We've all been there. You're running your business like any other day, dealing with the day to day tasks and then suddenly you get an alert. You think to yourself, "Cool, a new review." You click the alert to excited to see what awesome review was just left about your company and BAM, a gaping hole is starting to fill in the middle of your chest and your day just took a turn for the worse... It's a negative review.
It's a very common thing and you're not alone. How to respond to negative reviews is something a business owner needs to know, and very well if they are going to limit the damage done by the negative review.
Whether it's a positive review or a negative review, many business owners find that there is no need to respond to reviews or comments. The thought process is that reviews are just for consumers to discuss amongst each other and not for the business itself. Some business owners might even be lulled into the sense that these reviews and comments are all positive.
However, due to the proliferation of the internet in today’s society, it is now easier than ever to tell other people your exact thoughts and opinions of a business meaning it is easier than ever for those reviews and comments to be negative.
Therefore, business owners should respond to all kinds of reviews, negative or positive, to make sure that specific customer feels like they are being taken care of and future customers know that their own concerns will be taken care of as well.
According to the Pew Research Center, about eight in ten Americans in 2020 rely on their own research before making major life decisions. Though purchasing an item or a service from your business might not be a “major life decision,” it still indicates how society thinks about researching and within the same study, 46% of people used digital tools to do their research such as Google, online reviews, and social media.
Even going back 30 years, the average consumer might only be able to tell their immediate circle of family and friends. Nowadays, the same consumer can tell thousands with a simple Tweet on Twitter or leaving a review throughout the internet. According to the Pew Research Center, about 40% of all American adults in 2016 have shared their opinions online, the biggest age range to share online is from 18 to 49.
In a further study by the Pew Research Center, they found that Americans believe customer reviews and ratings improve the overall consumer experience with the majority, about 88%, feeling more confident about what they are buying.
As society is more online and relying more heavily on reviews than ever before, we will go in depth on why it is important to respond to reviews and comments, good and bad, and how to handle both accordingly.
Where to Respond to Reviews and Comments
There are a lot of different places to leave a review or comment for businesses on the internet. Sometimes, you might have control over the platform and can respond easily and accordingly such as Google My Business, Yelp, or a Facebook page.
Other times, it might be harder to find and more difficult to respond on platforms. Twitter is a great example of that.
In either situation, the best thing is to try and respond to all comments and reviews.
Google My Business
One of the big locations to have a review platform is on Google. As you need a permanent address, this platform is best suited for brick-and-mortar businesses rather than online services.
The main benefit of having your business on Google is that Google is the most used search engine and, therefore, your business will most likely have a higher chance of appearing at the top of searches.
The easy-to-use dashboard allows you to update and verify any information that will allow customers to know what you do, who you serve, where you are located, and at what times, etc.
While Google My Business is brick-and-mortars in general, Yelp tends to be popular with restaurants and service based brick-and-mortars as you can find reviews about customer service phone calls.
However, when a customer goes on the Yelp platform they can filter their searches based on best reviewed, most reviewed, etc. This filtering system might make it harder for new businesses to get seen by potential customers.
Having a Facebook page enables customers to have another place to leave a review. Unlike Google, Facebook caters to all types of businesses, which gives online businesses a good place to receive reviews.
It will also appear when someone searches for your business on Google so they can see any reviews and other information about your business right away. By having a Facebook page, you will have control over any information that is displayed and will be able to respond quickly to any reviews.
Twitter is a bit of a harder platform to manage information as there are 330 million monthly active users and 145 million daily active users.
This being said, there are Tweets going out all the time. If you are not tagged in the Tweet, you might have to search for a relevant hashtag that a customer might have used.
As most users on Twitter look at Tweets rather than the profile of the business, maintaining information can be more difficult and, unlike the other platforms, it is even harder to manage negative comments and reviews on Twitter.
Removing Negative Reviews
For platforms where you can remove negative reviews, or at least flag them for removal, here are a few situations when you should do so.
Spam or Irrelevant Reviews
One of the most important types of reviews you should remove are when they are along the lines of spam or unrelated to what you offer. Like anywhere in the internet, spammers and robots will find your review platform.
This also goes along with any reviews that are not spam, but are inaccurate such as comments about opening hours that are not yours. It is better not to respond to these inaccuracies as it might seem like you are deflecting or hiding.
The big review platforms such as Google and Yelp have their own way of handling these and other types of reviews. It is best to flag them for the platform to take care of it.
Another type of negative review that you could flag for removal is if you suspect a competitor of writing the review or from an unhappy former employee. Also, be sure not to leave your own company a review, no matter how generic it is.
The last major type of review you should flag for removal are comments that are offensive or harmful to anyone personally or slanderous to your business. These comments will have threatening language, which might already trigger the platform to remove it straight away, but in case one slips through, flag it.
