How to Deal with Negative Reviews (The Right Way)

December 14, 2017

Seeing negative reviews of your business is like getting dumped by your high school sweetheart. It feels like the end of the world – even though it’s probably not.

Maybe your restaurant had a few last-minute call-ins and was severely understaffed, or your moving company failed to deliver on its 2-hour promise despite everyone’s best efforts. Or maybe the author of said review just had a bad day. Whatever the reason, you’re still stuck with two stars on a popular ratings website, and a small dent in your ego.

Here’s the good news: Negative reviews don’t have to be bad for business. In fact, a stray two- or three-star review can actually help your company. How? “It’s better to have a few negative reviews. A negative review humanizes your company,” says Commit Social Media Manager Nick Christensen. “No one is perfect, and no business is perfect.” He’s right. Even companies like Google, Lego and Rolex, which topped The Reputation Institute’s list of the 100 most respected firms worldwide, have a few not-so-glowing ratings.

So, what should you do when you or your marketing staff notices a negative review posted on Yelp, social media, your website or another public forum? Here’s a playbook of dos and don’ts from our social media gurus.

Take it Offline: “You’d think the natural way to address a bad online review is in public,” says Nick. “Actually, you want to resolve the issue in private. There are just too many things that could go wrong online.” Wrong as in the firestorm of online vitriol generated by Amy’s Baking Company. The now-defunct Scottsdale restaurant appeared on Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares in 2013 after owners Amy and Samy Bouzaglo posted a barrage of nasty replies to dissatisfied customers.

Keep it Simple: Post a reply to the negative comment or review that invites the reviewer to take the conversation offline. For example, “Thank you for leaving a review of XYZ auto dealership. I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t have an enjoyable experience leasing your new car… I would like to speak with you further to see how we can remedy the situation. Please contact me at [email protected] or provide your e-mail address so that we may contact you personally.”

Be Personal, but Don’t Take It Personally: Remember, negative ratings of your business aren’t an attack on your character, morality, or effectiveness as a leader. When you get in touch with the reviewer, empathize and let him or her know that you are disappointed they didn’t have an enjoyable experience. Listen to their complaints, and ask for any suggestions that could help remedy the situation for the future.

Keep it One-on-One: When you respond to the consumer directly, play it person-to-person (while keeping things professional). Remember, you are both just people. “Most consumers are willing to have a dialogue,” says Nick. “They often back down if they have the opportunity to talk to someone in a position of authority.”

Offer Compensation, If Appropriate: Some situations can’t be fixed with a credit, partial refund or incentive to come back. However, many consumers are willing to give second chances to a business they respect. If you own a hotel and receive a review complaining about noise levels, consider comping part of their overnight expenses. If you have a restaurant, invite a dissatisfied diner a complimentary meal.

Connect with Everyone: Respond to every review of your business, positive or negative, if you can; at least by thanking the rater for their review. This way, says Nick, consumers won’t think you’re cherry-picking which raters you want to have a dialogue with. “The sweet spot is within four hours of the post. Basically, the sooner, the better,” he says.

Don’t have the time, energy or manpower to read every review and craft a professional response? That’s where Commit Agency comes in. Our social media team can help manage your online accounts and facilitate successful responses to the reviews your business receives. Contact us online or at 480-921-3220 today to get started.