How to Respond to Negative Reviews: 6 Ideas to Protect Your Digital Reputation

By Gabriel Birky Pohirieth
Published: 09/05/2022
how-to backgroundHow to Respond to Negative Reviews: 6 Ideas to Protect Your Digital Reputation

A negative review is something that pops up for any company. Inevitably someone will get angry about service quality, your products, or your employees, and it's not always easy to know how to respond to negative reviews. Still, don't worry. Appvizer is here to help you figure it out!

Mastery begins by understanding the impact negative reviews can have, what types of reviews and reviewers you'll face, and the steps you should take when responding to negative reviews.

Through different templates, tips, and examples, you'll be ready to respond to any review in no time!

How do negative reviews impact businesses?

Negative brand perception

Businesses benefit from happy customers. We want to please them, but sometimes things beyond our control happen, we can have a bad day, or some customers just can't be satisfied, and because the internet is the first place people go to signal a problem, this can be a big problem.

Leading to:

  • Reduced customer loyalty
  • Reduced sales
  • Loss of customers or customer churn
  • Fewer customer prospects

Unmanaged negative reviews can lead to negative brand perception and eventually the downfall of any business.

Positive company growth

Your first thought regarding negative reviews is probably not positive. However, all is not lost. With a little hard work and luck, you can turn things around.

Learning to respond to negative reviews can bring your business positive results like increased trust and customer loyalty.

Responding to negative reviews shows customers a business is communicative and reactive. Studies show that companies who respond to online reviews generate new customers, with 87% of consumers likely or highly likely to use a business if the company makes an effort to respond to reviews (brightlocal Consumer Review Survey 2022).

It is essential to keep in mind negative reviews don't always result in bad outcomes!

No need to search high and low, your reviews are here

You may already have customer feedback posted on your website. Collecting these comments is a great way to add social credibility and increase customer trust.

Still, there are a lot of third-party review services today you'll need to keep an eye on. Let's look at which are the most useful for your business, depending on your business type.

Google Customer Reviews

Google is the most widely used research engine in the world. So, it should come as no surprise that Google Customer reviews is the top site used by customers to give their feedback and write reviews on various companies.

An excellent initial practice is to use GoogleMyBusiness to provide accurate business hours, location, and contact information, avoiding misunderstandings. Retail businesses should always update holiday hours or get ready to pay with a bad review. Additionally, you can see what people are saying about your business and respond to help actively manage your brand image.

Amazon Reviews

Amazon is another giant used almost as frequently as Google, but differently. Amazon is used by customers looking for information on product issues and customer service. Businesses selling goods on Amazon and the manufacturers behind the goods should work to manage negative reviews in a perfect world.

Amazon ratings because of the number and Amazon's dominance are critical factors used to choose which product to buy.

Facebook

Facebook usage for customer reviews has dropped slightly since 2020. Still, Facebook's army of users cannot be ignored. Displeased clients will often post feedback on any business with a Facebook Business page. Remember, this is an opportunity for your company to create a business opportunity.

Yelp

Yelp has followed a different usage trend than Facebook since 2020, rising in usage as more and more consumers provide customer reviews. Yelp is especially important if you have a local business, whether it's a bar, restaurant, plumber, or any number of other things.

Yelp allows you to list your products and services, helping customers understand your business's offerings. It's also a plentiful source of all types of reviews. However, owing to human nature, most are often negative.

TripAdvisor

Do you focus on travel, restaurants, and food in general? Then TripAdvisor is a vital review site to keep an eye on.

How to respond to negative reviews in 6 steps

#1 Acknowledge complaints quickly

Sometimes when you have a project that is due, five emails that need sending, and customer orders waiting to be filled, it can be easy to overlook customer reviews. Still, taking a little time out of your day to respond when a customer writes a negative review can have a significant positive impact.

When a customer has a bad experience and takes the time to write a review, they expect a timely response that brings attention to their issue. By responding within the 24 to 48 hours that follow, you demonstrate respect to the customer. Just responding is already a win in many cases if done right.

From a potential customer's perspective, seeing you take the time to respond makes it easier to trust you. Likewise, consumers notice that a business doesn't respond to reviews and are less likely to use that business.

#2 Thank the customer and apologise

Begin your response by thanking the customer for their feedback. When you say thank you even to negative reviews, it shows you are willing to listen to what the customer says. Apologising doesn't mean the customer is right, nor that you have to do anything. You are just showing you are listening and willing to take action based on criticism.

Negative reviews are a pretty standard experience for anyone that has dealt with customers. In the end, it doesn't matter if you merited the complaint or not. It is often just the most economical use of resources to apologise and move on.

