Sooner or later, every business owner will face their first negative review. Even beloved brands like Disney or Coca-Cola aren’t beloved by everyone all of the time, but as a business owner, it’s critical that you know how to respond to negative reviews appropriately.
After all, brand loyalty and the reputation of your business can be easily influenced by reviews.
In this article, we’ll assess why reviews are so important, why your business might receive negative reviews in the first place, and how you can respond to them effectively.
Reviews are a critical part of a business ecosystem and should always be encouraged. They bring value to your business in a myriad of ways – it’s not just about your overall star rating!
Reviews can actually boost the impression of your business across search engines by improving your website’s visibility, and Google actively motivates businesses to respond to and manage customer reviews.
Customers also trust other customers, so having reviews on your website or product pages could increase conversions. This is especially important for smaller businesses since they’re still growing a loyal customer base, and 97% of consumers will look at reviews before committing to a purchase. And 4 out of 5 customers will avoid a product altogether after reading a bad review, so it’s no surprise that negative reviews can be incredibly impactful!
Bad reviews are a dealbreaker for many customers, ultimately affecting brand trust, sales, and online reputation. But it all comes down to how your business handles negative reviews.
- Key Online Review Statistics: If you want to learn more about the impact of negative reviews and online reviews in general, check out these 2023 statistics.
- 6 Great Ways to Add Testimonials to Your Website: Find out how you can add reviews and feedback to your site with these top tips.
- How to Respond to Google Reviews: If you’re looking for Google specific reviews.
Negative reviews can’t be avoided – every business will receive one eventually, and that’s okay. It could be a genuine customer grievance, a little business mistake, or simply internet trolls looking to stir up trouble. No matter what’s said in the review, it can be hard to take criticism, especially about something you care about (like your business!).
The best thing you can do, as a business owner, is tackle negative reviews head-on and monitor your customer relationships closely. We’ll dive into how to respond to negative reviews in a moment, but first, let’s take a look at where you can find negative reviews:
- Your business website
- Social media accounts
- Dedicated review platforms, such as Trustpilot or Yelp
- Feedback forms & surveys
- Business listing on Google
- Specific industry websites
For example, if you’ve built your site from scratch, your website builder might provide useful elements, such as contact forms, so customers can easily leave reviews directly on your site. Or, you may find reviews elsewhere – if you’re a wedding photographer, for example, your business could be listed on a wedding-specific website.
That being said, you might not need to respond to reviews across every channel listed above since customers may prefer certain ones over others – we’d recommend getting to know where your customers are most vocal and adjusting your approach accordingly. Above all else, it’s important to keep an eye on how customers perceive your brand and products. Engaging with them is the next step!
We’ve discussed why reviews matter and why your business might receive negative reviews, but now it’s time to respond to them. Don’t worry if you’re not sure where to start or how to approach unhappy customers, we’ll guide you through the best practices below:
#1. Respond Quickly
First things first, we’d recommend responding quickly to any negative reviews. In some cases, it can be beneficial to hold off until you’ve taken action, but usually, it’s best to address the problem right away.
Put yourself in the customer’s shoes – they’ve felt strongly enough to leave a negative review, so the least you can do is respond to them promptly. If you leave them hanging for weeks or months, their opinion of your business will only get worse!
#2. Be Appreciative
It’s important to show that you’ve listened to the customer, and an easy way to do this when responding to a negative review is to be appreciative. Apologize and find solutions, yes, but also take the time to thank the customer for sharing the feedback in the first place – even if it’s bad. It shows that your business values what customers think, which could encourage others to leave reviews in the future… though, hopefully they’ll be positive!
- “Thank you for Your Purchase” – How to Write the Best Messages: It’s important to show appreciation towards your customers at every stage, from the checkout page to reviews.
#3. Don’t Get Personal
Remember, anyone leaving a negative business review is directing it towards the business or product, not at you personally. This means any interaction with customers should be polite and professional in tone; it isn’t a social message.
Don’t escalate the issue by getting personal – your response should be useful to the customer and not antagonistic. It’s important to see where the customer is coming from, so having empathy for their issue is the best approach.
#4. Create Custom Responses
If a customer’s written a negative review, it means they’re unhappy, and the last thing they want to see is a bot-like, copy-and-paste answer. This goes back to our point about appreciation – customers want to know a business cares about, listens to, and values the opinion of its audience.
As a business owner, you can achieve this by responding with customized answers. Use their name, focus on the issue at hand, and be authentic.
Lotti Haxell, a Social Media Specialist at MVF, explains why it’s important to avoid generic responses: “No one enjoys getting a “your feedback is very important to us” message from a robot when they’re in a potentially emotional state and in need of quick assistance. Be professional, kind, and understanding with the people who chose to spend their money on your product or service.”
