The Do’s and Don’ts of Dealing with Negative Online Reviews

Furious businesswoman throws a punch into computer, screaming

When it comes to your business, reputation is everything.

“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.”

– Jeff Bezos

Nowadays, it is increasingly rare to find a person that doesn’t check online reviews before conducting business with a company.

79% of U.S. adult internet users check the online reviews of a business before deciding to visit the company’s store or webpage. (Source)

Chances are, a massive portion of your business’s traffic originates from consumers that first research your company online.

Looking at a company’s online reviews has practically taken on a “let’s run a background check” level of importance.

87% of consumers won’t even do business with a company that has an overall rating of under 3 stars. (Source)

84% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as the opinions of people they know. (Source)

If your business has received some less-than-favorable reviews (most have, don’t worry), then reading these statistics may trigger bouts of anxiety-induced nausea.

However, depending on how you handle negative online reviews, your company could wind up reaping benefits out of the situation.

It may be tempting to think, “Well, obviously, a bad review will hurt my rating.” But, there’s another side to the story.

Know the phrase “this is too good to be true”? Well, those words can easily describe how your company’s digital reputation is perceived.

95% of the consumers in a study by Harvard Business School said if all the reviews are positive, they feel the reviews are 1) fake or 2) company screened. (Source)

If you’re wondering, “So… what exactly do I do, then?”, read on!

Below, we’ve run through the Do’s and Don’ts of handling negative online reviews for your business.

The Do’s

1. Be reasonable and diplomatic.

If someone is undermining your business’s credibility, being reasonable and diplomatic can feel far from fulfilling.

However, to successfully handle negative feedback, it is essential that your emotions are pushed off to the side. To start, scan through the customer’s review, answering the question, “What is the root issue? What is the customer mad about or disappointed in?”

Be reasonable: if the customer has a legitimate complaint, then accept responsibility and demonstrate accountability.

2. Acknowledge and apologize.

If someone has taken the time to leave your company an unfavorable review, take the time to perform damage control and conflict resolution.

Validate the customer’s concerns by acknowledging that your business understands the problem.

When you repeat back elements of the customer’s review, you demonstrate to the customer that you are actively engaged in the situation.

After acknowledging the customer’s concerns, apologize. Remember to utilize the customer’s name!

 3. Be human, not robotic.

Don’t copy and paste responses. Don’t do it.

If an angry customer goes to leave a review and sees that your company responds the same way to every complaint, then the consumer may be dissatisfied enough to include THAT in their review! Uh oh.

Even a short message utilizing some of the seemingly small details mentioned in the customer’s review can humanize your response.

 Ex:, “Hello, Rebecca. We are so sorry to hear that the Model 50A did not meet your expectations (or, your son Daniel’s!). Please contact us at 123-456-7890, so that we can take care of this ASAP for you.”

4. Take note of legitimate concerns and make an actual effort to fix the problem.

Even if your company has outstanding customer service and responds quickly to negative reviews, your business still needs to take preventative action. The issues that customers repeatedly mention should be considered top priorities for your business.

When a customer voices a legitimate concern about a product or service, make sure that the associated department is made aware and that a plan is implemented.

Responding to a bad review with an apology and a link to a gift card is equivalent to placing a board over the crack in the foundation. Functional, but not sustainable long-term.

Taking steps to improve the associated product or service’s functionality, however, is equivalent to cementing over the crack in the foundation versus employing a temporary fix.

5. Be prompt.

With so many companies vying for your customer’s favor, quality customer service is integral to standing out from your competition.

If a customer is already disappointed, any further issue such as a slow response is the equivalent to placing salt onto an open wound.

6. Remind people where they can leave your company reviews.

While negative reviews are not pleasant sights, they do help contribute to your business’s credibility.

As mentioned above, consumers are suspicious of a company with minimal reviews or solely positive reviews.

A negative review is a perfect opportunity to showcase your company’s customer service skills, and acknowledging the review shows that your company doesn’t just cater to its satisfied followers. Asking customers that have utilized your products to leave a review is an excellent best practice regardless of the industry. Although this potentially means a customer’s angry rant about your company will wind up on display for the entire internet to see, this can still be beneficial.

7. Before you publicly reply, examine your intended response from multiple points of view.

Before you publish your response to the customer’s complaint, read it once as if you were the dissatisfied customer and also as if you were a neutral visitor.

How does it sound?

Being proactive and looking at your message from these standpoints can help prevent escalating an already less-than-ideal situation.

8. Monitor your business’s online reviews.

Make sure that someone in the company is regularly checking for new Google, Yelp, or Facebook reviews.

While you can’t always jump to your computer the second that a review emerges, make it a priority to regularly monitor online reviews.

9. Know when to respond and when to back off. Hint: Yes, there are situations where silence is golden.

Don’t feed trolls. Period. The back-and-forth communication loses its value very quickly if emotions get involved or undue attention is spent trying to one-up the customer.

10. Take the communication offline.

It is a best practice to take the communication offline once you have publicly acknowledged and responded to the customer’s concern publicly.

Doing this ensures there will not be a drawn-out-battle for the world to see. This will also help keep the communication focused and unaffected by external sources.


The Don’ts

1. Don’t exclusively use generic responses.

You may think that “a generic response is better than no response,” but to your customers, a cookie cutter answer is potentially worse than nothing at all.

If a customer takes the time to delve into fine detail about a concern, be sure that you are responding appropriately and respectfully by showing an actual human is reading and attending to the situation.

2. Don’t ignore the situation.

Sweeping dust under the carpet doesn’t make it go away, and neither does pretending a negative review will vanish into oblivion at the stroke of midnight.

As quickly as possible, acknowledge that the review exists, apologize, and invite the customer to communicate offline. A short answer containing these elements demonstrates proactivity and promptness.

 3. Don’t become defensive.

Even if the discussion has moved from online to a private email, refrain from becoming defensive.

If a troll includes accusations in an online review, your company has the perfect opportunity to put its customer service skills on display.

Politely respond to the customer, apologize, state the facts, and invite the customer to continue the discussion offline.

4. Don’t ask for “good” reviews.

An excellent rule of thumb is to refrain from asking your customers to “leave a good review”. Asking for public affirmation undermines your company’s perceived confidence, and it also gives the impression of desperation.

Instead, mention to customers that “You can find us on Facebook/Google/Yelp etc. “or, “Feel free to leave us a review voicing comments, concerns, or compliments by visiting (your website).”


Fusion Group USA

If your company has a digital presence on both social media and review platforms, your business is sitting on a goldmine of potential customers.

When you enlist Fusion Group USA to help shape and manage your digital presence, you’re enlisting experienced digital marketers that understand the analytic complexities of the digital world. You can read more about our reputation management here or contact us today to set up a no-strings-attached consultation. What are you waiting for? Contact us today!

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