By following those steps, you may come up with an example such as:

Hello Joe, thank you for bringing this to the attention of our team. We're sorry that you experienced these difficulties with our service…

Dear Mary, we appreciate you taking the time to tell us about your experience. We apologise that we did not…

#3 Make the customer feel heard

Often, people simply want to be heard and make sure that their thoughts and feelings are understood. Some people need to vent, whether they truly had a bad experience or were just having a bad day.

Your job is to make the customer feel as if you are giving their review the attention it deserves, making sure to respond to the specific issues they brought up. Begin by mentioning your standard of service. These situations are often about emotional satisfaction, allowing the customer to see that you are willing to work with them to ensure they've been heard.

Empathising and listening to what the customer says makes it easier to negotiate an appropriate response and find opportunities to improve your business.

#4 Personalise your response

When searching for ways to respond to a bad customer experience, make sure you're not just repeatedly sending the same template. While templates can be a good starting point, they can lead to responses that feel impersonal and dismissive to the customer. A best practice is a hybrid response model, adding personal touches to a template.

When starting your message, respond to the specific key points that the customer writes in their review while also speaking directly to them. A great way to do this is by starting with "Dear/Hi/Hello [Customer Name]" or simply their name. Using their name respectfully helps you connect with them. The goal is to de-escalate by establishing respectful contact.

#5 Fix the issue

Negative reviews come primarily from issues in quality, technical problems, or just a bad experience. Sometimes we can't fix all these issues.

Still, it is vital to consider constructive criticism that could potentially help improve your business. Other times, the situation is fixable, either with a future discount, a replacement, or eventually a refund. Remember, a future discount after a poor experience can go a long way!

The most successful review responses respond to the issue or fix it as best as possible.

#6 Contact them elsewhere

Sometimes customers want to follow up with you about their experiences. Offering another way to contact your company can effectively resolve these situations.

End a response with contact information such as an email or business number, giving customers a way to resolve any final concerns they may have. This approach is fundamental in complex situations where the issue can't be fixed with a single response, and you don't want to have messy public exchanges.

The different reviewers and how they post

In the same way that there are many sites where you can find reviews, you may also come across different types of reviewers. Taking into account the differences between each helps you know how to best respond to a negative review.

First Time

The first-time review often comes from a new customer who either had a good experience with your business, or inversely, issues with your services or products. This experience leads them to thank you graciously or provide specific feedback about what went wrong.

In this case, you need to determine the validity of their feedback. Is there really a problem, or was it a misunderstanding? Are there improvements you can make? Is there something you can do to win back the customer's loyalty? In the case where the customer writes a positive review, taking the time to thank them can cement their loyalty.

Serial Complaining

A reviewer who doesn't stop complaining may have unmeetable expectations based on the business experience offered. The reviewer may be habitually weaponizing reviews, meaning they have a lot of experience writing negative reviews.

These customers are especially challenging, so it is vital to keep your cool and address their points respectfully. It may be a good idea to offer a more direct line of communication if they choose to continue responding.

Of note, we can't perfectly please every customer, and that's OK!

Direct Communication

Some customers want to speak directly instead of aiming a review at your company.

Remember when you respond to stay calm as you did before while writing a clearly worded objective response without being aggressive.

Storytelling

When you receive a long and detailed response about your customer's experience, this generally falls into the category of storytelling. They may even continue to add details that don't relate to the actual services they received. As with the other reviews, these can be positive or negative.

In your response to a negative storytelling review, it is preferable to have a thought-out answer that allows you to respond effectively to their concerns. Keeping a respectful tone will allow you to lessen any potential negative follow-up.

Quick & Simple

This type of review is often short and straightforward, quickly getting to the point that the reviewer intends to make. When it comes to negative reviews in this fashion, you don't need a response that goes above and beyond in length.

Provide a simple, straightforward response with a touch of empathy.

Fake Review

This type of review is often used to hurt your brand image and is posted by reviewers that haven't used the products or services your business offers. Doing a little reviewer investigation can offer more insight into whether or not the review is genuinely faking.

In this case, examine the contents of the study to determine if it warrants a response or not. In some cases, it is possible to get fake reviews removed by speaking with the person directly or flagging a review on a review site such as Google Customer Reviews.

Watch out for Trolls!

Internet trolls are something that your company must also keep in mind to avoid potentially toxic or harmful comments and interactions in your online community.

Trolls are simply those who purposefully write offensive, inappropriate, or hateful content to try to damage your brand’s reputation and image. This is done by leaving messages on popular reviewing sites or commenting on your social media business pages with trolling content.

Trolls often spread content that includes insults and threats to those in your community or your business itself. Their messages can also contain spam such as promotional links or nonsensical messages. The more this content arises in your community the more risks there are for your brand, including:

  • Losing customers and community members due to consistent trolling
  • Increased levels of saturated content in your community that doesn’t pertain to your business
  • Decrease in brand image and reputation

Reporting trolling comments or reviews is the first step toward creating a safe online space. There are also tools that make it easier to monitor and protect your content efficiently to reduce trolling and harassment in your online space. Bodyguard leverages artificial intelligence to moderate your online communities by detecting hate speech, trolls, spam, and more.

