Negative Reviews

I have written a lot lately about getting online reviews and how important they are, but of course the goal is to have all good reviews. But if you are a business that services a large number of clients, there will likely be a time when someone leaves you a negative review. So what do you do?

First, let’s start with what NOT to do.

  1. Don’t respond hastily or defensively. Most of the time that a bad review happens is because of a breakdown in communication where one person didn’t feel heard. They then reach out on Google or Yelp or Facebook to leave their feedback, because then they can “say their piece” and get it off their chest. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help your cause. Give yourself time to really think about the review, why it was left, what you could have done differently, and what you will do next time. Responding in anger or defense will not help you.
  2. Don’t respond by disparaging the reviewer. Yes, they may have been unreasonable, rude, or offensive, but if you come back at them with a similar response it’ll just look poorly on you.

After you’ve had some time to really think about the situation, then you have to make a decision about how best to respond to the review. Do you have to respond? My opinion is yes, you should always respond to negative reviews.

If you don’t respond to a negative review, then some readers may believe that it’s true. If you respond properly, they may be recognize that there are two sides to every story and choose to give you the benefit of the doubt.

How to respond to negative reviews

Start by acknowledging that there was a problem. Frequently, bad reviews get left because the customer feels like they had a problem that was dismissed or not dealt with and they don’t feel like anyone was listening to them. Here are a few examples.

“I’m so sorry you’ve had this experience.”

“We’re very disappointed that you had a less than pleasant experience!”

Starting the conversation by acknowledging that there was a problem is a good start. You want other readers to see that you aren’t dismissing the problem, ignoring it, and are trying to reach out to them to rectify the situation.

Next, briefly offer a statement about how you’d love a chance to talk to them about the problem… offline.

Don’t be defensive. Don’t write anything negative about the reviewer! Yes, they may have been the client from hell, but others who read that review don’t know that. In fact, avoid any kind of explanations, defensives, or specifics. Readers don’t want to see that and any kind of over-explanations can cause more back and forth between you and the customer.

Keep is Simple

“We’re so sorry you’re experience with us was less than stellar. We strive to provide the best service possible. We’d love a chance to talk to you about your experience, please call us at 555-2121.”

By responding kindly, other reviewers will see that you are acknowledging an issue and reaching out to make it better. Maybe they’ll call and maybe they won’t, but you’ve reach out in an respectful way to acknowledge an issue and make it right.

But what if you never want to talk to that person ever again?

It’s true, sometimes the relationship between provider and client can break down to a point that there can be no resolution and a successful conversation can’t be had. I’ve heard stories about clients yelling, berating, and being entirely unreasonable. In this case, you may not want to reach out and ask them to call you, but you still need to respond to the review. Something like this should suffice.

“We’re so sorry that your experience wasn’t a positive one. We strive hard to ensure that we meet and exceed expectations every time and will be working on our policies to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

In this situation, we’ve addressed the review in a vague but respectful way, but didn’t encourage any further communication.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

This could not be more true when it comes to reviews. If you proactively reach out to clients for feedback, you can intercept their bad review before it gets onto a third party site. We offer an online review service that requests feedback on a private feedback system. This allows anyone who may have had a negative experience to leave their feedback privately. Sometimes, just getting it off their chest is enough, and they won’t feel compelled to take it to Google or Facebook.

And if that doesn’t work, the other option is to keep requesting reviews so that your positive to negative ratio is pretty slim. People are much more likely to leave a review if their experience was negative than positive, so by asking for positive reviews, you’ll increase the chances of potential customers seeing the great reviews before they find your occasional negative review.

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Amy Masson, Web Developer

Amy Masson

Amy is the co-owner, developer, and website strategist for Sumy Designs. She's been making websites with WordPress since 2006 and is passionate about making sure websites are as functional as they are beautiful.

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