There’s nothing more disheartening than a negative review. Beyond stressing you out, a bad review can pose a challenge to your business — after all, reviews are one of your most powerful marketing tools. But it is possible to turn a negative review into something positive.
Responding to a bad review gives you the opportunity to show customers that you’re listening, and when you attempt to fix a problem, it’s clear that you care. A bad review can even validate that your reviews are real, adding more weight to the positive things people say. Here are 10 tips for how to respond to negative reviews while shining a positive light on your business.
Tip 1: Keep a cool head.
It’s only natural to be upset when someone leaves you a negative review. But before you rush to your own defense, remember how it will play with other potential customers. You want to show that you’re professional in good times and bad, and that no matter where blame actually lies, you’re going to work to make things right.
So before you respond, give yourself some time to process the review. Don’t reply until you can do so objectively and politely. It can be hard not to take a tough review personally, but keep reminding yourself to keep a cool head no matter what.
Tip 2: Decide whether or not it’s smartest to respond.
If someone brings up a genuine concern about your work in their review, it’s generally best practice to respond. However, if someone seems totally unhinged — i.e. ranting in all caps or calling people names — it might be best to ignore it. Chances are you won’t be able to make that person happy no matter how hard you try, and getting caught up in a back and forth with that person could make things much worse. If you’re worried about it, try contacting Thumbtack customer service.
Tip 3: Do your research.
If a customer is complaining about something specific, reach out. Find out the details of what went wrong, as well as the things they may not have included in the review. If you weren’t the person who interacted with the customer reviewing you, talk to your employees to learn more about the situation. Get the facts straight so you can figure out the best way to respond to and solve the problem.
Tip 4: Don’t wait too long to respond.
When people complain online, they want an answer fast — so respond quickly. (Just not so quickly that you don’t do the three things listed above.) If you’re not regularly monitoring your reviews, you’ll have a hard time keeping track of what people are saying, and you don’t want to wait too long to get back. Whether you respond publicly or privately, it lets the customer know you’re paying attention.
★ Pro tip: The importance of getting lots of reviews.
Top Pro massage therapist Sam Imperatrice explains, “When I started, only around 15 percent of my business was from Thumbtack. As of December, it’s up to 50 percent. Once I crossed the 30 reviews mark, things took off.”
Tip 5: Acknowledge the review publicly.
In most cases, it’s good to at least acknowledge a review publicly so other potential customers see that you’re addressing the problem. Even if you can’t make things better, you should acknowledge the complaint and thank the person for their feedback. If you want to continue the conversation offline, send them your phone number to talk it over one-on-one.
Tip 6: Be empathetic to your customer’s concerns.
Even if you don’t feel like you did anything wrong, do your best to look at the situation from the customer’s point of view. Validate their concerns, or at least express that you hear them and want to make things better. Adding a human element to your responses adds the kind of sincerity your customer is most likely looking for.
Tip 7: How to apologize to your customer.
People want to feel heard — and a simple apology goes a long way. Even if you feel that the customer is (at least in part) in the wrong, blame shouldn’t be part of your conversation. Tell the customer that you’re sorry, then move on to the solution. If you truly did nothing wrong, you don’t need to apologize, but you do need to make things right — or at least try.
Remember, this is about more than just the person leaving the review. It shows potential customers how you deal with problems.
Tip 8: Always offer a concrete solution to the problem.
If you dropped the ball and it’s something you can fix, apologize and offer to make things better in a timely manner. If the customer’s complaint is about a bad experience — i.e. someone showed up late, they didn’t like the food, the limousine broke down — apologize, ensure it won’t happen again (and explain how), ask for a do-over, or offer the customer compensation.
Tip 9: Don’t overdo it — be brief.
You don’t want to create an opportunity for a lot of back and forth or open yourself up to misinterpretation. Acknowledge the issue, apologize and offer a solution. If you feel it’s important to explain why something happened the way it did or to share crucial details the customer omitted, make sure you can do so without being defensive.
Another thing to keep in mind: A brief response ensures that potential customers will actually read what you write.
Tip 10: Take your discussion offline if necessary.
There are many reasons to take a discussion about a bad review offline. It allows you to be more detailed and to keep the customer’s personal details private. Also, it doesn’t look good to hash things out publicly.
If you feel the problem can’t be solved on the review site, or if you see yourself getting into a huge back-and-forth with the customer, apologize online and reach out directly. Often, an issue that would come across as very dramatic online can be solved with a quick phone call. Just make sure to ask the customer to update their review once things are resolved.
For more on building a strong profile read this article, Get Better Reviews (and More Hires).