Focus on the positive

We tend to focus our time and energy on negative reviews. Seeing negative reviews naturally attracts our attention. Still, we shouldn’t ignore all those positive reviews that are happy with your service. Responding to a positive response can have huge benefits, so don't forget the positive reviews either!

Going the extra mile to thank them with a short but authentic response can positively impact your online reputation. You'll make your reviewers feel appreciated, involved, and confident. Reaching out opportunistically maximises visibility and customer loyalty, encouraging them to visit again or share their experience with others.

Keep these "Don'ts" in mind!

When your company is getting ready to write responses to reviewers, there are some things you should keep in mind:

  • Don't argue with the customer: the review sites will show your responses publicly, and you don't want others to have a negative perception of your brand and how you respond to negative reviews,
  • Don't take it to heart: make sure to keep calm and remember that this is an opportunity to positively impact your company's reputation,
  • Don't leave out the neutral and positive: negative reviews are the primary concern, but responses to other types of reviews can also be helpful.

Different templates for different situations

Templates are an easy way to start writing responses to reviews. Negative, neutral, and positive reviews follow similar lines, such as acknowledging them quickly, thanking them, and suggesting a possible resolution. The key to remember is that not every review is the same. We need to adapt and personalise templates to get the best results.

Negative Reviews

As we've seen, negative reviews can have many different forms. Your company can adapt these general templates to address a negative review the next time one pops up.

Response to a quick and simple review without enough information:

Hello [Reviewer Name], thank you for taking the time to tell us your concerns about [stated issue]. We are sorry that the level of service you received was not up to your expectations. At [Company Name] the entire [Service Name] team prides itself on our high standards for quality, and we'd like to make it up to you. Contact us at [Company email / number] so that we can help you have a more positive experience the next time you visit us.

Response to a quality control issue:

Hi [Reviewer Name], we appreciate you telling us about [stated issue] with [product/service]. Here at [Company Name] we always aim to ensure the highest quality of [product/service], and we apologise if you received anything less than that. We would like to offer you a full refund as it did not meet our standards. Contact us at [Company email / number] so that we can help you with this process!

Neutral Reviews

Responding to unbiased reviews can be as important as negative and positive feedback from reviewers. When writing a response to neutral reviews, your goal is to reassure the customer that your company is open to their feedback, while also considering any potential solutions to their complaints. Don't forget the other central aspects of responding to a review: timeliness, thankfulness, and personalisation.

When it comes to these neutral reviews, it often comes down to two main types:

  • Mixed Feelings: a customer noted positive and negative aspects about the service or item they received
  • Neutral: the customer thinks that the item or service was only OK or alright

Response to a mixed feelings review:

Dear [Reviewer Name], thank you for your feedback. Our team is happy to hear that you enjoyed [stated aspect] about our [product/service] but we are sorry to hear that [stated aspect] did not meet your expectations. [Company Name] strives to offer the same quality to all of our customers. Contact us at [Company email/number] to give us some more information on what we could improve.

Response to a neutral review:

Hello [Reviewer Name], we appreciate you taking the time to tell us about your experience with [Company Name]. We are constantly looking for ways to improve and deliver the best customer experience possible. We would love to get some more information about your experience so that we can work on making [Company Name / Service / Product] the best it can be. Please contact us at [Company email / number]!

Positive Reviews

The most exciting reviews to respond to are those that love your company and what they do. By responding to positive feedback, you can show more appreciation for your customers and create positive visibility for your brand. As seen earlier, remember to keep it short and authentic and to add a call to action to get the maximum impact out of the reviews!

Response to a positive review:

Hey there [Reviewer Name], thank you so much for your feedback on our [product/service]! All of us at [Company Name] are glad that you enjoyed your experience with us. We look forward to seeing you again soon!

Response to a positive review:

Hi [Reviewer Name], we appreciate you telling us about your satisfaction with [product/service]. We're releasing some exciting new things soon that we can't wait for you to try! Stay up to date as soon as they come out on [Links / Handles to Company Social Media]

What to remember

If you want to have a positive impact on the growth of your business, knowing how to respond to negative reviews is key. Keep in mind the different steps when responding to a negative review:

  1. Acknowledge complaints quickly
  2. Thank the customer and apologise
  3. Make the customer feel heard
  4. Personalise your response
  5. Fix the issue
  6. Contact them elsewhere

Remember the 3 "Don'ts"

  • Don't argue with the customer,
  • Don't take it to heart,
  • Don't leave out the neutral and positive

Follow the 6 steps while taking into account the different types of reviews and the changes to make when responding to positive and neutral reviews, and you'll be sure to be on the right path!

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