8 do’s and don’ts when responding to negative reviews

8 do’s and don’ts when responding to negative reviews

Savannah Burns
Savannah Burns
8 do’s and don’ts when responding to...

Review sites can be both a benefit and a burden for a small business. A handful of negative responses can impact your business’s overall rating, and worse, negative reviews have an oversized impact on buyer perception.

So what happens if your business receives negative reviews? You respond! But it’s important to do so in a way that doesn’t display ill will toward the reviewer, shows potential customers that you stick to your brand’s values, and overall positions your business in a positive light. 

Here are a few do’s and don’ts on how to respond to negative reviews.

Do take the high road 

When you start writing your response be sure to adopt a non-judgemental, empathetic tone. Acknowledge that the reviewer has the right to express their opinion about their own experience, and that you value feedback in all forms.

Use words like ‘appreciate’, ‘understand’ and ‘care.’ While this approach is not guaranteed to take the sting out of a reviewer’s ill feelings toward your company, it may help. What’s more, it will show other readers that you displayed compassion toward someone who may have just attacked your company’s reputation.

Don’t make it personal

Avoid emotion when responding to negative reviews–even if the reviewer misrepresents facts and takes what you think are cheap shots.

The first step is to strip out anything negative from your response. Avoid using ‘no’, ‘can’t’, ‘won’t’, ‘never,’ ‘didn’t’, etc. Then read it for words that express any kind of emotion that could be seen as an attack against the reviewer’s reputation or veracity. In short, take any and all emotional language out of the equation. Period.

Do address consumer fit

As much as you may strive to satisfy every customer that comes in contact with your business, you unfortunately won’t appeal to every person in the market. In fact, some customers may even find your products or service is disagreeable. Fess up that as a small business you try your best to deliver the most satisfying experience possible for all your customers, but every once in a while what you can deliver is not what other people are looking for. Then acknowledge that sometimes the fit is not an ideal one and another product or service may suit them better.

Don’t send the same response to different situations 

If you have many different reviews focused on different aspects of the product or service experience, then you might consider coming up with standardized responses for each category. For example, some reviews may emphasize communication issues the reviewer experienced with your company. Another might spend more time criticizing consumer compatibility and lack of refunds. You can create a template addressing each category. The key is to lightly tweak each one to ‘personalize’ it to the reviewer.

Do counter with positives

Stressing the positive shows the world that you are focused on delivering a great experience on matter what. A negative review is a chance for you to invoke your company’s values to reassure the reviewer of your commitment to those key principles that are the foundation of your company.

Another positive to invoke is the experience of many other buyers who have gained incredible value by choosing your company. Mention that as a company you care about every consumer experience. Also state that you rely upon a variety of feedback loops like surveys and one-on-one interviews in order to improve customer experience. In other words, show you care and tell them how you are going about accomplishing that.

Don’t admit guilt

While you may in fact have had a few mistakes or miscommunications that led to dissatisfaction, avoid admitting to any ‘wrongdoing’. That could open you up to even more criticism and even result in more serious accusations. It’s far better to show empathy, counter with positives and address consumer fit. It will redirect the criticism, and keep you from getting dragged farther down into a negative narrative.

Do send best wishes

At the end of every response to a negative review, it’s always a good idea to end with a ‘best wishes’ statement. Re-emphasize that while you cannot rewrite the past, you do wish them the best and ensure a satisfying experience upon their return. It shows you bear no ill will toward the consumer despite the negative criticism. It may serve to impress other reviewers and casual readers as well.

Respond to positive reviews too!

Positive reviews happen too, by the way! They just seem to get far less attention compared to negative ones. Thank your positive reviewers so that other readers see you showing your gratitude accordingly.

About Savannah Burns: Savannah is a marketing and communications intern for Swyft, which has been listed as one of the best PR firms in Austin and a top digital marketing agency in Denver since its founding in 2011. Swyft has satellite offices where it offers PR in San Francisco and Houston.

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