to reviews.

But it’s important to note that despite the malicious nature of this review, we still responded to it politely and professionally, making sure to let this person know that we’re eager to rectify the situation.

At this point, you might be wondering if it’s possible to remove Google reviews, and it is, but only Google can remove them, and they’ll only do that if the review violates their guidelines.

This is often an incredibly lengthy process, as we flagged this review for removal more than two months ago but obviously, it’s still there.

That being said, in situations like this, it makes sense to flag the review for removal, as this is clearly a malicious act, but don’t expect anything to be done about it any time soon, if ever.

Most importantly, you should still reply to the review in the same polite and professional manner that you would use when responding to any other one.

How to Respond to a Negative Review

Now that you know about some of the biggest mistakes business owners make when responding to bad reviews, and you’ve seen an example of how you should respond, let’s talk about how to respond to a negative review in the best way possible.

With that in mind, here are some tips to help you monitor and manage your brand’s reputation when responding to bad reviews online:

Monitor Your Online Reputation

One thing you can do to help you monitor your online reputation is to set up Google Alerts for your company name so that whenever a new mention of your business appears online, you’ll be notified.

Both of these tools are great because they allow you to monitor your brand’s online reputation in real time, and help you respond to these reviews in a timelier manner.

Keep Your Cool

As I already mentioned, starting a flame war with a customer because they left a bad review is one of the biggest mistakes you can make, so make sure to keep your cool no matter what.

You should try to look at bad reviews as an opportunity for improvement, because customer feedback, whether it’s good or bad, can reveal ways to improve your products and services or make you aware of issues you didn’t even know about.

It’s also important to mention that you shouldn’t respond if you’re feeling angry, hurt, or defensive; always wait until you’ve calmed down and can respond in a professional, courteous, and respectful manner.

Be Grateful and Polite

Something else you should make a point of doing when responding to negative reviews is to thank the customer for their loyalty and feedback.

Try to look at things from their perspective, acknowledge the problem, get all the relevant facts, and let them know you have heard their complaint.

In addition, make sure to explain that it’s important to you that you resolve their situation, and don’t forget to share what you’re going to do to make it right.

Respond Publicly

When other customers see you going out of your way to make a bad situation right, it helps to retain their trust, and as was shown by the data above, if you respond to bad reviews online, many consumers will actually be more likely to give you their business.

In any case, this is incredibly important, because if your reputation has been bruised, even by one bad review, you’ve got to earn back the trust you’ve lost if you want customers to continue doing business with you.

And one of the best ways to do that is by doing everything you can to resolve the issue openly and honestly.

Take Ownership of the Complaint

It’s easy to blame someone else on your staff for the blunder or point fingers at failed technology or whatever the case may be.

But as a business owner, taking responsibility for the issue and dealing with it in a calm, professional manner will help enhance your brand’s reputation and can convert an unhappy customer into a happy one because they feel their concerns have been heard and addressed.

When you make a point of doing this, you can be sure other people are going to hear about it, and word of mouth will continue to spread about how you treat your customers.

So, if you want to be smart about how you respond to negative reviews, the next time you’re faced with one, try to be thankful for the feedback and use it as a learning opportunity, and an opportunity to protect your brand’s online reputation.

Because when you welcome customer complaints, and use this criticism to improve your products and/or services, it can lead to more satisfied customers, better products and services, and a greater grasp of how to deal with these kinds of situations.


(Featured image by Jason Goodman via Unsplash)

DISCLAIMER: This article was written by a third party contributor and does not reflect the opinion of Born2Invest, its management, staff or its associates. Please review our disclaimer for more information.

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Susan Friesen, founder of the award-winning web development and digital marketing firm eVision Media, is a Web Specialist, Business & Marketing Consultant, and Social Media Advisor. She works with entrepreneurs who struggle with having the lack of knowledge, skill and support needed to create their online business presence. As a result of working with Susan and her team, clients feel confident and relieved knowing their online marketing is in trustworthy and caring hands so they can focus on building their business with peace of mind at having a perfect support system in place to guide them every step of the way.