10 Tips: How To Respond To Negative Online Reviews Based On 20 Years Of Customer Service Experience
Bob Blumberg April 29, 2020

You’re going to get a negative online review. It’s something every business has to deal with, even the ones that have their sh*t together. And whether we’re talking startups or established businesses, nobody has their stuff together, all the time. Nobody.

Negative reviews aren’t fun. I’ve been in customer service for nearly 20 years. Getting a bad customer review still hurts.

It’s stressful. It can make you angry or dejected. It sucks.

But it’s good for you.

A negative customer review is the tough medicine you need to improve your business.

Now before we get into tips for dealing with negative online reviews, let’s first talk about the best ways to prevent them.

Prevention starts with understanding the key to customer happiness.

What’s the key?

Meeting or exceeding customer expectations.

It sounds simple, but businesses sabotage themselves all the time. And the saboteurs aren’t disgruntled customer service agents like you might think.

The sabotage comes from marketing and sales. (Sorry, not sorry. 😉)

If your marketing team doesn’t set customer expectations properly or your sales team over promises, your customer service department is going to fail. So, you have to communicate with the frontend of your business.

You need to work with sales and marketing to come up with a strategy to under-promise. That way you can do something that will delight your customers: overdeliver.

Overdelivering turns your customers into raving fans, while underdelivering creates yelpers with an ax to grind.

Trust me. Your sales and marketing teams will end up thanking you because nothing sells better than happy customers. Nothing’s more powerful than a customer testimonial or a positive online review.

The second preventive strategy is to focus on customer feedback.

Proactively and consistently collecting feedback will not only help you improve your business, it will also help you identify unhappy customers.

If you can identify unhappy customers and resolve their issues before they bash you online, that’s a huge win. And you’ll see that proactively fixing customer problems is the best way to build customer loyalty.

But as I said from the beginning, every business is going to get a negative online review from time-to-time, no matter what you do.

Mistakes will be made. Accidents will happen. Issues out of your control will occur.

And that’s okay because getting a negative online review can be an opportunity to grow and show an unhappy customer (and the world) that your business cares about its customers.

If you respond correctly, you can use your negative online reviews to help your business. They can even end up being a net positive.

So, how do you respond to negative online reviews?

We’ve got you covered.

 

Here are 10 tips for responding to negative online reviews:

 

1. Make Sure The Review Is Real

 

Make sure the review is from a real customer. Legitimate online review platforms allow you to flag fishy reviews. For example, review sites like Yelp offer the ability to report false claims.

If you get a review that you know is fake, don’t be afraid to report it. False claims or defamatory reviews can often be removed by contacting the review site and following their specific procedure.

If you’re unsure about the credibility of a review, you’re better off treating it as credible, and responding to it using the next nine tips, below.

 

2. Don’t Wait To Respond

 

You need to respond quickly. Everyone is watching. Most review sites show the dates that they were submitted, as well as the date that you responded. A quick turn-around response will be visible to both the customer of yours who left the review, as well as to other online readers.

Responding fast not only shows the reviewer that you care, but it also shows potential customers that solving customer problems matters to your business.

Potential customers get to see how you would respond if they had an issue with you.

 

3. Take Responsibility And Apologize

 

Don’t think you did anything to deserve a negative review? It’s not about you.

A customer who leaves a bad review feels wronged. It’s your job to address that feeling and apologize. It’s the right thing to do for the customer and your business.

Unhappy customers expect an apology, not an excuse. So apologize (the right way) and remember, a public apology to a bad review will let potential clients know that you understand how to take responsibility.

A company that takes responsibility is a business you can trust.

 

4. Show Them You’re Human And Empathize

 

Being empathetic shows you care about your customers. It starts by putting yourself in your customer’s shoes. What drove them to leave a negative online review? Where along the line were expectations mismanaged? Would you be mad if you were them?

Do your best to connect with your customer on a human level and show them you understand their frustration. Here’s a real example of how one of our guys responded to a negative review with empathy.

 

5. Be Professional, Not Emotional

 

Getting emotional means you care and that’s a good thing. But getting upset and responding emotionally never helps the situation. Stay positive when you respond.

Remember, you’re not just responding to the reviewer, you’re showing potential future customers how you operate. If you come off as angry or dismissive, you’re going to turn people off.

Being professional and taking the high road will always reduce the negative impact on your reputation.

 

6. Stick To The Facts

 

When you respond, it helps to acknowledge the situation by stating the facts. Laying out what happened helps clarify what went wrong, and why.  It makes the reviewer feel like you understand the situation.

Remember it’s important not to get defensive. Responding to a negative review isn’t the place where you mount a serious defense.

Don’t overcomplicate it with too much detail. Simply give any future audience a little context about how this may have occurred, and immediately get into the resolution.

 

7. Show Your Appreciation

 

Always let your customers know that you appreciate their feedback, even if it isn’t positive. Negative reviews provide you with essential insights into your business. Let the reviewer know that you appreciate their feedback because it will help you improve your customer experience.

Showing appreciation for all feedback, good and bad, is an excellent way to show potential customers how much you care about your customers.

 

8. Go Above And Beyond 

 

Don’t simply correct the issue. Go above and beyond for these customers. In your response to their negative review, detail out, very clearly, step-by-step, how you are going to go the extra mile to make things right.

If you go above and beyond, you still might not save the customer’s business, but you will impress the potential customers who read your response and see how you handled the situation.

 

9. Take It Offline

 

After you’ve provided a thoughtful response, offer to take the conversation offline. Provide your direct contact information, so people can see you’re serious about helping in these types of situations.

Let your customer know that a real person cares and is ready to personally assist them. Otherwise, your response will feel cookie-cutter and shallow.

 

10. Monitor Your Online Reviews

 

You can’t respond to a review if you don’t know it exists. Make sure you create a profile on every major review platform in your industry and turn on your notifications. That way you’ll get an email if someone leaves a review.

It’s also a good idea to monitor your social media accounts and simply google your business to see what pops up. Your online reputation can make or break your business. It’s too important to ignore.

 

Wrapping It Up

 

I hope these 10 tips help you feel better equipped to respond to negative reviews when they arise. Remember to check in with your customers. Ask for feedback. If your customers are unhappy, address their issue before they submit a negative review.

If your customers are happy, ask them to share their experience on a review site. Insulating your online presence with good reviews ensures that your negative reviews wouldn’t stand out.

And when you receive a negative review, don’t fear it. Take it as an opportunity to learn, improve, and show the world that you care about your customer experience.

 

 

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Editor’s Note: This article is part of the blog series Run Your Business brought to you by the marketing team at UniTel Voice, the virtual phone system priced and designed for startups and small business owners.

Bob Blumberg
Bob Blumberg Head of Customer Success at UniTel Voice

Bob is the head of operations and customer success at UniTel Voice. He has almost 20 years of customer service experience and over 10 years of experience managing customer service teams. When he's not solving problems at UniTel Voice, he's going to Cubs games with his four boys, playing piano, or hitting the gym.

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