How to Handle Negative Online Reviews Like a Pro

And no, you shouldn't just delete them.

By Raquel Guarino

No one looks forward to negative reviews. They can make you feel bad about the work you're doing. They can deter business. And they can deter business (hey, it bears repeating). While receiving a negative review can certainly put a damper on your day, they're hard to prevent completely. And that's why it's important to learn how to handle them head-on; doing so can improve your reputation, strengthen your relationships with customers, and possibly improve your business as a whole. Here's what you should do when confronted with an unhappy customer review.


Always Respond 

There's nothing worse for a customer than getting completely ignored, especially when they're already unhappy with your business. An unheard customer will take their frustrations to multiple outlets if you don't reply, which will only increase the amount of damage control you'll need to do in the long run. Waiting on replying won't help your case, either. While it's better than not replying at all, the more promptly you address a situation, the better your customer will feel. And definitely don't try to take negative reviews down. With Google, it's unlikely your request will be honored unless you can prove the post has absolutely nothing to do with your business (and that's pretty hard).

You shouldn't limit your responses to negative reviews, either. Happy customers also like feeling appreciated. If you see a glowing review, make sure you thank them for their patronage and loyalty to your brand. It may seem small, but it helps build rapport and it shows onlookers that you care about your customers.



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Keep Your Cool

The most important thing to remember is that your response to a negative review is public. Even if you think the customer is totally in the wrong, reacting angrily or defensively reflects poorly on your business. Those reading your response will not be happy to see inappropriate behavior, especially if they worry about being in the same situation as the customer. This is not the time to be condescending, "witty," or gaslight your customer--even if you're right. In all cases, responding professionally, calmly, and humbly is the only proper response to an unhappy review.



Offer a Solution

Much of the time, guests aren't just mindlessly ranting about your business for fun. They're doing it for a reason. One of the main reasons people post negative reviews is to seek resolution. That could be an improved service or product. It could also mean giving your business another shot and trying it again. The only way that will happen, though, is if you offer customers an opportunity to resolve things. When someone writes a negative review about your business, give them an opportunity to reach out to you by offering a possible solution and a way to contact you personally. Make sure you include a name in your review, which makes the response feel more personalized and real. By doing this, customers know someone in your company truly cares about them. This kind of action builds trust because it shows you are going out of the way to make things right.


Adjust When Necessary 

Sometimes your customers aren't the issue. Sometimes the issue is your business model. If you notice a pattern with the types of reviews you're getting, set your ego aside and try to understand how these reviews are connected. Is there a disgruntled employee that's putting a wrinkle in your customer service? Are your processes efficient and effective? If you begin to notice a glaring, pervasive issue, it's important to adjust your business strategy to address the behavior. And once you do, make sure you update your replies to let people know you've made the appropriate changes.

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