Knowing how to respond to negative reviews is critical for businesses. No one wants to see negative customer reviews on their site or a third-party review site like Google. However, it’s not a matter of if you’ll get a negative review – but when.
While criticism can be hard to hear, ignoring less than favorable reviews is not a smart option. In fact, it has the potential to make the situation worse.
If you had a customer complain to you in person about a bad experience, you probably wouldn’t ignore their claim. Instead, you’d look for a way to smooth over the situation. It’s imperative that businesses respond to feedback online with the same level of concern.
Another reason to respond to negative reviews is their potential to hurt your website’s rankings with Google’s search algorithm. A collection of unanswered reviews from disgruntled customers could impact your rankings in search engines. As a result, not responding to negative reviews damages your visibility when potential customers are searching for your services online.
Replying to negative reviews, as well as positive reviews, shows consumers that you are willing to accept feedback. Basically, it’s a clear indication that your business is taking steps to improve and provide great experiences for all its customers.
In this post, we’ll walk through how to respond to negative reviews. Then, we’ll show you steps that you can take to turn negative reviews into positive outcomes for your business.
How to Respond to Negative Reviews in Seven Steps
Our guide for responding to negative reviews can be broken down into seven simple steps:
- Keep calm
- Evaluate the review
- Address the reviewer’s complaint
- Remove/Flag any inappropriate reviews
- Make improvements
- Monitor new reviews
- Continue to improve
1. Keep Calm
First and foremost, make sure you are calm before replying! No matter how bad the review is, you will look bad if you respond in an aggressive or hostile way.
Coming across as unreceptive to feedback will only damage your online presence. While negative reviews aren’t good, individual negative reviews aren’t the end of the world.
Before starting a negative review response, make sure you are in a calm, rational place and not lashing out.
If the negative review is about a specific staff member, don’t immediately confront the employee without getting all the facts. This is especially true if this is their first time receiving criticism on their customer service.
Many of your employees may already be feeling discomfort over online reviews. As a result, this discomfort makes it critical to always ask your employees for their side of the story regarding reviews. By not doing so, you risk lowering their job satisfaction and rock bottom employee buy-in for online reputation management initiatives.
2. Evaluate the Review
When you get a negative review, it should be taken seriously and treated as genuine. Do not brush off reviews as “made up” without the facts to support this conclusion. When evaluating a review, make notes of:
- When they visited your business
- If they mention a specific staff member
- If this complaint been made before
- What kind of product/service they experienced or purchased
- If your records confirm that the reviewer visited your business
If most of these check out, talk with your staff. Chances are, they will remember any interaction they may have had with the reviewer. If the complaint is about a specific employee, get their side of the story before making any judgment.
Most reviews will be level-headed and factual, but some may be angry rants with very little information or substance. You’ll have to use your best judgment to identify rants. Generally, it’s usually unproductive to engage rants. See section four if you feel the review is inappropriate, as you may be able to have it removed.
Oftentimes, it’s better to respond directly, but sometimes no response is the correct response. There’s no need to move forward with reviews that are left in bad faith. This also applies to fake reviews.
In reality, fake reviews are few and far between. Most consumer feedback is genuine and should be taken seriously. If you have fears about potential fake reviews, check out our article about how to respond to fake reviews.
3. Address The Reviewer’s Complaint
If your organization doesn’t have a response plan, you should start by developing a process to address negative reviews.
Strong review responses templates usually contain five components:
- Start with the customer’s name
- Thank them for their feedback
- Apologize, even if you don’t think your business was in the wrong
- Assure them that you are taking steps to correct the problem. If there was a reason why your service wasn’t satisfying, own up to it. Most customers understand that accidents and other situations happen.
- Encourage them to come back.
By following this formula, you are showing reviewers that you value their opinion and that customer satisfaction is your priority. You may just win a lifelong customer.
Also, when responding to an online review:
- Keep your response brief
- Respond quickly
- Provide contact information if they want to follow up about their experience
- Take any further conversation offline to avoid disclosing private information or drawing attention to the individual review
- Remain neutral
- Don’t make excuses
- Promise to resolve the issue
Remember, replies should thank reviewers for providing feedback, address specific concerns, and promise to resolve the issue in the future. When you respond to a review, you are talking to everyone that reads the review, not just the original reviewer. Make sure you are putting your best foot forward.
The best outcome is that unhappy customers revise their reviews after seeing your responses. Customers being willing to try your product or service again is another great outcome. You can turn a negative review into a positive asset for your online reputation.
4. Remove/Flag Inappropriate Reviews
Negative reviews are bound to happen. Therefore, companies need to have action plans that cover review response. It will prevent your company from suffering further damage to your online reputation.