Business owners might ask “why can’t I just remove all negative reviews?”
The answer is you totally can, but you shouldn’t.
Here’s why: permitting constructive negative reviews is twofold. People know not everyone will be happy with a product or service as it is impossible to make everyone happy; therefore, permitting negative reviews showcases that you aren’t hiding anything. It will also show that there is no possibility of you manipulating the reviews for only positive ones.
Secondly, permitting negative reviews allows you to showcase your customer service based on how you respond.
How to Respond to Negative Reviews
Sometimes negative reviews are made from an unusual circumstance or a difficult customer, but they also can signal when something needs to be improved upon.
As we mentioned, 88% of people believe that reviews help with the customer experience and feel more confident in deciding to do business with you or not. These potential customers will be reading both positive and negative reviews.
Responding to any negative comments helps with rectifying a situation with a current or past customer and showcases your company’s attitude towards making the customer experience a positive one to potential or new customers.
Here are seven tips to help you respond to negative reviews.
Recognize the Situation and Apologize
The best rule of thumb is to address the elephant in the room meaning re-state the situation or issue in your comment in order to let the customer know you fully understand what happened. From there, apologize.
You don’t have to apologize for the experience, but rather apologize for how it made the customer feel.
Understand the Customer’s Side
Many customers believe that businesses are only in it for the money and don’t care about the people purchasing from them. This may be true for a few, but in most cases, business owners do care. When commenting on a review, make sure to outline how involved you are in always trying to make the customer experience a better one especially since you are a customer of other businesses as well.
Refrain from Confrontation
As a business owner, your business is like your baby. You don’t want anyone to hurt it and everybody to love it. Unfortunately, not everyone will and there will be negative reviews and it will hurt. Before responding, make sure to wait at least an hour or two in order to let any hurt dissipate.
When responding in the heat of the moment, you might find your emotions leading what you write, which could hurt the situation and your credibility even more.
“Offensive is better than defensive” is the saying, but when it comes to responding to reviews, neither is appropriate.
Encourage Contact Offline
Review platforms are meant for reviews and maybe a return comment. They are not meant for long threads that go back and forth.
Within your initial response make sure to indicate a place where they can chat that is more private such as private messenger, email, or phone. This gives the impression that you are sincere in rectifying the situation.
This also allows for any chance of confrontation to be held away from the public eye. However, even in an offline setting, be sure to still keep a level of professionalism because any contact can still be recorded or screenshot.
Take Steps to Correct the Situation
In your response to a negative review, mention steps you can take to correct the situation. Often, this is more a nice gesture as either reviewers won’t respond or will decide they don’t need anything.
However, outlining any and all steps you can take signals to new and potential customers that you are invested in the customer experience and that their own complaints will be addressed.
It might sound weird to thank a customer for a negative review, but it signals to the reviewer and to others that you are grateful for the chance to improve future services and resolve any past irritations.
Ending with gratitude leaves readers a lasting memory of positivity that maybe enough to earn their trust for future business.
Conclude the Customer Service
If resolving the situation is ongoing or has been resolved, update your review response to reflect the new status. This will help other customers see your dedication in making sure each customer is satisfied by your business.
The best way to do this is to mention the status at the top of your reply such as “Resolved.”
Tips for Responding to Positive Reviews
Though most of this article is geared towards responding to negative reviews, positive reviews can’t be ignored either.
All reviews need love and attention especially since these customers have taken time out of their day to leave such a glowing review for you. The negative reviews stand out a lot more, but it is actually the positive reviews that can be difficult to respond to as improving a situation tends to be easier than maintaining.
If we think back to when we were in school, whenever we received positive recognition, we tended to try to replicate the situation in order to receive more. This is the same thing with reviews. By acknowledging the positive reviews it will often encourage more of them.
Just like with negative reviews, business owners need to thank these ones too. Of course, the gratitude is worded differently, but the act of thanking is the same.
Mention More Features
If the positive review details features of working with you, mention another feature that they might not be aware of such as being able to return a product at any point in time or a new warranty policy.
One other feature that should be highlighted, if your business has it, is a referral program. Giving this incentive might not be as necessary with dedicated customers than with new customers since the loyal ones are probably already praising you.
Regardless, mentioning a referral program for either new or loyal customers just lets them know that you care about their support.
Respond to Your Reviews
After all is said and done, any good business owner needs to respond to reviews of all kinds. Perhaps while you are reading this, you are also opening a new tab to answer your own reviews. That is totally awesome!
Incorporating responding to reviews as a daily or weekly habit will help your business grow. The best is to respond to reviews as fast as possible, but try within the week at most.