How to (and Not to) Deal with Negative Online Reviews

BY: ON THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 01, 2018

If you own or operate a business with an online presence, the reviews you get are critical to your reputation.

According to BrightLocal’s 2017 Local Consumer Review Survey, 85% of consumers trust the reviews they read online as much as they trust the personal opinions and recommendations from people they know.

Additionally, 73% of consumers trust a business more after reading positive reviews. Most needed to read about 7 of them before ultimately deciding to instill that trust.

As you can see, online reviews can make or break you. So, what do you do when you get negative feedback instead of positive comments?

6 Strategies to Help You Deal with Negative Reviews of Your Business Online

There are right and wrong ways to deal with this situation. Let’s look at strategies that will help you take those negative reviews in stride and, most importantly, improve your business.

1. When the Review is Negative and Rude: Don’t Stoop to Their Level

It’s natural to want to go on the defensive when you encounter a negative review of your business, especially if that review feels like an attack.

However, it’s important not to do this. Do not, under any circumstances, stoop to the level of an angry, rude customer.

Why? Because this type of response could easily spiral out of control. It will only fuel the anger of the reviewer, and things could get ugly fast.

So, what should you do, instead?

2. Stay Calm and Take a Minute to Collect Your Thoughts

Don’t furiously hit “reply” to defend yourself, your business, and your reputation when you encounter a negative, inflammatory review. Instead, take a breather and walk away for a little bit.

Take some time to calm your thoughts and collect yourself. Then, return to the negative review and look at it critically. Try to see through the layer of anger to the root of the customer’s problem. What set them off in the first place? For example:

  • Was there a misunderstanding?
  • Did someone on your staff make a mistake with their order?
  • Was something wrong with the product they received?
  • Did they encounter rude treatment from your staff?

3. Apologize in Public, Clarify, and Solve the Issue in Private

Before you do anything else, apologize for the customer’s bad experience. Then, in polite and sympathetic terms, ask them if you can continue the conversation via a phone call or email so you can solve their problem.

(And yes, you do need to respond – 26% of consumers think it’s important for businesses to take the time to do so. Plus, if you respond quickly and efficiently, 95% of those dissatisfied consumers say they will return to do business with you.)

Don’t skip sincerely apologizing – it can do a lot to help win the customer over to your side. A simple “sorry” often can be enough to make them more amenable to working out the issue with you, too.

Just remember to give a thought-out apology. Tell them why you’re sorry.

For example, if the customer received a defective product, repeat the issue back to them and express your regrets that it happened. Use their name or username to make your apology more personal, i.e.:

“Jim, I’m so sorry the product you received was defective.”

If you’re still not sure what the actual problem is after some analysis, use your initial response to the customer to apologize and direct them to a private line of communication so you can get clarity, i.e.:

“Jim, I’m so sorry you had a bad experience. Please call or email customer service at X so we can resolve the issue for you.”

4. Respond to the Negative Review Positively

Once you have gotten to the root of the reviewer’s problem and apologized, you can try to solve their issue. Here’s the key, though:

Respond positively.

Take the high road and try to genuinely help resolve the issue.

This type of action shows that you care about customer service, want to do right by your customers, and are invested in doing better.

How do you make sure your response is positive? Rely on the tenants of good customer service.

5. Rely on Good Customer Service

According to Forbes, good customer service is all about setting up and fulfilling the customers’ expectations. To do this, you need to check off 10 keys to customer service excellence:

1. Believe the customer.

2. Let them complain.

3. Understand why they may ask to “see a manager.”

4. Be able to handle issues without a manager.

5. Get their feedback and listen to what they say.

6. Keep your frustrations about the interaction hidden from the customer.

7. Admit your mistakes.

8. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.

9. Understand the value of online reviews and an open reputation system.

10. Know which customers are not worth your time (for example, they are complaining to be inflammatory, not because they have an actual problem).

6. Focus on Doing Better

No matter what, whenever you receive poor feedback or negative reviews from customers, you should always look at them as opportunities.

How did you fail the customer’s expectations? Are your processes (checkout, responding to customer inquiries, etc.) unnecessarily complicated or confusing?

Negative Online Reviews Aren’t the End of the World for Your Business

The most important factor to remember about negative online reviews?

They aren’t the end of the world.

At some time or another, every business will get negative feedback or encounter a dissatisfied customer, because it’s impossible to please everyone.

Instead of fretting about negative reviews, know how to deal with them as they arise. Head them off with sincere apologies and attempts to resolve the customer’s issue. Approach each as an opportunity to improve your business from the outside-in, and you’ll be just fine.

Get a ChamberofCommerce.com business listing today and receive a free Online Visibility Report. The report scans the internet to tell you where your business is listed, how complete and accurate your information is and what review your customers are leaving about your business across the web.

About the Author

Matt Shealy

Matt Shealy is a Social Media evangelist and technologist based out of Orlando, FL and the President of SwayyEm. Matt's passion is to help connect brands with consumers in a meaningful, authentic way.

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