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How to respond to negative reviews like a pro

ANZ Financially Ready

2024-05-17 04:30

Key points

  • Reviews can make or break a business, so it’s important not to ignore negative reviews and make the most of positive customer experiences.
  • The way you respond can be the difference between customer retention and loss.
  • We share six tips for responding to negative reviews and how to encourage positive ones.

Feedback plays an important part in the running of any business. It’s a first-hand look at what your customers really think about your product or service. Feedback provides an opportunity for continued improvement – it’s an invaluable insight into your customers’ experience of your business.

Online reviews can be delivered in a public forum and are designed to send a message to other customers about your service, rather than being directly communicated to you. This can be fantastic when the reviews are positive, and people are raving about your services or product.

But, whether it’s your Google Business Profile, Facebook page, or even your website, chances are some customers will leave a negative review of your business.

Should you respond to the feedback? Absolutely! How you respond will tell your customers more about your service than any negative review could. If you’re unsure how, don’t worry. We’re going to guide you through some best practices for responding to negative reviews.

Why is it so important to respond to reviews?

Reading reviews of your business can give you insight into how customers feel about your product or service. There can be many motivations behind someone leaving you negative feedback in a public forum.  

Genuine reviews – even when negative – can help you identify opportunities for growth and improvement. For example, if someone writes a review about a poor customer service experience, it’s an opportunity to follow up with the employee in question. Assess their performance and perhaps provide them with guidance on how they can improve their communication with customers.

Responding to negative reviews can humanise your business and show customers you care about and respect their opinions. This can strengthen relationships with your customers while managing their expectations. Plus, it can boost your Google ranking when someone looks up your business online, so there’s an additional benefit in showing customers you value their feedback.

In general, people understand that a business is run by people, and people aren’t perfect. And customers admire business owners who are engaged in customer feedback and looking for ways to better serve their needs.

Six tips for responding to negative reviews

1. Respond to the review within a reasonable timeframe

  • It can be easy to put off responding to negative reviews. Replying to a bad review promptly shows the customer that you’ve taken their feedback seriously.
  • A quick response also improves the chances of resolving the issue for the customer, perhaps resulting in them changing or removing their bad review.
  • Take the time to think through your response and check it over for tone before you hit publish. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, and always thank the customer for their feedback.

2. Personalise the response

  • Make sure to address the reviewer by their name and respond to their specific problem. There is nothing worse than receiving an automated or copy-pasted response to a legitimate complaint.
  • If you can, investigate what happened first. If the problem was on your end, be honest about the mistakes made and how you’re actively working to fix them.
  • Thank the reviewer for drawing your attention to a problem that needed addressing. They’ve taken the time to leave feedback, and acknowledging their impact can leave them feeling heard.
  • Give them with a way to connect directly, such as via phone or email, so that you can discuss the issue in more detail and provide a personalised experience.

3. Stay cool, calm, and professional

  • It’s natural to feel defensive when you’re hit with a bad review – especially if the person leaving it is being unreasonable. But don't let those feelings show in your response. Lashing out will almost always make things worse, leaving a sour taste in the customer’s mouth and making you look unprofessional.
  • Take a moment to reflect on what the customer said and how you can reply in a calm, professional manner.
  • If the customer is lying about having a negative experience (which does unfortunately happen), acknowledge their feelings. Gently and calmly explain that their version of events does not line up with your records. Then offer to assist them directly with any concerns. This will flag to other customers that the reviewer might not be a reliable narrator, but that you are always willing to help.

4. Take responsibility where appropriate

  • Sometimes, a customer’s negative experience isn’t your fault, like in the case of shipping delays once their order is in transit. If this happens, it’s still important to acknowledge the customer’s frustration and let them know you are also frustrated they had this experience. Explain that you will do what you can in future to ensure a smoother outcome.
  • If your business is at fault – perhaps a customer received runny eggs after requesting them to be well done, or a client had a cold welcome from a stressed receptionist – it’s important to apologise. Show compassion for their upset and promise to improve things following their feedback.

5. Ask for more information

  • You’ll sometimes see reviews where a customer doesn’t explain why they’re leaving a one or two-star rating. In this case, politely ask them for more information as to why they had a bad experience so that you can address their concern and hopefully resolve the issue.
  • This can also signal to other customers that perhaps the review is not based on anything tangible, so it may not deter them from using your services.

6. Should you report the review?

  • Unfortunately, there are bad actors online, and sometimes a Google review is falsified in a malicious attempt to turn customers away from your business.
  • In these cases, you should report the Google review as there are specific instances where Google can get involved to remove it from your Google Business Profile. 
  • If the review goes against Google’s content policy, you can report it and ask Google to take it down. However, there are conditions that will determine whether removal is warranted. Google won’t remove a review if you simply disagree with what the person says, for example.
  • If the review is intentionally inflammatory, report it to Google and they’ll take it from there.

How can you encourage positive reviews?

The good news is that there are multiple ways you can encourage your customers to leave a positive review (or two) on your website. This can be a powerful tool to give your business credibility and encourage people to work with or purchase from you.

  • Ask happy customers to write a review on your website.
  • Have an incentive to encourage reviews, such as receiving a small discount off their next purchase.
  • Send a follow-up message or email to your customers.
  • Put customer testimonials on your website.

Next steps

Replying to negative reviews should be part of your business growth strategy. It can help improve your Google rankings and signal to potential customers that you’re a transparent and honest business.

Want more tips on how to attract customers to your business? Then check out our marketing on a shoestring checklist.

How to respond to negative reviews like a pro
Business specialist
ANZ Financially Ready

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