- 11 Customer Service Phrases to Use: If you need a helping hand when crafting your review response, check out our guide on useful customer service phrases.
#5. Take It Offline
If a negative review involves a complex issue or requires further discussion, it’s important to take it offline as soon as possible. The initial review and response are public, but there’s no need for everyone else to read the back-and-forth, especially if you need personal information to compensate the customer.
#6. Outline Next Steps
A great way to spin a negative review into a positive is to show how your business plans to take action to resolve the issue, or even share what steps have already been taken. It could be anything from a small packaging change to the removal of a product altogether. This shows that your business truly listens to the feedback given and actively takes steps to rectify the problem.
#7. Follow Up
Whether you’ve offered compensation or not, it’s good to check back in with the authors of negative reviews and see if their issue has been resolved. We recommend approximately two weeks after your initial response – not only does this give your business time to take action, but it also gives the customer space to reflect on the situation.
If the issue is still ongoing after a couple of weeks, simply give the customer an update. Let them know you’re working on it! Your business then has an opportunity to make additional changes and – ideally – fix that customer relationship.
#8. Report Fake Reviews
Now, we’ve said it’s important to respond to negative reviews as a business owner – even if you don’t agree with the feedback – but if a review is totally out of nowhere or unjustified, it’s okay to delete the review or report them, depending on where the feedback is given.
Is the review full of offensive language? Could it be a troll? Does the review bring value to your business and could it be useful for other customers? Is your business being targeted with fake reviews? Keep these questions in mind when monitoring any feedback, but be careful that you don’t delete any valid criticism!
Knowing how to differentiate between critique and harassment is a valuable practice when handling bad reviews. If you do find yourself face-to-face with trolls, Haxell explains why you shouldn’t get sucked into the drama: “If their comments are defamatory, obviously false, or personal, you should follow one of the foundational rules of the internet: don’t feed the trolls. Debating back and forth about off-topic or pointless points with someone on the internet will not only make you look unprofessional but will drain you of your time and energy.”
There are plenty of “dos” and “don’ts” when it comes to handling negative reviews as a business owner, but there are some approaches that should be avoided at all costs. You don’t want any existing or potential customers to view your business as untrustworthy or hot-headed.
When it comes to reviews, your business should never:
- Get angry
- Be defensive
- Avoid negative feedback altogether
- Drag it out publicly
- Request good reviews
- Make excuses
Take time to compose your answer before responding to bad reviews, especially if the review evokes an emotional response from you personally, and remember that your business has more to lose than the customer leaving a negative review.
Obviously, good reviews are always preferred, but did you know that negative reviews can be beneficial for your business too? That’s right!
A lot of it comes down to how you view negative reviews – in our opinion, any feedback is good! As a business owner, it brings you one step closer to understanding the needs and pain points of your customers, which are equally as important as knowing what your customers like. If you always hear the positives, you’ll never really grow or improve as a business.
We’ve touched on it briefly already, but negative reviews can also inspire change and improvements. Learn from the feedback – view it as constructive criticism and spin it into positive action.
So, now you know how to respond to negative reviews, but how can you prevent them in the future? The answer is: it’s impossible! You can’t stop them altogether, and you can’t directly beg for nice reviews either – bad reviews will happen no matter what, but there are steps a business can take to attract positive reviews.
#1. Provide Positive Customer Experiences
You can’t guarantee happy customers with a pleasing website or eye-catching products – it’s important to provide great customer service and a smooth user journey too.
#2. Engage With Feedback
Customers are more likely to trust a business and look favorably upon one that interacts with its customers in a positive and honest way.
Your business should be asking customers for reviews and feedback throughout their user journey, whether that’s via a pop-up on your website or asking people to comment on social media posts.
#3. Take Action
If you make improvements based on negative feedback, it’s unlikely those same issues will appear in future reviews since they’ve been resolved already.
We’ve covered a lot in this article, from why reviews matter to how you can prevent negative reviews in the future, but you should now be well-equipped to respond to any negative reviews that might come your way. To recap, you should:
- Respond quickly and honestly
- Be appreciative of any feedback
- Stay professional and avoid getting personal
- Respond to customers with bespoke answers
- If necessary, take the discussion offline
- Share how your business will resolve the issue
- Follow up with customers
- Report any fake negative reviews
We know that receiving a negative review can feel like a blow, but no company is exempt so don’t feel disheartened if it happens to your business. Knowing how to handle and how to respond to bad reviews can really set the tone for how customers view your business, and encouraging feedback of any kind goes a long way in helping your brand’s online reputation and customer relationships grow.
So, if you liked – or didn’t like – this article, leave us a comment either way! We’d love to hear if you found this article helpful, or if you have any additional methods for responding to bad reviews.