Have you noticed your traffic has fallen off? Is your website producing fewer leads? One of the first things to check is negative reviews. When learning how to respond to negative reviews, it’s best to start with how your audience finds and looks at poor ratings and reviews online.
In discovery, customers look at reviews of businesses to determine the quality of service or products. Still, overall, it’s about how trustworthy your business is to produce the results they’re looking for.
A single negative review can cause a prospect to spend their time and money elsewhere simply because another customer said your business wasn’t trustworthy or the product didn’t work for them.
However, a few proven tactics can help you respond to these poor reviews, especially when removing them isn’t an option.
How Businesses Should Respond to Negative Reviews
Reviews are the word-of-mouth “score” about a company, product, service, or salespeople. You’ll find negative reviews often come from a prospect or customer who had a poor experience, and in other cases, it’s simply because it wasn’t what they were expecting.
This is why it’s important to never over-promise what you can’t deliver. For example, if your product shoots water but doesn’t have RGB effects, you shouldn’t post that it includes RGB effects. If a customer is looking for this specific feature and they don’t receive it, the odds are they will leave a poor rating or review. This often comes down to not knowing what your marketing materials say about your products and services.
In other cases, if poor reviews come from customer service experiences or sales demo calls go wrong, you’ll need to look at your training, scripts, and sales materials to ensure that it’s exactly what you want the customer to experience.
These are some step-by-step ways to formulate your negative review responses.
Pro Tip: Once you’ve approved all of your negative responses, place them all in a Google Doc or other shared document so that all managers, customer service representatives, and other responders have access to it. This can make it easier to respond quickly to those negative review types.
Understand the End Goal of a Negative Review Response
The first step in writing any negative review response is understanding the end goal. You want the customer to remove or change the review to be positive. This happens all the time when a resolution is provided to a disgruntled customer. Perhaps their product was defective, so you replace it at no cost, and they change the review to reflect that experience or even remove the poor rating.
Getting argumentative in a public review space is never a good idea. Other would-be customers are looking at these reviews to gain a better understanding of your business and the quality of your product, so your response should reflect only what you want other customers to know:
You’re here to help and provide them with the service they expected, and this poor experience is not representative of your company. You can provide a resolution and help customers achieve the experience they want.
Address the Person Leaving the Negative Review
When starting off your review response, take a moment to find their name and reply with, “Dear [Name]” or “Thank you for bringing this to our attention, [Name].” It’s always best to address the reviewer, so the individual feels seen and heard.
Show Gratitude for Their Valuable Review
Writing a negative review response is all about changing an unhappy customer into a happy one. The best way to diffuse a very salty review is to thank the reviewer for their time and show that you value their feedback.
“Dear George, thank you for taking the time to write about XoSmart. We’ve forwarded your review to our product team, and I’d like to contact you about a replacement. I can certainly see why this is so important and want to help you as soon as possible. Please call directly at (555) 555-5555, so we can provide a resolution quickly.”
In this response, we’ve addressed the reviewer, acknowledged their time, thanked them, and provided them with a way to resolve the issue.
Apologize and Show Empathy
If you receive a negative review with false, offensive, abusive, or other flagrant language, it’s easy to report this to Google or Amazon and remove it. When you can’t have these reviews removed, the next best thing is to include an apology, especially if you know the customer had a horrible experience and isn’t just lying because they wanted free stuff or they’re a competitor trying to harmful review spam your Google Business profile (it does happen).
When apologizing in a negative review response, it’s best to be quick about it and show empathy so that the reviewer will feel your sincerity.
“Dear Maria, thank you for the feedback. We’re sorry that you didn’t have the experience you expected, and we’ll happily make this right. We set a high standard at our company and want every interaction to be as easy and effortless as possible for the customer. Please contact us directly at (555) 555-5555 for a fast resolution.”
In this response, we’ve added an apology and a direct way to get a resolution right after. This is helpful when a customer may feel lost after a bad interaction with your company or product.
Don’t Make Excuses, But Take Responsibility
It’s never easy to swallow that your product didn’t work right or someone was mean to a customer. Several other factors could lead to this person leaving a poor review. None of that matters.
Remember, you’re responding to the review so everyone can see how good your company is, that this person’s experience isn’t indicative of a consistent problem and that you’re trustworthy because you provide solutions.
To take responsibility, you’ll want to acknowledge what happened while assuring the customer that this isn’t a common problem with your company. You should also ensure that you comply with rules and regulations so that your response is as accurate and truthful as possible.
“It’s our company’s mission to deliver the best experience, and we are crushed when we don’t meet those expectations. Thanks for taking the time to bring this to our attention. We will use the feedback to improve and ensure this doesn’t happen again. I’d like to offer you a resolution as quickly as possible, please contact me at 555-555-5555.”
Take the Conversation Private
Have you noticed in each of the examples above that we push the customer to call for a resolution? This is called taking the conversation private or taking it offline. This pulls the customer out of a back-and-forth in the review sphere and puts them in direct contact with your resolution or customer service team.
It’s best to use a phone number that is trackable and specific to responding to negative reviews, as it will be available online for all to see. You can assign it to a specific customer service team or resolution team to be on the safe side.
You can also provide an email address specific to a resolution team. Either help takes the conversation private and avoids more public scrutiny.
Here’s an example:
“Dear Sophia, we apologize that our product didn’t work for you and want to make it right. Our team is looking into your experience and wants to help as soon as possible. Please call (555) 555-5555 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a fast response.”
Got a Happy Customer? Remind Them to Review
Nothing helps your business's online reputation more than positive reviews. If you actively follow up with your customers, you can take advantage of opportunities to get positive ratings and reviews when good experiences happen.
One audience that typically writes positive reviews and leaves higher ratings is repeat customers. If you can query your contact list for repeat purchases and find long-term customers, you can send them an email to request a review and link to your Google profile or related Amazon review page. This is just one more way to get recent, positive reviews that will help you push down negative reviews and lift poor ratings.
Responding to Negative Reviews About Your Business
It’s best to remove negative reviews if you can, but if you can’t, you’ll want to craft responses to a variety of negative reviews you’ve seen that you can reference when training your staff to reply to them.
It’s best to have your managers review negative reviews and respond to them to understand problems, and you should use this as feedback to improve, just like you’re saying in your responses.
Learning how to respond to negative reviews is necessary for all businesses. Even the top businesses in the world have some terrible reviews. It's all in the response and resolution you provide that makes it possible to continue earning more business and positive reviews.
Want more marketing advice and tips to improve your business's online reputation? Sign up for our small business newsletter and be the most intelligent person in your next meeting.