The Only Way to Respond to a Negative Review

Online review collage

Just received a bad review in your company inbox? Ok. Do. Not. Panic. The first common reaction a lot of businesses have is to take it personally. But, if you do so, the natural reaction is to become defensive or even remove the comment and act like it never existed. This is not the way of handling reviews! If you deal with bad reviews the right way, they could end up helping you rather than hurting you!

The first step is to take a look at the bigger picture. Is the comment damaging/relevant/vulgar/etc.? Take this into account when creating a response. Justified negative reviews require appropriate compensation (refunds, coupons, etc.). However, it’s also possible that you come across people who are simply frustrated and take it out on your business. Don’t respond immediately, and perhaps talk it over with a colleague to prevent you from reacting in a way you might regret.

How Should You Respond To a Bad Review?

Even negative reviews can serve a positive purpose. They’re an outlet to show off your great customer service! But, for this bad review to have a happy ending, you will first need to respond the right way. Here are some tips that do the trick:

  1. Never remove a bad review. Always respond in an appropriate manner.
  2. Keep your response professional…
  3. …but also make sure you show empathy. Acknowledge how disappointing or upsetting the situation must have been. Some people just want to be heard.
  4. If you owe the customer an apology, then apologize.
  5. In some cases you aren’t wrong, so don’t apologize. You should apologize for their bad experience but not for making a mistake (which you didn’t).
  6. If appropriate, thank the commenter. Constructive feedback is important and improves your business. Show the reviewer that you appreciate them taking the time to comment and allowing you to address the situation.

Some Things to Keep in Mind

  • Regularly keep up with reviews, and make sure you know where to look for them. The faster you react, the better. If you leave a bad review unanswered for too long, reviews for your poor online customer service will increase.
  • Don’t forget about the people who come across bad online reviews. That’s why it’s important to respond publicly for everyone to see. However, if the website doesn’t allow you to respond publicly, make sure you leave a reply anyway. Show you care and want to use the feedback to improve your business.
  • A bad review can be overshadowed by a lot of positive reviews. Always encourage happy customers to leave a review.

 And Now: How NOT to Respond

Some companies really don’t have a clue how to respond properly to a bad review. Amy’s Baking Company is one of them. Their recent appearance in Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares” didn’t turn out well at all. Their response to comments was so poor that things escalated to the point of ridiculously unprofessional behavior.

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  • anthemx

    Ok but what if the negative reviews are fake and from a fake poster?

    • 4sanity4all

      That is the reason why I read all reviews, if possible, and my takeaway is the majority opinion. Because I worked with the public, and I know that not all customers are reasonable, and all do not have reasonable expectations. And even a great business can have a bad day.

  • Enviro Equipment, Inc.

    One other tip small businesses should adhere to in order to respond to negative reviews is to have accounts in all the major online sources where people leave reviews. This is because one usually has to be signed into that account before you can respond There. This may seem obvious, but it’s happened to a friend of ours whose has a catering business and asked us for advice on opening up such an account in Yahoo so as to respond to a negative comment.

    • Sofie De Beule @Engagor

      Thanks for your comment, great tip! It’s indeed important to have access to all of those major online sources, this way you can also keep better track of what’s being said without it being too much of a hassle.