How to Respond to Negative Reviews
Negative reviews. You never want to see them on your site or on a third-party review site like Google. While no one wants to see harmful reviews about their business, the question isn’t will it happen – but when.
What’s worse, negative reviews could hurt your websites rankings with Google’s search algorithm. That means one disgruntled customer could greatly impact your ability to show up when potential customers are searching for your services online.
We’ll walk through how to respond to negative reviews and some steps you can take to turn those negative reviews into a positive outcome for your business.
7 Steps for Responding to Negative Reviews
- Keep calm
- Evaluate the review
- Address the reviewer’s complaint
- Remove/Flag any inappropriate reviews
- Make improvements
- Monitor new reviews
- Continue to improve
Should I Respond to Bad Reviews?
Before we cover how to respond to bad reviews, you probably want to know why you should.
Ignoring a less than favorable review is not an option and in fact, could make the situation worse.
Think of it this way: If you had a customer complain to you in person, you would do anything you could to smooth over the situation. You should treat feedback online with the same level of concern.
Plus, replying to bad reviews shows potential new customers who are looking at your profile that you are willing to accept feedback and are taking steps to ensure the problem won’t happen again.
Keep Calm Before Replying
By far the most important step on the list is to keep calm before replying. No matter how bad the content is in a review, you must remain calm and not respond in an aggressive or hostile way. Coming across as unreceptive to feedback will only damage your online presence.
While negative reviews aren’t good, they also aren’t the end of the world.
Before responding to a review, make sure you are in a calm, rational place and not lashing out.
If the negative review is about a specific staff member, don’t immediately accuse them of any wrongdoing, especially if this is their first time receiving criticism on their customer service.
Evaluate the Review
When you get a negative review, it should be taken seriously and treated as genuine and not brushed off as made up. When evaluating a review, make notes of:
- When they visited your business
- If they mention a specific staff member
- What kind of product/service they experienced or purchased
- Has this complaint been made before
- Check your records to make sure the person did visit your business
If most of these check out, talk with your staff. Chances are they will remember the interaction they had with the reviewer. If the complaint is about a specific employee, get their side of the story before judging too harshly.
Remember, a negative review isn’t just an opportunity to find a squeaky wheel in your business, it’s an opportunity to improve your customer experience.
Rants vs. Constructive Criticism
Often times, it’s better to respond directly, but sometimes no response is the correct response.
Most reviews are going to be level-headed and factual, but sometimes you may get a review that feels like an angry rant with very little information or substance. You’ll have to use your best judgment when replying to harsh reviews.
Sometimes saying nothing is better than saying the wrong things, especially in these types of situations.
How You Should Handle Fake Reviews
Luckily, fake reviews are few and far between. Most consumer feedback is genuine and should be taken seriously. If you have fears about potential fake reviews, check out our article about how to respond to fake reviews.
Address The Reviewer’s Complaint
If your organization doesn’t have a response plan, you should start by developing a process to address negative reviews.
When responding to an online review:
- Keep your response brief
- Respond quickly
- Provide contact information if they want to follow up about their experience
- Remain neutral
- Don’t make excuses
- Thank the reviewer for bringing up their problem
- Promise to resolve the issue
- Apologize, even if you don’t think your business was in the wrong
- If there was a reason why their service wasn’t satisfactory (accidents or situations happen) be honest and promise it won’t happen again in the future
Remember, a good reply should thank the reviewer for providing feedback, address any specific concerns and promise to resolve the issue in the future. When you respond to a review, you are talking to everyone that reads the review, not just the original reviewer, so make sure you are putting your best foot forward.
The best possible outcome you could hope for is that an unhappy customer revises their review after seeing your response or is willing to try your product or service again. You can turn a negative review into a positive asset for your online reputation.
Remove/Flag Inappropriate Reviews
Negative reviews are bound to happen, and having an action plan that covers how to respond will prevent you from further damaging your online reputation.
Sometimes, however, reviewers can cross the line from a helpful suggestion to something potentially insulting to outright slanderous. These situations are rare, but when they do happen you do have some recourse when reviews violate the platform guidelines.
When it comes to online reviews, Google and Facebook are two of the main places where customers can leave reviews. Each of these feedback platforms have their own set of guidelines and procedures for handling negative reviews, so understanding the rules on each is vital to your ability to protect your online reputation.
Here’s a look at how both of these review platforms handle negative reviews and what you can do to improve your online reputation.
How to Remove Negative Reviews on Google
Google reviews are highly visible and can even impact your ability to show up in local search results, making them extremely valuable to any business. Out of all the review platforms, Google does the best job in allowing businesses to take action to combat inappropriate reviews.
A negative review isn’t the worst thing in the world. The best thing you can do is follow the steps we detailed above. If you feel like the review is overly aggressive, you can try to flag it.
Before you try to flag a review, Google has guidelines that have to be broken in order to invalidate a review.
