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Keep Calm and Carry On: How to Respond to a Negative Review

Customer reviews are a blessing and a curse. When you have countless satisfied customers leaving you glowing reviews on directories like Google+ Local, Yelp, Facebook, Angie’s List, CitySearch, and so on, your business gets a huge boost and your self-esteem soars. But as soon as you notice one negative review, a record scratches and the party stops. You can’t believe what you’re reading. It’s upsetting to read negative things about your company, especially when you try so hard to satisfy every customer. Sometimes, after you’ve given it some thought, a complaint might be justified; other times, it feels like you’re dealing with an irrational individual who can’t be pleased. Whatever the case may be, don’t leave a negative customer review unanswered. Instead, take initiative and respond by following these steps.

1. Keep the Right Audience in Mind

Remember that prospective customers will be reading your response; it isn’t just for the one person who left the review. In fact, the person who left the review will probably never see your response! Prospective customers are doing their research, carefully reading about others’ experiences, and they’ll want to gain insight into how you treat your customers. Bearing that in mind, your response should address the issue at hand by explaining what went wrong and how similar problems will be prevented in the future. Prospects want to be sure that you’re aware of your weaknesses and that you’re actively working to mitigate them. Reading these points in your response will reiterate to them that you’re an honest, hardworking company.

2. Don’t Get Defensive

When dealing with a negative customer review, it’s best not to be reactive. As business owners, it’s easy to get defensive. A bitter response might be the first thing that comes to mind, especially if the reviewer included false information, but that’s not an effective course of action. Just take a few hours, maybe even a whole day, to gain some perspective and to form a rational rebuttal before you post anything online for public viewing.

3. Demonstrate Accountability

In your response, you should try to put your company in the most flattering light while still accepting responsibility for the customer’s unfavorable experience. Instead of merely explaining your side of the story, you should also present an idea for how you might fix the problem and use this as a learning experience. This demonstrates to prospective customers that you’re serious about providing top-quality work and customer satisfaction, and more importantly, that you’re always striving for improvement.

4. Just Respond

Don’t ignore a negative review. Any response is better than no response, with the exception of an aggressive, personal attack written in the heat of the moment. Given the current state of social media and the fact that everyone has a virtual megaphone now, a review that’s left uncontested could quickly spread beyond your Facebook page or Google+ listing. That’s the last thing you need. A quick response to the reviewer, and the wider public audience by extension, could keep a potential mess at bay. For an entertaining look at some of the biggest social media splashes made by passionate customers, check out this slideshow from DailyFinance: “When Customer Service Goes Viral: The Good and the Bad.” As you can see, all it takes is one instance of poor service to create a public relations nightmare. In fact, public complaints against high-profile brands like United Airlines and FedEx have received hundreds of thousands of hits online! While local service providers like you are operating on a much smaller scale, you see the point: Word of mouth travels at the speed of light these days. Don’t let one rotten review spoil your whole clientele.

5. Counteract With More Positive Reviews

In addition to responding verbally, you can also respond by taking action. If you talk to your satisfied customers, you can collect a handful of more positive reviews that will push the negative one toward the bottom of your listing, thus minimizing any serious impact. In doing so, you’ll also make the negative review seem less glaring and more like a fluke. If prospective customers see just one bad review surrounded by numerous good ones, they’ll do the math. For ideas on how to harvest those positive reviews from your customers, stay tuned for our next blog post at the beginning of October!