How to Handle Negative Online Reviews

When you’ve worked hard to build a business, negative online reviews can be a real disappointment. You might do everything right, and some customer, somewhere, will manage to find something wrong. Unfortunately, this is simply a fact of doing business in the 21st century.

At the same time, negative online reviews are a chance to diffuse customer complaints and demonstrate empathy, patience and understanding. You can smooth over the situation while showing the general public that you can handle criticism.

When negative online reviews come your way — and they probably will at some point — there are a few things you can do to make things right. Start by taking a deep breath, and then walk yourself through these tips.

Don’t React

By all means, take a few moments to vent to coworkers or friends when faced with negative online reviews. If their comments are unfounded, you rightfully will feel like the review is unjust.

Once you’ve got the venting out of your system, you’ll be in a better place to sit down and type out a response. Don’t type out the first thought that comes into your head; take some time to craft a response that will address your customer’s concerns.

The last thing you want to do is post something confrontational in response to negative online reviews. It will only make your customer more upset, and it won’t look very good for you, either. 

Be Professional

On that note, the high road is the path of choice when it comes to negative online reviews. If there are blatant errors in the review — for instance, they claim you’re only open until 6 p.m. on Saturdays but you know you’re open until 9 — you can correct the errors politely. 

If any part of their review rings true, acknowledge what the customer is saying. Maybe they didn’t get their side of macaroni and cheese with their to-go order. Perhaps there was a long line at checkout. 

Whatever the case may be, try to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. How big of a bummer is it to get home after picking up your food and realize you’re missing the most important part of your meal? Or to have to wait in a huge line with only one cashier working?

There can be valid reasons that things go wrong from time to time. Maybe whomever packed the order simply forgot the mac ‘n’ cheese, or you were short-handed and didn’t have anyone else to ring up orders.

You can explain what happened while still being apologetic and professional. Use names, and offer to remedy the situation. It could be a simple: “We deeply apologize that your order was missing an item, Joe. We’d like to offer you a free entree for next time you come in.” Or maybe: “We’re so sorry you had to wait in a long line, Mary. Unfortunately, we were short-handed that day, and our customers had to wait longer than we all would have liked. We’d love to offer $5 off your next order.” 

Learn more: A Step-by-Step Guide to Responding to a Bad Yelp Review

Respond Quickly

While you should always collect yourself and regain your composure before responding to negative online reviews, don’t wait too long. If you can get back to them within an hour, that’s ideal. If that’s not possible, then 24 hours should be the max.

Remember, you don’t have to have all the details in order to respond. Sometimes, you may need more information before you’re able to remedy negative online reviews. For example, a review might be vague and unclear as to what happened or the people involved.

If that’s the case, you can simply apologize that the customer had a poor experience and offer to take the conversation offline: “We regret you had a less than stellar experience with us, Jane. We would love to talk with you personally and make things right. Please contact us at [your phone or email].”

This way, you’re putting the ball in the customer’s court without ignoring them. What they choose to do at that point is up to them, but you’ll know you’ve done your part to remedy matters.

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Customize Your Responses

Negative online reviews are bad enough. Don’t make matters worse by posting a canned response that makes it seem like a bot delivered it.

This is why you need a real human looking at both positive and negative online reviews. Whether a review is good or bad, it’s important that it receives a genuine reply.

You’re either taking the time to address any concerns, or you’re thanking customers for posting their positive testimonials. Every review deserves a response.

Your customers will feel validated and significant — and they’ll be more likely to send you referral business.

Be Systematic

Make a habit of checking your online reviews regularly. If you don’t check, you might not even be aware of negative online reviews (or positive reviews, for that matter).

If you are time-crunched, you might have to just set specific times in the day for checking reviews. Maybe first thing in the morning and last thing before the end of the day works. 

Using technology to manage positive and negative online reviews helps, too. The Rallio Dashboard pulls in reviews from the major review platforms so you can see everything in one place.

You can also outsource your review responses to our Rallio Local team. We work with individual business owners every day who need our help managing their online reputation and creating appropriate responses to negative online reviews.

Lastly, you can take advantage of our Revv reputation management app. It’ll prompt your customers for feedback immediately after the sale and help you generate more positive reviews.

Don’t Let Negative Online Reviews Bring You Down

Receiving negative online reviews isn’t fun, but don’t let it ruin your day. If you handle these reviews courteously and quickly, then the positive reviews should outweigh the negatives. 

If the majority of your customers are happy, then you’ll know you’re doing things right. Get in touch with us if you could use a hand addressing negative online reviews.

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