A Business Owner’s Guide: How to Respond to Negative Reviews

In today’s business environment, online reviews play a critical role. People rely on reviews to help them choose among products and brands and to feel confident in their purchasing decisions. In fact, 63% of consumers say they are more likely to make a purchase from a website that has user reviews. For most buyers, an online review can be as important as a personal recommendation from a friend. For a business, managing online reviews and appropriately handling the negative ones is vital to gaining new customers and growing sales.

Online reviews can make or break a company. Statistics show that for more than 88% of online shoppers, online reviews are a part of their purchase decision process. Forty percent (40%) of consumers will form an opinion of a brand or product by reading just one to three reviews. Online reviews have become an important part of building trust with consumers, with 68% saying that positive reviews cause them to have more trust in a business. In addition, online reviews are an important way to drive traffic to your website. Forty-eight percent (48%) of consumers say they will visit a company’s website after reading online reviews.

Of course, no one wants negative reviews—and companies need to have a plan for dealing with them—but paradoxically, a few negative reviews can actually boost the credibility of your online reviews. 95% of consumers say they suspect that reviews are being censored or faked if they don’t see any negative reviews, and 68% say they trust reviews more when they see both positive and negative reviews.

That’s in no way to suggest that bad reviews are a good thing. For 67% of shoppers, reading as few as one to three bad reviews is enough to prevent them from making a purchase, and 86% of consumers hesitate to purchase from a brand with negative reviews.

The good news: 95% of unhappy customers will return to a business that acts quickly to resolve complaints.

Best Practices for Handling Negative Reviews

By properly managing online reviews, a company can mitigate the effects of negative reviews.

  1. Acknowledge the Problem Quickly and Publicly. Take ownership of the issue by writing a short reply that demonstrates you are aware of the problem. Don’t be defensive. Don’t make excuses. The purpose of your reply is to regain the customer’s trust.
  2. Apologize. Offer a sincere apology aimed at getting the customer to consider giving you another chance. Accept responsibility for the customer’s negative experience even if it wasn’t your fault.
  3. Make Things Right. Thank the customer for their feedback and describe the specific steps you are taking to fix the issue or how the issue has been resolved. Consider how your response will be perceived by prospective customers.

Additional Tips

  • Take the Discussion Offline. Contact the customer in a private message or provide them with contact information for a customer service representative. If you want to offer the customer a free meal, discounted services, or a gift certificate, it’s best to do so offline to avoid having others try to take advantage of an opportunity to leave a bad review in hopes of getting something for free in return.
  • Offer to Make Things Right. Depending on the business in which your company is engaged and the nature of the customer’s complaint, offer ways to satisfy the customer. You could offer to replace the product, offer a refund, provide a certificate for free services, or offer a credit as compensation.
  • Encourage Them to Try Your Product or Service Again. Ask your customer to give your business a second chance and encourage them to come back by offering a discount on a future purchase.

A Note About Positive Reviews

While it’s important to respond to negative reviews, it’s just as important, if not more so, to respond to positive reviews. If someone gives you a compliment in person, you always say “Thank you.” A positive online review is no different. Here’s why:

  1. It’s the Polite Thing to Do. Show the public you are gracious and appreciate that a customer took the time to leave you a positive review.
  2. Almost Everyone Will See It. 92% of consumers read online reviews. Your reply will be seen by potential customers, and it’s a good opportunity to subtly include a bit of marketing.
  3. It Can Improve Search Rankings. When you reply to an online review, it can improve the ranking of the review which can increase the chances that it will show up in search results.

How Should You Respond to Positive Reviews?

  1. Start With a Thank You. Then, respond to something specific the reviewer said. If they complimented an employee or how your product resolved a problem they were having, specifically mention that in your response.
  2. Use Specifics About Your Business in Your Reply. When you specifically mention the name and location of your business, it helps improve brand recognition for potential customers and search engines.
  3. Do a Little Marketing. Remember that online reviews will be read by prospective customers, so mention something that makes your product or service special and what distinguishes your brand from your competition.

Another idea is to mention special offers, such as a loyalty card or other promotion. Just be careful that such offers aren’t subject to time limits since you can’t be sure exactly when a consumer may be reading the review.

Online reviews are a fact of life in the 21st-century business environment. Properly handling both negative and positive reviews is critical to the success of your business. This is important both in keeping current customers happy and providing prospective customers with confidence in doing business with you.

Get Started Today

  • Develop a plan for monitoring your online reviews. There are several tools available to help you do this, but one of the easiest ways is to set up a Google alert.
  • Make a plan for dealing with negative reviews. Time is of the essence, so it’s important to have a strategy ready to go when a negative review is posted.
  • Assign someone to respond to reviews in a timely manner and to ensure continuity and consistency of your messaging.

Need help with reputation management for your business? Contact your local Valpak marketing coach today!

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