No business wants (or wants to have to respond to) negative reviews online.
But they do happen, and you must respond to reduce any damage to your online reputation and potential sales.
About 90 percent of consumers worldwide read reviews before buying products, and about 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as a recommendation from a friend or a family member.
Of course, negative reviews can happen regardless of the quality of your service and/or product, or even how many other people love it.
The following are 11 tips for you to respond effectively to any negative reviews that might come your way.
Time is of the essence. An unanswered negative review will only fester and draw more attention online.
Whether it’s you or someone else on your team, ensure that you have a system in place to regularly check for new reviews. Many platforms will send a notification as well, but don’t simply rely on that. Notifications can get missed.
Aim to respond to reviews within 24 to 48 hours maximum. But truly, the sooner, the better. Reviews and responses are timestamped, so others reading the thread will see how long it took you to respond.
Introduce yourself and your connection to the team
While it’s fantastic for the owner of a business to personally respond to customer complaints, it’s not always realistic.
But whether you’re the owner or a representative of the company, be sure to introduce yourself to help establish that personal connection with the reviewer.
Acknowledge the issue
Acknowledgment is huge. It doesn’t matter whether you think the customer is right, just having an off day or doesn’t understand your process or product at all.
Keep your emotions in check, and read the customer’s feedback objectively.
Then, start by thanking the customer for not only bringing the situation to your attention but taking the time to do so. It opens the door to finding a solution.
Again, it just doesn’t matter whether the customer is right or wrong, it’s your responsibility as the business to take the high road and apologize for the issue he or she had.
Apologies go a long way and show that you care about delivering a high level of service. Make sure to be clear that the customer’s happiness is your No. 1 priority.
Keep in mind that there is a difference between “I apologize” and “I’m sorry.”
To apologize is to take responsibility for something on behalf of your company. To say sorry is to emphasize with the customer without acknowledging that your company is specifically to blame.
When there’s a negative review because of something your business is responsible for, then apologize.
When there’s a negative review because of something outside of your control, then you can consider the “I’m sorry this happened to you” approach.
If needed, offer an explanation
Tread lightly here. It’s easy to go so deep into an explanation that it can read as an excuse or being defensive.
Often, an apology alone will suffice. But when necessary, keep your explanation short and to the point. If there was a technology glitch, for example, say that. But don’t dive into all the headaches that glitch caused you personally or how cumbersome it was to get it fixed.
Remember that as a business, you must take responsibility for all good (and bad) experiences.
Think quick context, not an extended narrative. Less is more.
Reinforce your company’s values
Similar to offering an explanation, it’s best to concisely state the importance of customer service to your business. Spending too much time on this point can be taken wrong.
Just briefly mention what your current standards for customer service are, that you take customer complaints very seriously and that customer service is an integral part of your company’s values.
Make it right for the reviewer
Remember that a bad experience with any business likely costs a customer time and/or money (and that’s where emotions can run high, for sure).
Be sure to not only make it right, but to compensate the customer into using your business again. A 20 percent discount on his or her next visit or product can turn a one-time, unhappy customer into a lifetime, loyal customer.
Of course, the compensation should make sense for the situation at hand. If they’re dealing with a malfunctioning product, for example, 20 percent off a second product doesn’t make sense. But a free exchange as well as 20 percent off a future product can work well together. You both fixed the issue and encouraged them to continue doing business with you.
If nothing can be done to resolve the situation, write a compelling public response to the review that shows your sincere regret and desire to avoid that type of situation from happening again.
There’s a wide range of options here. Focus on the immediate problem at hand, and don’t be afraid to step out of the box when it comes to making it right. Every business is different.
Be human and personable
Whether you get hit with 10 online reviews per week or hundreds per day, make the effort to not sound “canned” in your responses.
While consumers can sense if a reviewer is being overly aggressive or out of line, they can also sense if you’re templating a bit too much in your responses.
There are many helpful online review response templates available on the internet, but use them as inspiration. They’ll never substitute the type of thoughtful response you can write on your own after reading and thinking through the issue a customer had.
Remember that you always want to humanize your brand as much as you can online. Avoid templated shortcuts.
Keep it short
There obviously are several components to any successful response to a negative review, but overall, try to keep your response as short as possible.
Longer replies often get ignored. They also can (simply in their length) appear desperate or defensive, and there’s really no need to go crazy in length.
At the end of the day, you have a customer who is unhappy. Address that directly and concisely.
Invite the reviewer to continue the conversation offline
While there can definitely be a little back and forth in review responses, a public comment thread is not the best place to hash out all the finer details of resolving an issue for a customer.
Invite that customer to continue the conversation with you directly. This can be with a direct phone number to call, an email or even a direct message on a social media platform.
Of course, don’t just leave that ball in his or her court. When you comment with that invitation, take the extra step and also let them know that you just directly messaged them, for example.
Remember that you’re writing for two audiences: the customer who had a negative experience, as well as all the potential customers who are reading your reviews. Make sure that the end of your response has a “next steps” approach. It doesn’t leave anyone hanging.
Get a second opinion
When in doubt (and obviously if possible), don’t hesitate to run your written response by a colleague for a second opinion.
As much as you might want to be objective and fair in your responses to negative reviews, they naturally trigger emotion and can even feel like a personal attack. Because of this, it never hurts to get an outside opinion on your response before you post it.
Remember that negative reviews can happen on almost any online platform, not just Yelp or Google. Your business could be tagged in an unhappy tweet or a check-in post on Facebook.
Have a system in place so that you can stay on top of all online reviews coming in, not just the negative ones. If a customer has a great experience, thank him or her for sharing. But now, if someone has a bad experience, you can confidently address it. How you do so can actually outweigh any negative perception that a negative review might otherwise cause.
Negative reviews are not a battlefield for you to go to war in. Take them as an opportunity to convert unhappy customers into brand loyalists and to maintain your integrity as a business.
Online reviews are a form of social proof that you can leverage to actually grow your business. Check out these nine ways you can use social proof in your digital marketing.
As you begin taking on negative reviews with a fresh perspective, consider optimizing your digital marketing process, which includes automation, audience segmentation and enhanced email marketing capabilities, to name a few. DailyStory can help. Schedule your free demo with us today.