What to do about bad reviews

So you got a negative Yelp or other online review about your business. What now? Do you ignore it? No!

Bad reviews happen to the best businesses. Bad reviews happen even when we thought we were at the top of our game. Sometimes we have an off day and then sometimes reviewers aren’t exactly honest about their experience. Yes, some people leave bad reviews about businesses they have never patronized. So what then?

Should you Respond and What do you say?

First and foremost, do not respond while the sting of the negative review is still burning. The last thing you want to do is write your response while you are feeling defensive. If you are even a little upset or angry while writing that tone could come through your very public online response. Never respond to a review until you are calm and able to “not take it personally”.  So what do you say?

Step 1:  Own the customer’s issue.

Your first intention in a negative review response is to communicate that you are paying attention to the customer’s complaint and that the issue is important to you. Express that you are sorry the customer had a problem or a bad experience.  Remember, future customers/prospects will be reading your reply to see how you respond.  I always ask clients to write their replies for prospects. Your negative review responses are a great opportunity to sell you and your excellent customer service.  Great customer service shows in how a business handles customers’ grievances.  Let the public know that when someone has a problem, your business will listen.  It doesn’t matter if the reviewer lied or only told half of the story – own whatever issue they wrote about and let the world know why your customer service is better than most. We all make mistakes but some can turn those mistakes into GREAT PR.

Step 2:  Explain how you have ensured that customers will never have this experience going forward.

This is your chance to let customers see that your business is agile and responsive to your customers’ needs and complaints.  What a wonderful opportunity to market your business and customer care.  Negative review replies are the perfect time to let the online world (who are all your future customers) that ‘we have put a new process in place…’ this communicates to your customers and future prospects that your company is always working on getting better.

Step 3:  Provide an offer to make things right.

Presenting upset guests/customers with an offer to fix their issue will go a long way. Not every issue can be fixed, some are going to be fast and furious learning lessons for your business but you must treat every negative review as a chance to communicate that your business always goes the distance to “make things right”.  When you write your response ask that the reviewer to contact you offline (don’t forget to provide contact details) so that you can have the chance to fix whatever issue upset them.

Guidelines for your Response

Before writing your response, think about who your audience is. The audience being your future prospective customers.  Although your response is addressing addressing the upset reviewer,  write for the hundreds (maybe thousands) of readers who could become your new loyal customers. Work at making sure your writing never conveys a need to change the reviewer’s mind on what took place. Never blame the customer or attempt to shed responsibility for what happened (even if the review is lying). Write with the idea that you are trying to convert prospects into paying customers. Do not attempt to get people to take your side, you will only sound angry. Which leads to…

Don’t be defensive. BEFORE you click “submit”, send a copy of your response to at least one person who is in no way affiliated with your business.  Ask that person to delete anything that may sound negative, defensive or angry in tone.

Create a little distance between you and the negative review before you reply.  Make sure you have had ample time to calm down and remove any personal feelings from the issue.  You need to be in a positive place when you write your responses. You are writing something that will be shared online to ALL of your future prospects. People may tweet and repost your responses. Choose your words with great care.

Don’t write a book.  Be polite,responsive and helpful but not overly wordy or you will lose your audience. Remember this is marketing, not therapy.