No business, even the most successful ones, earns only 5-star reviews. In fact, any business with only 5-star reviews is likely one you’d be better off reviewing further before deciding to work with them. While we should be striving for only the best reviews of our stellar services and products, it’s even more important to be prepared for and to know how to respond to negative reviews. In fact, if you want your business to grow (and who wouldn’t?), you should expect bad review responses as a normal part of your marketing efforts. Getting a negative online review isn't the end of the world. We’re going to use Serendipit's own tactics to demonstrate that it is possible to turn a negative into a positive.

Responding to Bad Reviews: Getting Started

Odds are that you’re here because you’re currently dealing with a bad review of your own. But if that’s not the case, or if you want to locate all the reviews about your business, you’ll need some groundwork to get situated and systematically deal with all reviews in the future — good or bad.

Know Where Your Reviews Come From

The 2000s are (in)famous for the increasing reliance on technology and the internet. Today, successful businesses need to be adaptable to survive and thrive in the online frontier. It’s likely there are already a lot of existing reviews about your business online, and it’s important to know what people are saying about your business so that you can respond in a timely and appropriate manner to all reviews. Get that right, and it’s half the battle!

Set up Google alerts for your business name. Save quick links to your business’s Google Reviews page, Yelp page, social media pages, and/or other related sites. Depending on the type of business you have, you could be listed and/or reviewed on specialty sites focused on your industry. Additionally, if you’re a business that may be aesthetically focused on “Millennials”, be sure to search your business name on YouTube from time to time to see if people are posting good/bad content about your business. Next, regular monitoring is essential - ignoring negative reviews will only tend to exacerbate the situation. Don’t make this mistake.

Have a Response Plan

Whether you’re here because you’ve had a couple of bad reviews or you’re being proactive by learning the fine art of responding to negative reviews, you’re off to a good start! As your business grows and you take on more clients and customers, you’re bound to see a few more negative reviews coming your way. They are inevitable, so develop a proactive response plan for dealing with negative reviews or social media posts.

One important caveat: It’s important to respond to negative reviews in order to reach a resolution of some kind. A bonus tip: Don’t try to do it all yourself.

As part of your response plan, choose a few trusted team members and empower them to act. You can even create some preapproved general messages to address common concerns, as well as interim responses that let folks know you’re on it, you’ll investigate and provide a response soon. Ignore a disgruntled customer or negative review, and you’ll risk the problem spiraling into a PR crisis. As the viral video lady says, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.” Click here for more on how to deal with a PR crisis.

Respond Quickly

A study of response time showed that improving business response time resulted in an 11 percent increase in overall net promoter score (NPS). As a quick refresher, the NPS is the measurement for how likely it is that someone would recommend your business to another person. An NPS score is only counted as a positive if ranked at a 9+ out of 10. Why does this matter? A high NPS means your business is enjoying great word-of-mouth, brand loyalty, and brand advocacy. Naturally, people want to be heard and responded to when giving a review. This is really the only way to overcome barriers between you and the opportunity to turn a negative experience into a potential repeat customer. Respond quickly — the golden rule is that speed trumps everything else, from quality to authenticity.

Be The Adult

When responding to negative reviews, it’s perfectly human to feel the urge to get down to ‘their’ level. What we mean is that on social media — OK, really anywhere online — some people can and do act their worst. But remember, when people post negative content about your business, they’re representing themselves and only themselves. When you post a response, you’re representing your entire business, so whatever you say will be a reflection on the business. Be civil. Be polite.

Act literally in the same way a mother would respond to a cranky 5-year-old. Don’t be condescending or talk-down to them. Be genuine in your response. Communicate in a way that builds trust for the reviewer as well as the people reading the reviews. When you’re responding to bad reviews, remember that you’re not just responding to the reviewer. You’re also responding to concerns of future customers. They know that no business can offer 100% satisfaction all the time, so seeing how your business responds to an issue will help shape their brand perception. Make it a positive experience.

Resolve Issues Offline

Know when it’s time to stop creating elongated social media threads. A rule-of-thumb is that after the original complain/post, you respond to the comment to rectify things and make it right. If the reviewer comments with something small like a “thank you”, you’re okay to simply like the comment and fulfill whatever promises you made to rectify the issue. If they comment on your comment with more issues/concerns/questions, simply say “DM me”, or “Email Me”, or give some other alternative way of contact to resolve the issue. People may not be interested in reading the thread the whole way through, so giving direct contact lines early on will offer customers the proof that you care enough to make things right.

Make Things Right

One key thing to consider when responding to bad reviews is that, for the most part, people are looking for a resolution more than anything. Responding shows that you hear them and want to make things right. This should be a review you take seriously. If they complain about a dirty plate, shape up your staff to better the way you handle health and cleanliness in your restaurant. Follow through with promises you make to the customers. And while sometimes you may come across a person or two who are putting in a bad review for the sake of getting something free, you could consider offering a small consolidation gift card for a chance to turn a one-time customer into a returning loyalist and advocate.

Turn To Those You Trust

There’s no cookie-cutter method to each and every Yelp review. Just like how every person is unique and different, so is each review. At the end of the day, responding quickly with authenticity and care is the important first step to take. It’s a great opportunity to create lifetime customers, so make sure you’re on the right track from the start. When it comes to digital brand reputation management and maintenance, the people behind Team Serendipit are the pros you want on YOUR team. Find out how we can help your business with all your digital media needs.