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Written by
Katy Ratican
1 Jun 2021
4 minutes
How to respond to negative reviews online
Small businesses will always get their share of negative reviews but what matters is how they respond to them
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Imagine that! After all the hard work you’ve put in, someone badmouths your small business. Now imagine they did it in front of the whole world. That’s what a critical online review feels like. But relax; we’re here to tell you how to respond to negative reviews.

Online reviews are an excellent way to grow your business, but what happens if and when they turn negative? Is there some way you can filter them out? Can you push them down the list somehow?

To answer that, let’s look at the whole thing in a different way. Imagine an online platform that only had positive reviews. Yes, all glowing, favourable reviews, all recommending the business to others. With lots of exclamation points and emojis and in ALL CAPS!!!

Forget others — would you trust even a single review there? Exactly.

Customers know that no business is perfect. Anyone can make a mistake. Negative reviews play their part in making a review platform look more believable. The fact that your business may have its problems makes it seem real.

The impact of negative reviews on your business

Why should you know how to respond to negative reviews? Although they add credibility to the platform, if they start coming your way in droves, it’s a serious problem. Here’s how negative reviews can impact your business:

  • Damages perception: Because of the credibility it carries, a negative review from an actual customer will convey to others that your product or service is of inferior quality.

  • Destroys brand equity: No matter what else you invest in, if the reviews are bad, prospective customers won’t be interested in you. You may have beautiful store interiors or a fancy website but none of that will matter.

  • Affects pricing: If your small business has excellent reviews, you’ll be able to command a premium - at least on some products or services. If your business gets negative reviews, forget being premium, you may have to drop your prices.

What to do when you get a negative review

To begin with, don’t respond quickly or off the cuff. This is the biggest difference between responding to positive reviews and handling negative feedback. If it’s negative, don’t hurry.

Take a moment to get your team together and see if the grievance is real. If it’s a genuine complaint, rectify the situation. If you need more information, engage with the reviewer.

How to respond to a negative review

Before you respond, remember that everyone’s watching. Whatever you say will be visible to all those who search for your business. So, always be courteous and gracious.

Address them by name and apologise for their experience. Say that it’s against everything your business stands for and that you’ve taken corrective measures to address the situation.

If appropriate to your business, invite them back so that you can show them what you’ve done to rectify the problem. Then, thank them for bringing it to your attention. Finally, offer to take the conversation to a private channel like email.

At times, the negative review may not be about the product, service or delivery but about an individual. If someone complains that one of your team members was unprofessional, you should immediately ask that individual for an explanation.

If it was a minor slip-up, you should warn them and then convey it to the reviewer. If it’s a serious offence and you feel the need to take stronger action, you should communicate that.

Examples of how to respond to negative reviews

If you own a restaurant and a customer has left a negative review about a dish, here’s how you could respond:

“Dear (first name), we’re so sorry that you had a bad experience at (the name of your business and its location). As the manager/owner, I apologise for the inconvenience caused to you. We’ve looked into the situation and taken corrective action. If you visit us again, I’ll be glad to show you what we’ve done. Once again, I’m sorry, and thank you for bringing it to our attention.”

If you run a hair salon and a customer has written a bad review, you could say something like this:

“Dear (first name), I’m so sorry that you were unsatisfied with our services. At (business name with location), we always strive to give our valued clients the best possible service. Sometimes, mistakes happen. I apologise for that. We’ve looked into the problem and taken measures to address it. If you visit us again, I’ll personally show you what we’ve done. I thank you for bringing it to our attention.”

In short

So, there’s nothing to be alarmed about if you get a bad review. They are natural and only to be expected in the digital world. What's important is that as a business owner, you create a robust system for how to respond to negative reviews.

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