Seven Steps to Responding the Right Way to Bad Reviews

Image of Scott Baradell
Scott Baradell
Published: May 23, 2022

You've put hours of hard work into delivering a quality product or service for your customer, and yet, somehow, you've been given a bad review online.

What do you do now?

For better or worse, dealing with bad reviews is part of online reputation management for businesses in today's world. And while every company receives them, you can't afford to ignore them.

Why? Because if you fail to address a bad review, it will remain a permanent mark against your business. Too many bad reviews can even put you out of business.

But if you respond to poor reviews like a pro, you can turn the situation into a positive.

Here are seven steps you or your team can take when your business gets a negative review.

1. Gather Yourself

Receiving a bad review can be stressful, and, understandably, you might feel emotional about it. After all, this is your business and livelihood being talked about. Then there's all the worry about how this review might affect your reputation.

Before you do anything irrational, stop and put the situation into perspective.

Yes, a bad review can influence other customers' choices, but not as much as you might think, and not very much at all in isolation. As a study by BrightLocal points out, 34% of consumers surveyed leave positive reviews, 37% of respondents leave positive and negative reviews, and only 7% of respondents leave negative reviews. So, one negative review is unlikely to ruin your chances at obtaining future business when standing amidst positive reviews.

What might hurt your business more is an unprofessional response.

If a review has gotten under your skin, take a moment to process it and gather yourself. Of course, your emotional response is valuable; it shows you care. But don't let emotions rule here.

2. Respond Quickly

Whatever you do, don't put off responding to a bad review for very long.

Customers who have had a bad experience will only feel more frustrated if ignored. Furthermore, the longer a bad review is left unanswered, the greater the damage to your reputation in the eyes of browsing customers. As a result, you should always aim to respond within the first 48 hours.

A swift response shows sincerity in putting things right on your part and provides damage limitation.

3. Respond Publicly

You might want to deal with the nitty-gritty of a bad review over the phone or through email. But you must respond to an online review publicly first. Replying to it in private will make it seem to other potential customers like you never responded at all.

Customers are used to seeing big companies blunder in their handling of complaints, so this is a chance to turn some heads if all goes well.

4. Be Empathetic

You might not like what a customer has to say about you and your service, but it's important to remember that you're running a business here.

It's vital to acknowledge your customer's bad experiences and see things from their side. The customer may not always be correct, but being defensive will not help you. Showing empathy and a willingness to put things right can go a long way, not only for the disgruntled customer but also for the onlookers online.

5. Take Responsibility and Apologize

You may feel that the bad review you've received was due to something out of your control. For example, perhaps there was an issue with your supplier, or one of your employees didn't turn up that day.

It doesn't matter.

Whatever happened, it's your company, and the responsibility for any poor performance ultimately falls on you and that company as a whole.

If there is an explanation, then you can, by all means, describe what went wrong. But, remember, an explanation is not a justification. Whether you agree with the complaint or not, you must take responsibility and apologize.

6. Take the Conversation Offline

Remember the point about responding publicly? Well, while you want the initial response to be public, you probably don't want the entire interaction between you and the customer to play out in the open.

When you respond to a bad review, provide the customer with the means to take the conversation further if they wish. Be sure to give them several means of communication, such as an email or phone number, so they can proceed with their preferred method.

7. Take Appropriate Action

If a bad review identifies something about your service that can be fixed, fix it. Furthermore, if there's a way to make things right with a customer, you should, by all means, try to do this. Be wary of having kneejerk reactions, though.

Compensation is one way to appease a dissatisfied customer, but don't let yourself be taken advantage of either. Also, if specific employees were involved in whatever experience led to the bad review, you should communicate with them and investigate what went wrong.

Communicating with your customers is an essential part of running a business, and that doesn't change in response to bad feedback. Thankfully, a bad review doesn't mean the end for your business. So long as you remain professional and courteous, customers will respond positively even when things occasionally go wrong.

(This article originally appeared at Newsweek.com.)

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