Negative reviews are a little bit like chickenpox.
You don't want them, but chances are, you’re going to get them at some point. Just like the pox, if you don't deal with them properly when they arise, they have the potential to leave lifelong scars.
The best thing you can do is be prepared for them.
Even if you’re delivering immaculate, optimized services, at some point, you’re going to catch one of your customers on an off day. And they’ll leave a bad review online, where everyone (including your potential customers, and potential employees) can see it.
When this happens, don’t panic.
Negative reviews don’t have to be the monsters that many companies make them out to be. In fact, by handling a negative review with a winning response, you can convert even the most sceptical customers and show the world your commitment to courtesy, professionalism, and superior service, even under fire.
A step-by-step process for responding to negative reviews
1. Open with an appropriate greeting
Start with a greeting that matches the tone of your business and the tone of their review. It’s usually a good idea to address them by their name if it’s given.
If their review is super negative, you don’t want to come off as condescending or impersonal, so while starting with “Dear” might be good in other circumstances, we wouldn’t recommend it here. Stick with "Hello/Hi/Hey [customer name]", or even "I'm sorry to hear that, [customer name]".
2. Get right to the point
If they mention specifics about what prompted their negative review, try to address them quickly in your response, and empathise with why that would be upsetting. Try something like: "Sorry to hear that you experienced X! I completely understand why that would annoy you.
3. Offer a sincere apology
Make it clear that you’re accepting responsibility for their troubles, even if your initial reaction is to try to distance yourself (a totally normal response to negative feedback). It’s important to take responsibility, even if it’s not necessarily your fault — this will go a long way toward defusing anger and building trust, both with the unhappy customer and with prospective customers reading your responses.
For example, "We apologize that we did not meet your expectations on X.”
4. Explain, but don’t make excuses
If you can provide an explanation that doesn’t feel like you’re making excuses, it's best to do so, but only after you’ve acknowledged and apologized for the experience. If you try to provide an explanation before you take responsibility and apologize, they’re going to be much less receptive to your reasoning.
Here’s one approach: "We completely understand your frustration. We looked into what happened here, and it turns out that one of our trucks was in an accident and couldn’t deliver your order on time. We're sorry we didn’t have a contingency plan in place to get you what you needed.”
5. Ask for a second chance
Ask them if they’d be open to giving you another chance. This is a critical step that demonstrates your commitment to their satisfaction.
“Is there any chance you’d be willing to give us another shot at delivering the quality we’re usually known for?”
6. Take meaningful action to remedy the situation
More than anything, people who leave negative reviews want to know that you care about their experience and will do something to address it. If the negative review wasn’t caused by a temporary snag in your service, take a different angle and tell them you’re glad they reached out to leave a negative review because it allowed you to identify and resolve a pain point. This shows them that you listened to what they had to say and that their efforts have led to a positive outcome, which can be a hugely validating experience.
“Thanks for your feedback. Bringing the problem to our attention has helped us fix it, which we're really grateful for.”
Also, consider offering some sort of compensation. A discount, a refund, a free offer — anything you can do to demonstrate that you’re committed to making up for this customer’s bad experience.
“We’d like you to try us again on a much better day and have a 15% coupon to make up for your previous experience.”
The bottom line on bad reviews
There are so many companies that like to ignore or argue against bad reviews. Don’t fall into this trap! Instead, approach them as an opportunity to connect and empathise with your customer, address any oversights or shortcomings in your business, and impress prospective customers who may see the exchange.
Now that you’ve got the goods on handling negative reviews, find out how to get more great reviews by downloading our free guide on how to ethically explode your Google reviews. After all, the best way to prepare for negative reviews is to have an abundance of positive ones - making them a needle in a haystack.