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Step-By-Step Guide to managing online negative reviews

I don’t know about you, but every time I go to purchase a product or service, I check out the online reviews. One bad Amazon review can easily stop me from purchasing a product. After putting so much care and effort into your organization, a bad review can be a disappointing sight to see. The question is – how do we handle negative reviews?   

If it makes you feel any better, every business encounters negative reviews. Whether it be a mistake on behalf of your organization or a customer that was bound to be unsatisfied, it’s important to remember that even the worst of situations can be resolved.  

Here’s a template that you can use to respond to negative reviews:  

Dear (Name of Reviewer), thank you for sharing your feedback with our team! We are disappointed to hear that you were unsatisfied with your experience at (Insert Organization Name).  

We would love the opportunity to make things right! Please feel free to reach out to me at [Insert email or phone number] so I can discuss your experience in further detail with you. We are always looking for ways to improve and take your concerns into consideration. 

Best,
(Insert Name) 

Now, this template won’t fit every situation, but it’s a general guide of how we like to respond to negative reviews. It’s a great way to start off but follow along as we give you a step-by-step guide on how to respond to negative reviews.  

Action item 1: Stay calm

As much as we can be passionate about our organization, people can be passionate about their negative reviews. Often, negative reviews are written in the heat of the moment. Say someone called during office hours and their call went straight to voicemail, prompting them to leave a negative review. In your perspective, your receptionist was speaking to another party at the time and was unavailable to answer the phone. It’s easy to feel upset and angry at a situation you feel is unjustified. The important thing to remember is not to respond until you’ve cooled down. Responses in the heat of the moment can often come off defensive and leave the situation unresolved.  

Check out the below response for example. In the heat of the moment, this sarcastic response most likely seemed funny to the responder. Instead, they could have offered the customer tacos on the house or reached out with a phone call to smooth things out. There is no harm in being overly helpful! 

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Action item 2: Evaluate the situation  

It’s important to get the full picture of the incident before responding to the reviewer. Speak with your staff who is involved to understand both sides of the story and schedule a call or email with the reviewer to get more details to the story. Take action quickly, as you want to respond to reviews promptly. Once you fully understand the issue, you can start brainstorming solutions.  

As a foodie, one of my favorite platforms is Yelp. Whenever I try a new restaurant, I always browse Yelp to check out the reviews and to see what customers recommend on the menu. Often, I also find negative reviews on restaurants that have over 4 ½ stars. There are always two things I take into consideration when reading these negative reviews. First, how the management responds. Often times you see management responding apologetically, offering a gift card or a voucher to make it up to the customer. Second, I always check the profile of the user who left the negative review. More than often, their entire page is filled with negative reviews. In times such as these, it’s important to consider, is it worth the response? If they are posted by someone whose actions are irrational or unfair or those of a “frequent complainer”, don’t take it to heart. Negative reviews (even those we don’t feel are justified) still deserve a response, but keep in mind that even after everything you offer, there may be no consoling the reviewer.  

Take this review for example, sometimes you forget your jacket in a restaurant, and are upset with the restaurant for not returning it to you.  

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Action item 3: Always respond

Bad reviews are worth responding to. Why? Responding to negative reviews can improve customer advocacy. Again, you can never be TOO helpful. Be empathetic to the reviewer. Sometimes, all it takes to solve the problem is to show them that they are heard and to make an effort to improve the situation. Do your best to make the reviewer feel like they are being treated, even the unhappy ones. In situations where the reviewer is still unhappy, other customers will appreciate that you made an effort to make things right.

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Action item 4: Address the reviewer

More often than not, reviewers leave a negative review because they want to be heard. Don’t forget to personally address the reviewer so they know that you are evaluating each individual incident. Personalize your response so the reviewer knows that your concern is directed towards them.  

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Action item 5: Thank them

Feedback, even negative feedback, can help you improve as an organization. Here are a couple of examples of ways you can thank a reviewer.  

“Thank you for your review. I’m sorry about your bad experience and your feedback helps us improve. We are looking into resolving this issue and hope you will give us a second chance.” 

“Thank you for letting us know about your experience. We strive for a positive experience with everyone, and we appreciate you bringing this situation to our attention.”  

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Action item 6: Apologize

The customer is always right – we’ve all heard the saying before. Never accuse the reviewer of being wrong, even if you know they are. It’s important to remember that if you choose to respond publicly, others will see your response. Even if you respond privately, people can post your responses online.  A negative review can hurt your organization, but so can an aggressive response. Saying sorry shows that you care and helps to build back trust. Can’t figure out how to say sorry? Here are a couple of different versions:  

“We are so sorry that our service did not meet your expectations.” 

 “We strive for the best, and we are so sorry to hear that you did not experience that with us.”

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Action item 7: Make it right

Responding to a negative review is a great first step at resolving the issue, but what are additional steps you can take to improve the situation? You can’t fix the past, but you can offer solutions. For example, if a customer left a negative review because they were unsatisfied with the quality of your service, offer them a chance to come back for free. If they are satisfied with your services the second time around, chances are you’ve gained a loyal customer who now trusts your brand and business.  

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Bonus action item: Report spam reviews

If you believe that a review is false or malicious, contact the site it has been posted on and ask for it to be removed. Sometimes it’s a 1-star review from a spam account or a false negative review from a competitor. If these are not reviews that can be resolved or have no truth to them, there are steps you can take so it doesn’t affect your organization. For example, Facebook has a button to report reviews. Be aware that although the process may be slow, a Facebook administrator should review it and decide whether to take action   

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Now that we’ve given you steps to manage negative reviews, you are fully prepared to harness the power of online reviews! If you are interested in more review response templates or need assistance managing your reviews, feel free to reach out to our team!

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