Welcome to Part 3 in our reputation management series! Let’s delve into one important aspect of managing your online reputation: negative reviews. You may feel shock and dismay at a negative review, but it happens even to the best companies. If you’ve read our blog on the importance of reviews for your small business you already know not to ignore a negative review. It does not look good to prospective clients if your company’s response to a complaint is ignoring it. It’s damaging for potential clients to question a company’s customer service practices or work ethic. Denial of a negative review will not do your company’s reputation any favors.

Once you’ve taken a moment to absorb the sting of a negative review. Take a deep breath, and if you’re really upset, read this article in The New York Times—it makes reviews seem almost arbitrary. Take a moment to feel reassured. Then begin the process of addressing your negative review with a calmer perspective. Fear not; many customers don’t trust a company with a unanimous five-star review history anyway. Even if the reviewer ignores your response, and leaves the review up forever, at least people can see that you attempted to manage their complaint by responding.

Always Respond to Negative Reviews

Even when—no especially when—the negative review is unwarranted, or problems have already been resolved, you should still address the reviewer’s commentary. If the client never informed you they were unhappy you can state that you were unaware of their concerns and offer to speak with them face to face or over the phone regarding their complaint. If the client genuinely has an issue with your work, you should want to know the specifics, and also fix the problem. You will want to check with your team for pertinent details and get the story of how they’ve already responded to the complaint before you proceed.

Here are some practices to implement in your responses to negative reviews:

man speaking into can
  • Respond quickly. People expect a rapid response to their feedback. Feeling ignored creates more feelings of hostility which may lead the customer to get defensive when you finally do respond.
  • Avoid canned responses. Unless you have thousands of reviews, try to address each one with a personal note.
  • Have a colleague, marketer, or a specific person who deals with negative reviews. Emotional distance helps in this situation. Also, delegating this responsibility to one person helps guarantee it gets completed: you will only have to check with one person.
  • Thank the person leaving the review for their feedback. For a bad review, saying thank you for making me aware of this situation,is one tactful way to express gratitude. This should be a step for responding to both positive and negative reviews. After all, it took the customer time and thought to write out a response, and they are potentially providing a service to your company by letting you know why they were unhappy (or happy) with your work.
  • Apologize but do not overexplain yourself in your response. Or grovel. Do not use backhanded apologies or sarcasm (or anything that could be interpreted as such). Keep it simple: I’m sorry you had a negative experience with us.
  • If you are promising in your response to repair an issue, make sure it’s a promise you can keep. For most negative reviews, you will want to offer to speak to the person either over the phone or in person. You may want to physically go back and see what they are referring to as far as any work you’ve completed in their home.
  • If there is misinformation in the review, and you have the proof, it may be worth it to dispute false claims. However, use your tact and discretion when addressing provable false claims. Perhaps contacting the person directly or having them contact you privately would be a better approach.
  • Please don’t get overly defensive. It tends to make you appear guilty of whatever complaint is being hurled at you. This includes making excuses and going into far too much detail about possible explanations for your service failure. Stay concise. Take responsibility for your company’s role in the disappointment. Remain polite and professional.
  • Keep focused on a solution. One approach many companies take that I strongly disagree with, is placing the onus for a solution onto the customer. This approach shows a lack of responsibility on the company’s part.
  • Let it go. Some people will never take down or modify their negative review. We can’t control anyone’s behavior but our own. So, take a cue from Elsa and Let it Go.

With these tips at your disposal, you can go into the process of handling a negative review with some confidence. But if you really don’t want to deal with that sort of thing, you can always rely on your marketing company to take care of these unpleasant matters for you as part of a managed marketing plan. If you need a marketing company, contact RT Marketing