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How Not to Respond to Negative Online Reviews: Smart Business Tips

Kas Szatylowicz is a social media manager and outreach coordinator at a company that focuses on web performance.

How you respond to negative reviews could have huge consequences for your business.

How you respond to negative reviews could have huge consequences for your business.

How to Keep Your Customers When You Get Bad Reviews

Online reviews are more important to customers than word of mouth, with 90% of customers saying online reviews dictate their buying decisions. If a review is favorable, the customers might be inclined to make a purchase. Otherwise, they will probably head to another online store.

Reviews, then, are massively important, not just to customers but also to businesses themselves. How you respond to them has the potential to be the difference between success and failure. We’re all told to get our businesses on Google, but it kind of falls apart when we receive bad reviews—and then react badly to them.

We know what it’s like, of course. When you see a bad review, your first reaction might be to take it personally. You might say:

  • “They hate me!” Then you might get a bit angry.
  • “I’ll show ‘em!” Then you might post a reply and hurl an insult.
  • *&%#!!!” Then your business closes down.

You’re better than that, of course. We all are. But no one likes to see negative reviews. There’s a wrong and a right way to respond to them. Don’t want to lose your customers? Read on: here is what you shouldn’t do.

1. Don't Go on the Defensive

Especially if you genuinely feel the review is misguided and just plain wrong, it’s easy to go on the defensive:

“Okay, so it didn’t work out for you, but it worked out for thousands of other people. So maybe you should ask yourself if you’re the problem before you start posting hateful stuff about my business online. Just a thought.”

This is entirely the wrong way to go about doing things, even if it feels like the best thing to do at the time. You feel in your heart that the reviewer got this wrong and you want to prove it to them.

Take a step back and stay calm. It may be the case that you’re right—but it might also be the case that the customer is making a fair point.

Either way, take a day to calm down and think over what they’ve said. Is there some truth to what they’ve written? Is there an area of your business that can be improved? Did any other customer mention the issue before?

2. Don't Just Ignore the Review

If you’ve got nothing to say to the reviewer without recourse to expletives, you’ve probably decided that the next best way to respond is by ignoring it altogether.

This is a bad idea because it just leaves the glaring negative review; the issue it raised is still on the table, exposed and without any form of defense. It makes it look right. The customer who wrote the view will feel vindicated, and any other customers who see it might take it as gospel.

Ignoring a bad review also makes it look like you don’t care. Imagine if you saw a negative online review to which the company hadn’t taken the time to respond. You know that they could quickly have taken the time to address this review but — for one reason or another — they haven’t. Weird because it sticks out like a sore thumb.

Don’t ignore reviews. It can make you look even worse.

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3. Don't Get Dragged Into a War of Words

Sometimes, things happen that displease the customer. Perhaps—through no real fault of the store owner—a delivery is late. Already having a bad day and wanting to make a fuss, the customer takes to Google to complain.

The store owner retorts, knowing this was not their fault.

The customer hits back.

The store owner, convinced they’re right, swings another verbal right hook.

The problem with this is that it’s so easy to get into an argument with a customer that spirals out of control because they won’t back down. The store owner knows they’re right but as the argument goes, “you should never argue with a fool because you will look like one.”

Moreover, the reputation of the customer’s business isn’t at stake.

Be reasonable at all times. If you’ve tried to be reasonable, but the customers are still goading you, tell them to email you to solve their issue privately. This will make you look professional to other customers who can see that you’re being as civil as possible and simply trying to calm the situation down.

4. Don't Ask Customers to Give You Positive Reviews

Negative reviews—even just one—can cause us to panic. We think of ways we can address the situation as quickly as possible:

  • Change our businesses name
  • Pay the negative reviewer to delete the review
  • Ask previous customers to give us positive reviews

Each solution is equally ridiculous.

Should we ask our loyal customers to give us positive reviews? It’s an interesting question but just remember this: If you go down this route, you’re basically one step away from fake reviews. Is this what you want?

A good review has to come from the heart for it to sound genuine. A customer has to mean what they say. If you have to ask/beg people to give you positive reviews, it doesn’t say much for your business.

Worse still, those customers you ask to give you good reviews might see the bad ones and realize what you were up to.

The best thing to do is to pride yourself on providing excellent customer service and products that people will want to talk about. Give people a reason to leave good reviews. Be so good that there’ll be no need to debase yourself by asking for a review.

All in all, how you deal with negative reviews can make or break your online presence. Use the tips above, remember to always stay calm before responding, and offer to speak to people privately if it looks as though things are getting out of hand.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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