A business owner finding negative reviews.

A Step-By-Step Guide to Responding to Negative Reviews

You just let out the last of your customers and thanked them for coming to your restaurant. They said they will definitely come back. They would even tell their friends to try out your specialties. You and your employees decided to close up for the week. It was a great service week, if you would say so yourself. There weren’t any complains about the food. Nothing was sent back to the kitchen. You opened up your phone browser to check your Yelp and TripAdvisor reviews. And there it was.

A one-star negative review.

Negative reviews on yelp

But before you start typing a response, consider the repercussions of what you are about to do. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to deal with negative reviews.


1. Calm yourself.


I know the feeling of getting that one star. Denial is probably the first thing that you feel. You know the quality of the products that you offer. You know the kind of service you and your employees provide. It cannot be true, right?

Then, you get angry. Why would your customer leave such a hostile business review? You start typing choice emotional words in your keypad. Should you confront your customer? Your pulse is rising, and your hands are trembling with anger.

But take a step back. It’s easy to answer back to a customer that is badmouthing your business but after pressing that “enter” button, you will have put yourself in a difficult position. One, your anger will just fuel more anger, both on your part and your customer’s. And two, everyone will see that you handled the situation poorly. Some might even think that you do not take criticism well. This would reflect not only on you but on your business as well.


2. Determine the actual cause of the bad review.


Everyone experiences a bad day. It may be your employee’s personal life that affected their actions at work. The customer may have had a bad mood that changed their experience for the worse. It may even be you who unconsciously gave a sub-par service to your customer.

Accept that your business and personnel are not infallible. Ask your customer about the order of events that happened. Let them give the details of what really affected their experience with your business negatively. If applicable, ask your employee(s) their side of the story.

An angry customer disappointed by the food service.


3. Steer the conversation into a private one.


If a customer experienced something negative, their usual course of action is to shame the business publicly due to the nature of business review sites and online reputation management. Your response to this will be judged both by former and potential customers. You wouldn’t want to be perceived unprofessionally by this audience, else it will be damaging and even fatal to your brand.

You can remove this limitation by steering the conversation away from the public space. After writing a calm, professional public response to the negative review, send the customer a private message so you can have a one-on-one conversation. This levels the playing field while also facilitating a better process in resolving the problem.


4. Ask what needs to be improved upon.


After hearing your customer’s grievances, ask them how they would approach the problem. If they are genuinely concerned about the level of service or the quality of the product, they should be able to give you ideas for improvement. For your part, compiling customer feedback is important for insight on how your target consumer thinks and behaves.


5. Compensate your customer.


If the experience was indeed negative, then you need to give your customer an apology gift to win them back. This can be in the form of product discounts or giveaways. Even if you think it’s really the customer’s fault, give a freebie anyway. You may not win back that customer but at least, you’ve shown your willingness to resolve the conflict. Hopefully, other potential customers see that.

However, know when a customer is truly affected and when a customer is abusive. Some people abuse the review system in order to get free stuff, like holding some stars for ransom. Every case is different so you have to adjust accordingly.

People hate us on Yelp campaign logo


6. Consider asking them to revise their negative review.


Like it or not, your customer has already given you a low rating on one of those review sites. That will reflect on your overall rating, and will be seen by people who are looking for reviews on your business.

Hence, it is imperative that you at least ask them to revise their rating after resolving the problem. You do not necessarily need them to delete everything in their review. You might even benefit if others see how you interact with your customers during conflict resolution. Hopefully, this will start a better relationship with this particular customer.


7. Thank them for their feedback and be sincere about it.


I’ve noticed that people frequently put their reviews online only when they experienced something negative. But that doesn’t mean you should discount the feedback that they give altogether. These negative experiences can give you pointers on what aspects of your business you need to improve.

Thus, always end your conversation with an aggrieved customer, in gratitude. And more importantly, you have to be sincere about it. Use it as a learning experience and genuinely try to avoid any similar thing from happening again.

Have you ever had negative reviews? Tell us your experience and how you dealt with it in the comments below.

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