Sometimes, however, reviewers can cross the line from a helpful suggestion to something potentially insulting to outright slander. These situations are rare, but when they do happen you do have some recourse when reviews violate the platform guidelines.
When it comes to online reviews, Google and Facebook are two of the main places where customers can leave reviews. Each of these feedback platforms has its own set of guidelines and procedures for handling negative reviews. Understanding the rules on each is vital to your ability to protect your online reputation.
Here’s a look at how both of these review platforms handle negative reviews.
Google Reviews to Remove/Flag
Google reviews are highly visible and can even impact your ability to show up in local search results. This makes them critical to any business. Out of all the review platforms, Google does the best job in allowing businesses to combat inappropriate reviews.
If you feel like the review is overly aggressive, you can try to flag it. But before you do, make sure it falls within Google’s Prohibited and Restrict Content. Such content includes reviews that are:
- Written by a competitor or users with a conflict of interest
- Irrelevant or off-topic reviews
- Personal attacks or use of offensive language
- Sexually explicit, terrorist, restricted or illegal content
- Any impersonation or false representation
Even if you flag a review, it doesn’t guarantee Google will take the review down. Google is not in the business of mitigating disagreement between business owners and customers.
How to Flag a Review on Google
To report an inappropriate review on Google:
- Sign in to Google My Business.
- Click “Reviews” from the main menu.
- Find the review you’d like to flag
- Click on the three vertical dots in the upper-right corner of the review
- Click “Flag as inappropriate.”
Google’s flagging process can take some time. You can add a brief response that you are looking into the problem while you wait for Google to respond. You can always expand the reply later if Google refuses to remove the review.
Facebook Reviews to Remove/Flag
Like Google, Facebook also has community standards reviewers are required to follow.
These standards include:
- Any comment threatening violence or another user’s safety
- Hate speech
- Nudity/sexual content
- Violates Intellectual Property
How to Flag a Review on Facebook
If you believe that a review has violated any of Facebook’s standards:
- Go to the review and click the three horizontal dots in the top right corner of the post
- Click “Report post”
- You’ll be prompted to select an option that best addresses your concern with the post.
- Pick the one that best fits your situation
After completing the prompt, your report goes to Facebook for review. They will remove the review if they agree the disputed post doesn’t follow their guidelines.
Disabling Reviews on Facebook
Though highly not recommended, you can disable user feedback on Facebook using the reviews tab. But, if you choose to do so, you are disabling the chance for people to leave glowing reviews about your business. You are also giving up critical feedback to make better business decisions in the future.
You are always better off following our steps for responding to negative reviews than you are removing the function entirely. Healthcare Providers can follow our tips to optimize their Facebook pages to achieve even better results.
5. Make Improvements
Now that you’ve responded to the review online, it’s time for your business practices to respond in turn. Review feedback is a valuable chance to learn what your business can improve. If you notice consistent patterns over multiple customers’ feedback, you need to reexamine your business practices. Act strategically, do not brush negative customer feedback under the rug, or overreact.
This can be as simple as reviewing cleaning habits to making difficult staffing choices.
Again, make sure you are making thoughtful decisions based on consistent feedback before making any rash changes.
6. Monitor New Reviews
Once you’ve made improvements, it’s time to monitor the results of your hard work.
Pay careful attention to new reviews. Are people still raising concerns about the same problem? Are they commenting on how that problem has gone away?
Chances are, if you’ve taken the appropriate steps, reviewers won’t make negative comments about the issue again. In fact, they may even praise that one area that was once a weakness as a strength for your business.
Be sure to respond to both the negative and positive feedback within two to three business days. While negative feedback is usually the higher priority, the Harvard Business Review reports equal benefits to responses to positive reviews. A simple “thank you” is far better than no response.
Go back and look at those old negative reviews. Engage with the reviewer and let them know you have taken the steps you promised them and invite them back. They may just take you up on the offer.
7. Continue to Improve
Don’t stop there! Knowing how to respond to negative reviews is only half the battle. Continuing to monitor and work on your online reputation can have a massive impact on your bottom line.
Negative reviews are never part of your business plan, but they don’t have to derail it. With these steps, you can fix your customer service and have positive reviews drown out the bad.
Monitor and Respond to Negative Reviews with Review Manager
Dealing with negative reviews can be a time-consuming ordeal, especially if you share the responsibility with coworkers. Binary Fountain’s Review Manager is here to help.
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To learn more about responding to negative reviews, browse these related posts:
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- [Blog] What Patients Look for in Online Reviews
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