There comes a time when every business will receive a bad review. Like it or not, it comes with the territory. Unfortunately, it’s very easy for unhappy clients to leave a bad review online – either on Google, Facebook, a review site or by creating a video that goes viral![1]

The good news is that you can respond to a bad review. The tricky part can be responding to it in a way that makes you look like the good guy.

How to respond to a negative online review

  • Above all else, STAY CALM. Whatever you do, don’t respond with emotion! Draft a reply and ask someone who is less emotionally involved to have a look at it before you post. You don’t want your response to go viral for all the wrong reasons!
  • You can try and have the review removed – however, if it’s on a review site such as Yelp or TripAdvisor you’re unlikely to be successful. Google has been known to remove negative reviews that violate their policies.
  • Respond quickly – when customers complain online they expect a response within an hour yet the average company takes nine HOURS to respond. And remember that people expect quicker responses via social media than they do via email.
  • Respond to everyone who leaves a review or feedback. Responding to reviews shows your customers you care and that you take all reviews, good and bad, seriously. A simple thank you is often enough for a positive review when it’s negative take the details offline. A quick, unemotional and effective response to a negative review or comment is to say “thanks for your feedback, can you please call/email me on [insert details] and we can discuss this in detail”. Whatever you do, do NOT air your dirty laundry in public. That makes you look bad.
  • Be transparent. Nobody expects perfection. Don’t get hung up on a negative view, even if it is a blatant lie – it’s how you respond that counts. Remember that some negativity adds to credibility. Think about how a list of only 5 star reviews makes you feel vs a list of reviews that includes a couple of one, two and three-star comments.
  • No response isn’t an option – people expect a response. ALL your customers (and potential customers) will be watching to see if and how you respond, so make sure you say something.
  • Respond on the platform the complaint was made – if it’s on Facebook, respond on Facebook – although as mentioned above, it’s perfectly OK to take the matter offline once you have acknowledged it online.
  • Encourage positive reviews from customers who love you – Brisbane independent bookstore Avid Reader shared a Facebook post by feminist writer Clementine Ford, and a few hours later was bombarded with one-star reviews by men’s rights. Current and former employees reached out to their loyal community asking for help, and they leapt to Avid’s defence, leaving almost 4,000 five-star reviews in response to the 400-odd one-star reviews.

While this article has focused on how to respond to negative comments and reviews, you also need to make sure you resolve the issue. Often a complaint is the first sign of a bigger issue, so be sure to take the time to fully investigate.

[1] In 2008 musician Dave Carroll was flying with United Airlines when he noticed the luggage handlers outside throwing guitars around – and breaking his. He complained to the airline: he tweeted, phoned and wrote, seeking $1,200 compensation to repair his damaged guitar. He would have accepted travel vouchers instead of cash, however, United Airlines refused. After nine months of trying to get compensation, he wrote a song called “United Breaks Guitars”. You can watch and listen to it on YouTube. It’s had 18 million views. And counting.

Mel Kettle works with associations, not-for-profits and businesses to help them communicate effectively and authentically so they attract, retain and engage their members and customers. To inquire about working with Mel, please email mel@melkettle.com or call her on 0404 600 889.

Order a signed copy of Mel’s book, The Social Association – 5 key skills not-for-profits need to increase member engagement, generate ROI and create a thriving online community, published in February 2018.

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