How to Respond to Negative Reviews of Local Businesses

Online Business Reviews | 7.5 Min Read
by Joanne Wayne
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Fake reviews are a growing problem for those who own small businesses. It is important to collect feedback and to reduce the harm of negative comments in general. Here we'll have a deeper look at criticism as a valuable source of information, learn the best ways to respond to a negative review and look at templates for replying to negative comments.

How to Reply to Negative Reviews

If you face a negative review, our first advice is to take it easy, otherwise, you may write something that you will regret later. It's obvious that you must respond to bad reviews but how to do that is a question of great importance. Check out the following negative review response examples to get an idea of how you should/shouldn't speak to customers online.

Do's and Don'ts for Replies to Negative Reviews

  • Don't be rude.
  • Don't laugh at your clients.
  • Do be polite and attentive.

Don't: Be Rude to Clients

Far from New York, in Pleasant Hill, CA, Slow Hand BBQ is usually rated between 4 and 5 stars, though the owner is very sensitive towards bad reviews:
Insulting a client instead of responding to criticism
Insulting a client instead of responding to criticism
Never use rude words towards clients. It doesn't matter what they've written about you. Even if they've mixed you with dirt, just calm down, let it go and reply in a polite way.

The example above shows complete arrogance, disrespect for the client and disrespect for oneself, once a person allows themselves to respond in such a way to the constructive criticism of a consumer.

Don't: Laugh at Your Clients

Laughing at your client is one of the biggest "don'ts".

A customer, Ida, got bad service from Grasshoppers Lawn Service & Pressure Washing. She accused the contractor of disrespect towards her property and other people, and hoped to get the reply, and apology, she deserved. But what Ida got was just mocking and rude which is absolutely unacceptable:
Owner showing total disrespect to the customer
Owner showing total disrespect to the customer

Do: Be Polite and Attentive

Finally, it's worth checking out a good example of how to respond to negative reviews from customers. Ellen from Kerbey Lane Cafe, seems genuinely sorry about an accident and behaves in an incredibly polite and professional manner:
attentive reply to the customer
Attentive reply to the customer
Here we don't see an owner fighting with the customer, trying to prove that the food was good. Ellen shows her gratitude to the criticism and promises to investigate this case seriously, so as not to have the same situation happen again in the future.
Close more deals with quick and easy customer interaction!

Objective, Subjective & Fake Reviews

Negative reviews can be split into different categories. Objective criticism refers to your products and services, while subjective criticism relates to the emotions and expectations of customers.
Fake criticism can be difficult to detect, perhaps the most obvious fake review is the one that directly praises a competitor. This is commonly called "crowd marketing" where the main idea is to join the discussion for advertising purposes. This is quite commonly found in the industries of real estate and car dealership.

How to Be a Pro at Replying to Negative Reviews

  • Do an internal investigation.
  • Show empathy.
  • If you promised something to the customer, keep your promise.
  • Ask customers to update their reviews.

Do an Internal Investigation

First of all, you need to understand what went wrong, who was guilty and why. The problem might have been with the service or with the product. Do your best to find out what you need to do to fix it.

Show Empathy

Show your customers that you care about their opinion. Don't try to fight with them. Thank them, apologize, ask them to give you a second chance and, possibly, offer them a bonus upon their next visit.
the business owner apologizez at his customer for inconveniences and asks for another chance
The business owner apologizez at his customer for inconveniences and asks for another chance

Keep Your Promise

So simple, yet so hard. If you promised your client that something won't happen again, do your best to keep that promise. Solve the problems your clients mention in order not to face them again in the future.

Ask Customers to Update Their Reviews

If your customers had a problem and wrote a negative review, solve this problem first. After that, you can ask your customers to update their reviews. Notice that they may refuse to do that but usually if you did everything right and left the customer satisfied, they don't mind updating the review.
Updated review from negative to positive
Updated review from negative to positive

Tips When Dealing with Negative Reviews

  • Don't consider criticism as something bad.
  • Don't lose your temper.
  • Use templates.
  • Use direct messages.

Don't Consider Criticism as Something Bad

Yes, criticism hurts but it can also be a good way to know what you can fix and what are the best ways to do this. Firstly, thank the customer for taking the time to write a review and apologize for providing poor service:
  • "Dear Sheryl. Thank you for your review. I apologize for the inconvenience..."

  • "We are grateful to receive your review, and we are incredibly sorry you've experienced…"

Don't Lose Your Temper

If you feel that you are about to say something you might regret to the customer, step away from the keyboard for a while. Look carefully through the review, find out what went wrong and who is guilty, and only after that start writing a reply.

Prepare Good Templates

Answering each reply individually is great but if you have limited time and tons of reviews on different websites, prepare some templates that will save you time. The formula is simple: gratitude, empathy, solution, offer to try again and some optional things like reasoning and concessions.

Don't use the same reply for all of your customers. prepare several of them. A few words about content:

  • Empathy. "Sorry" alone doesn't make for a good apology. Show that you understand your customer's individual experience. Add a phrase along these lines:
— I can definitely see how frustrating (...) would be.

— I would also be annoyed if...
  • Reasoning. Giving a reason doesn't change what happened, but it may influence whether people accept your apology.
  • Concession (optional). Consider the importance of your concession. It feels nice to spoil your customer, but the costs for your redemption has to stay within reasonable bounds. It's about finding a balance.
— We are happy to replace your speaker at no cost if you still face connection problems. Otherwise, we'll gladly provide you with a 20% coupon to use on your next purchase with us.
  • Solution & Changes. Be specific and instructive, but don't promise what you can't achieve to avoid disappointing the customer twice:
— Your comments have been discussed with the responsible team leader to prevent this from happening again.

— If you're open to discussing this further, please call us at 656-123-4321 and ask to speak with Larry, our general manager.
Here are some examples of how your reply may look like:
— David, we're truly sorry to hear about your trouble. Comfort is very much a priority for all of our clients and we will continue to do everything we can until these issues are resolved. We appreciate you providing us with this feedback and encourage you to give us a call if you have any additional concerns. Thank you.

— Jess, thank you for bringing this to our attention. We sincerely appreciate you taking the time to let us know of your concerns. Please feel free to contact the office manager to address your concerns in greater details.

— Dear Michael, we thank you kindly for leaving a review, and we are really sorry to hear that you've had a bad experience at our center. If you don't mind, could you please contact us by email at [email protected] Your comments can help us to improve and not to make such mistakes in the future. We hope that you will give us a second chance.
If you want to make your owner-customer communication even easier, use the Chosen application. One of its functions is to reply to reviews from different websites, using one interface. It means you won't need to switch anywhere. Also, you can download as many templates as you want.

Use Direct Messages

Sometimes a review can be really serious and threaten your business. Do not despair, there is a way out. As a public reply, write that you will contact the customer through direct messaging. Do not be too intrusive: find the problem, solve it and provide the client with a result.

Consider that it doesn't mean your customer will give you 5 stars instead of 1, but there is a chance that they will update their review and give some more positive thoughts about your business.

Unseen Benefits of Bad Reviews

Customer reviews are one of the most important criteria of why your services will be chosen or not. According to recent data, 84% of people trust online reviews as much as their friends.

Therefore, listen to your customers: if you are criticized, pay attention and look through the comments and suggestions. You may find some problems that you haven't noticed but your clients have.

All in all, there is no need to be afraid of the bad reviews that you might get one day. What you do need to do is to empower yourself in advance: if you prepare a plan on how to deal with negative feedback, they won't have such a negative impact on you and can become something useful for you rather than something you fear.
Originally published Aug 21, 2019 10:00:00 AM

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