How to Respond to Negative Reviews Online

May 28, 2019
Will Kaye
Managing Director

No matter the nature of your business, you don’t really have the option of ignoring bad online reviews...

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No matter the nature of your business, you don’t really have the option of ignoring bad online reviews. Doing so will most likely have negative long term repercussions. If you run your own business or are in charge of your company’s online presence, you need to know how to respond to negative reviews; that includes what to say, how to say it, and even when to say it.


Respond Quickly

One of the most crucial rules determining how to respond to negative reviews is timing. You should try to respond within 24 hours of the review being posted. Never wait more than 48 hours to respond. Taking longer could suggest to potential customers that you do not care about customer service. In comparison, responding quickly shows them that you care about customer feedback and that you will take responsibility for your customers and issues that have occurred.

Keep It Real

Nothing will make customers more upset than feeling like their complaints aren’t being taken seriously or being dealt with through poorly conceived chatbots. It sends the message that your company does not truly value the unique concerns your customers have. It’s important to be authentic in your response. Engage with what the reviewer said and offer relevant and thoughtful responses.

Offer to Make It Right

Even if you think the reviewer is being a little unreasonable, offer to make things right in some way. You gain much more than you lose by showing potential customers that your company is willing to go the extra mile for good customer relations. If the reviewer received a broken or defective product, send them a replacement right away. If the reviewer complained of bad customer service, invite them back and offer to take care of them personally. Offer some small gift by way of apology.

Always Be Polite

No matter how rude the reviewer is, keep your response civil and polite. This shows potential customers that, in doing business with you, they would be dealing with a mature, reasonable company. Sinking to the level of the impolite reviewer makes your company look immature, petty and untrustworthy.

Be Sympathetic

Make sure your response communicates sincerity without sounding condescending; remarks such as “We’re sorry” and “I understand” can help. Demonstrations of sympathy help make the reviewer feel like their feelings are valued and this can go a long way toward making them feel better.

Contact the Reviewer Privately

After you have made a public response online, it can also help to send the reviewer a private message on Facebook, the review site where they posted their comments, or by email. Reiterate your desire to make things right for them. Doing this demonstrates that you’re committed to making things right, and your response is not just for show. This might even encourage them to remove their negative review or post a better follow-up.

Dealing with a False Review

There’s a well-known saying in the business world that the customer is always right. This is not always true. Sometimes, unscrupulous customers will post blatantly false reviews just to be mean or in the hope of extorting a free gift out of your company. If you are certain that this is what is going on then you can call them out on it. However, it’s vital that you remain polite and civil while you do so. Simply state your version of events and your argument for why things did not happen the way the reviewer says. Never attack the reviewer personally.

The Takeaway

While negative reviews can seem discouraging, think of the situation as an opportunity to build credibility and respect for your business. Remember: online reviews are some of the most important factors potential customers use to make a purchase decision. The dilemma of how to respond to negative reviews involves a carefully considered process. Your response to a negative review is not only for the person who made the review, but more so for all the potential customers. How your business conducts itself online can leave a powerful impression.

Need help dealing with dissatisfied customers? Get in touch for help developing a comprehensive customer communications strategy and more tips on how to respond to negative reviews.