Curtis Boyd
Curtis Boyd is the CEO/Founder of Objection Co, he enjoys spending time with his family and solving complex business problems.

No small business owner likes negative reviews. But a bad review isn’t the worst thing that can happen to your business. A bad review with no follow up is. 

Negative reviews give you the chance to learn something about your business and show off next-level customer care. They also give customers an honest look at who you are and how you work. Here’s how. 

Don’t Panic: Why Bad Reviews Don’t Have to Be All That Bad

When facing a particularly negative review it can be hard to avoid a nervous breakdown. Instead chewing your fingernails, remember these three ways you can turn the negative into a positive.

Show Up For the Learning Experience

Let’s be honest: we can all learn something to improve the way we do things. Even the best brands drop the ball from time to time. 

Take the time to consider what the negative review is speaking to. Even if it’s ripe with spelling errors and all-caps phrases, there will likely be a few kernels in there about how you can improve your product, your customer service, your staff, etc. It doesn’t always have to be big picture; maybe it’s just making a tweak in your checkout process, in your communication channels, or in your product or service descriptions. 

Write down what the negative review addresses and how you plan to address the issues.

Show Off Your Engagement and Customer Care

Neil Patel reports that over half of consumers expect brands to respond to their negative reviews within a week. If you expect to maintain your brand reputation, you’d better meet — and better yet exceed — that expectation. A response can make all the difference. 

When potential customers exploring their shopping options online see a bad experience turned into a good experience, it provides a ton of consumer confidence. Nothing says, “I will take care of you, valued customer” quite like a 1-star review that turns into a 4- or 5-star review.

Justin Kulla, founder and CEO of BusinessBlocks, writes that when a business owner responds to a review (on Yelp, specifically) within a day, a third of reviewers will upgrade their star rating. “You may be able to repair your relationship with the customer by simply responding to the review, making them feel heard and offering a discount for their trouble,” Kulla writes. “You’d be surprised how much impact your follow-up message can have.”

If their review is completely off the mark, feel free to gently and politely set the record straight on a public forum. Otherwise, apologize for the lapse, highlight your strengths and offer something to make it up to them. Most people will respond favorably to your effort. 

Responding to reviews is also a form of engagement, which will in turn lead to more reviews. One Harvard Business Review study found that when managers started responding to reviews they received 12 percent more reviews and a ratings increase. So taking the time is well worth the effort.

Show Some Honesty to Your Audience

Most of the value in negative reviews is the chance to reply personally. But the benefit doesn’t stop there. Customers prefer to see negative reviews mixed in with the positive. 

“Almost every business, and every product has at least a few flaws,” writes Shane Barker at Inc. He goes on to write that a “few bad reviews” won’t do lasting damage to your brand or prevent people from buying what you’re selling. “But if there are no reviews that mention your product’s flaws, consumers may become suspicious. They may even lose trust in the positive reviews that you do choose to display.” 

In other words, having a few negative reviews sprinkled in among all your glowing reviews can actually help your reputation rather than hurt it. People are more likely to trust the positive reviews as legitimate if they are contrasted with negative reviews. People tend to see 5-star reviews as too good to be true — imagine how they feel if they only see positive reviews on your listing.

“Displaying all your reviews – good or bad – will help you maintain transparency,” Barker concludes. “It shows that you have nothing to hide, and you aren’t trying to deceive anyone.”

All of this boils down to one thing: if you can’t remove a negative review, don’t worry. You can always take the time to respond to these reviews, often to great effect. 

The “Do’s and Don’ts” of Responding to Negative Reviews

Here are a few tips to get you on your way toward effectively (and personably) responding to ‘bad’ reviews.

Do: Know the platform

Yelp, Facebook Tripadvisor, Google… they all have different feels and different policies for both reviews and responses. Be sure you know these guidelines ahead of time.

Don’t: Just use a template

Copy and paste won’t cut it here. This is your chance to shine by making your response thoughtful and personalized.

Do: Find tools to help you in the process

Social monitoring tools (like AgoraPulse) are a good place to start. But you’ll also want help walking through the process of responding to reviews. 

When determines that a review doesn’t qualify for removal, we put it in the ‘response’ area. Here, teams can collaborate on how to handle the situation with some guidelines. Typically the first thing you should do is message them privately, to see if you can bring them back in and win them over. If they won’t cooperate, then it’s time to plan a public response.

Don’t: Forget about the possibility of removal

Sometimes responding to reviews doesn’t change the outcome. Thankfully, you can still walk through the steps of trying to get the review removed if it violates platform rules. Depending on the rating, this could be your very first step.

The Bottom Line: A strategic approach to bad reviews will always win

Negative reviews aren’t just a problem to be resolved. Their an opportunity to be responded to. Just make sure you have the tools in place to make your response a great one. More questions about how to get started? Feel free to contact ustoday. 

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