How to respond to a negative online review

There comes a time when every business will receive a bad review. Like it or not, it comes with the territory. Unfortunately, it’s very easy for unhappy clients to leave a bad review online – either on Google, Facebook, a review site or by creating a video that goes viral

The good news is that you can respond to a bad review. The tricky part can be responding to it in a way that makes you look like the good guy.

How to respond to a negative online review

  • Above all else, STAY CALM. Whatever you do, don’t respond with emotion! Draft a reply and ask someone who is less emotionally involved to have a look at it before you post. You don’t want your response to go viral for all the wrong reasons!
  • You can try and have the review removed – however, if it’s on a review site such as Yelp or TripAdvisor you’re unlikely to be successful. Google has been known to remove negative reviews that violate their policies.
  • Respond quickly – when customers complain online they expect a response within an hour yet the average company takes nine HOURS to respond. And remember that people expect quicker responses via social media than they do via email.
  • Respond to everyone who leaves a review or feedback. Responding to reviews shows your customers you care and that you take all reviews, good and bad, seriously. A simple thank you is often enough for a positive review when it’s negative take the details offline. A quick, unemotional and effective response to a negative review or comment is to say “thanks for your feedback, can you please call/email me on [insert details] and we can discuss this in detail”. Whatever you do, do NOT air your dirty laundry in public. That makes you look bad.
  • Be transparent. Nobody expects perfection. Don’t get hung up on a negative view, even if it is a blatant lie – it’s how you respond that counts. Remember that some negativity adds to credibility. Think about how a list of only 5 star reviews makes you feel vs a list of reviews that includes a couple of one, two and three-star comments.
  • No response isn’t an option – people expect a response. ALL your customers (and potential customers) will be watching to see if and how you respond, so make sure you say something.
  • Respond on the platform the complaint was made – if it’s on Facebook, respond on Facebook – although as mentioned above, it’s perfectly OK to take the matter offline once you have acknowledged it online.
  • Encourage positive reviews from customers who love you – Brisbane independent bookstore Avid Reader shared a Facebook post by feminist writer Clementine Ford, and a few hours later was bombarded with one-star reviews by men’s rights. Current and former employees reached out to their loyal community asking for help, and they leapt to Avid’s defence, leaving almost 4,000 five-star reviews in response to the 400-odd one-star reviews.

While this article has focused on how to respond to negative comments and reviews, you also need to make sure you resolve the issue. Often a complaint is the first sign of a bigger issue, so be sure to take the time to fully investigate.

 In 2008 musician Dave Carroll was flying with United Airlines when he noticed the luggage handlers outside throwing guitars around – and breaking his. He complained to the airline: he tweeted, phoned and wrote, seeking $1,200 compensation to repair his damaged guitar. He would have accepted travel vouchers instead of cash, however, United Airlines refused. After nine months of trying to get compensation, he wrote a song called “United Breaks Guitars”. You can watch and listen to it on YouTube. It’s had 18 million views. And counting.

Mel Kettle

Mel Kettle works with associations, not-for-profits and businesses to help them communicate effectively and authentically so they attract, retain and engage their members and customers. To inquire about working with Mel, please email mel@melkettle.com or call her on 0404 600 889.
Order a signed copy of Mel’s book, The Social Association – 5 key skills not-for-profits need to increase member engagement, generate ROI and create a thriving online community, published in February 2018.

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