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How to Handle Negative Reviews

Look, we get it.

When it comes to your business—particularly what people say about your business—it’s personal. And there is nothing quite like the crushing dismay of learning that someone has left you a one-star review.

Upsides of Negative Reviews

All customers everywhere expect businesses to accumulate their fair share of negative reviews. In fact, a smattering of negative reviews in the midst of glowing ones lends your business more credibility. As consumers, we are highly skeptical of companies or experiences that seem “too good to be true.” If all you have are five-star testimonies about your awesomeness, people are going to believe the reviews are bought, or left by friends and family. We expect imperfection.

So, right off the bat, there is an upside to negative reviews.

The second upside? Negative reviews are your opportunity to convert new customers. It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s the truth. The way you respond to a negative review reveals a lot about your business and how much you value your customers, even the ones who come after you on the Internet with guns a-blazin’.

Responding to Negative Reviews 

Start by verifying that the experience the customer describes meshes with what you or your staff remember. In some cases, you will have a name to potentially link to a customer transaction, but depending on the review platform used, you might be stuck playing Sherlock Holmes to find something that sounds similar. Once you know which incident the reviewer is referencing, you can evaluate the situation and draft your response.

No two responses will be alike. The way you address an employee complaint will be vastly different than how you respond to a customer’s misunderstanding of company policy. However, there are a few components that should appear in every response.

  1. Thank the customer for reaching out. Yes, even if they weren’t polite.
  2. Assure the customer that you take complaints very seriously and sincerely care about the quality of each customer’s experience.
  3. Offer to discuss the matter further, either by phone or in person. Make it clear you would like to work with the customer to turn their bad experience into a good one.

What you put between these things will depend on the nature of the complaint. If it was a policy misunderstanding, use the platform to clarify the policy in question. If it is regarding the attitude or actions of an employee, assure the customer that you will speak with the employee in question. If it is about the quality of work or service, you might offer a follow-up to discuss the matter further.

Customers with legitimate grievances will appreciate your efforts, whereas those who have taken to the internet solely to complain may never respond at all. But everyone who sees the review will see that you have made a sincere, earnest effort to ensure all your customers have a good experience. A thoughtful, diplomatic response to even the ugliest review will reveal more about your character and the character of your company than the review itself.

Managing Fake Negative Reviews 

Now, there are occasions here and there where companies are lampooned with reviews from customers who have never done business with them. Even so, it’s best to assume these reviews are made in good-faith, rather than accuse the customer of lying or intentionally attempting to sabotage your company’s reputation. This will demonstrate to all the potential customers who read the review that you are able to maintain a cool head, even when confronted with inaccurate criticism.

In the event you think you have received a negative review in error, ask the reviewer for additional details—the day or time the interaction occurred, and the names of any associates that might have helped them. Never accuse them of making up an incident, even if the name they post under isn’t in your system or the details don’t add up. Simply state that, unfortunately, you don’t have a record of their visit and invite them to call you with the pertinent details to discuss further. Nine times out of ten, this will be the last you hear from them.

Hidden Opportunity 

Though they can be difficult to read, negative reviews are an opportunity. Remember that each response is not solely for the person making the claim, but for everyone who will see that review when researching your services. A ranting, negative review left by a customer is much easier to dismiss than a ranting, negative response from a business. People expect other customers to be unreasonable and can tell the difference between a legitimate complaint and an irrational one. The way you address all concerns, legitimate or not, might be what encourages new customers to trust your business.