Prohibited and Restricted Reviews on Google Include:
- Reviews that are written by a competitor or people with a conflict of interest
- Irrelevant or off-topic reviews
- Use of offensive language and/or personal attacks
- Sexually explicit or illegal content
- Any impersonation or false representation
Even if you flag a review, it doesn’t guarantee Google will take the review down. Even if you strongly disagree with a review, Google is not in the business of mitigating disagreement between a business owner and a dissatisfied customer.
How to flag a review on Google
To report an inappropriate review on Google,
- Sign in to Google My Business.
- Click “Reviews” from the main menu.
- Find the review you’d like to flag, click on the three vertical dots in the upper-right corner of the review, then click “Flag as inappropriate.”
If you want Google to take your concerns seriously, don’t treat Google like the judge of a conflict, but rather as a search engine meant to help people find useful reviews (both good and bad).
For more information, view Google’s guidelines.
Google’s flagging process can take some time. You can add a brief response that you are looking into the problem while you wait for Google to respond. You can always expand the reply later if Google refuses to remove the review.
Get More Positive Reviews on Google
While you may be able to resolve some negative reviews, the majority will remain on your Google listing. Following the guidelines for responding to negative reviews outlined above, you should be able to turn some of those negative reviews into positive ones.
Of course, getting more positive reviews can’t hurt either!
Unlike other review sites, Google doesn’t prohibit business owners and marketers from asking for reviews. As long as you follow Google’s rules and don’t filter user feedback, you should be able to ask customers for reviews.
Getting more positive reviews will not only bury a negative review, but it will also help your business appear at the top of local search results.
How to Remove Negative Reviews on Facebook
Unlike Google, Facebook is a huge social media platform, meaning users are more engaged and more likely to share their feedback not only on your page, but also with their friends.
Facebook users also have the potential of being more aggressive in their feedback than Google users, making it even more important for you to actively respond to negative reviews and try to smooth things over with upset customers.
Here are the crucial steps you need to take to respond to or remove negative comments on Facebook.
How to Respond to Negative reviews on Facebook
As previously mentioned, Facebook users tend to be more active (and have the potential to be more upset) than their Google counterparts. Therefore, it is important to make sure they feel like you have taken the time to read and reply completely and take their suggestions seriously.
5 steps for replying to Facebook reviews:
- Start with their name
- Thank them for the feedback
- Assure them that you are taking steps to correct the problem
- Encourage them to come back.
By following this formula, you are showing them that you value their opinion and that customer happiness is your top priority. You may just win a lifelong customer.
How to Report a Review on Facebook
Like Google, Facebook also has community standards reviewers are required to follow.
These standards include:
- Any comment threatening violence or another user’s safety
- Hate speech
- Nudity/sexual content
- Violates Intellectual Property
If you believe that a review has violated any of Facebook’s standards:
- Go to the review and click the three horizontal dots in the top right corner of the post
- Click “Report post”
- You’ll be prompted to select an option that best addresses your concern with the post. Pick the one that best fits your situation
After completing the prompt, your report goes to Facebook for review. They will remove the review if they agree the disputed post doesn’t follow their guidelines.
Disabling Reviews on Facebook
Though highly not recommended, you can disable user feedback on Facebook using the reviews tab. If you choose to do so, you are eliminating the chance for people to leave glowing reviews about your business and getting critical feedback to make business decisions in the future.
You are always better off following our steps for responding to negative reviews than you are removing the function entirely.
Now that you have gotten all the feedback you could possibly ask for, it’s time to put it to good use for your business. The best outcome for your business after you receive a bad review is to act strategically, not brush it under the rug or overreact.
This can be as simple as reviewing cleaning habits to making difficult staffing choices.
Again, make sure you are making thoughtful decisions based on consistent feedback before making any huge changes.
Monitor New Reviews
Once you’ve made your improvements, it’s time to monitor the results of your hard work.
Pay careful attention to new reviews. Are people still raising concerns about the same problem? Are they commenting on how that problem has gone away?
Chances are, if you’ve taken the appropriate steps, reviewers won’t make negative comments about the issue again. In fact, they may even praise that one area that was once a weakness as a strength for your business.
Go back and look at those old negative reviews. Engage with the reviewer and let them know you have taken the steps you promised them and invite them back. They may just take you up on the offer.
Continue to Improve
Don’t stop there! Continually monitoring and working on your online reputation can have a massive impact on your bottom line.
Negative reviews are never part of your business plan, but they don’t have to derail it. With these steps, you can fix your customer service and have positive reviews drown out the bad.
Binary Fountain Can Help Improve Your Online Reviews
Dealing with negative reviews can be time-consuming and Binary Fountain is here to help. We help healthcare organizations and multi-family facilities effectively and efficiently manage their online reputation with our integrated review platform.
Sign up for a webinar today!
About the Author
Senior Sales Director
George helps organizations better understand their consumer challenges and needs, in order to efficiently manage and improve customer satisfaction.