The Dos and Don’ts of Responding to Negative Reviews

Criticism is a part of life, and oftentimes it can be helpful even when it’s a little hard to handle. But when this criticism is online for the entire world to see—suddenly it stops seeming so constructive. Luckily, even when bad reviews happen that can’t be edited or deleted, there are things you can do.

Although it may not be on the top of your things-I’d-like-to-do list, taking the time to respond to these negative reviews and engaging these negative reviewers can actually be incredibly beneficial for your business going forward: if done correctly.  It can be tricky turning these negatives into positives though, so here are some tips on how to approach a negative review, or reviewer, the right way.

Take a moment to keep your cool. There’s nothing worse than attempting to tackle a situation when you’re feeling hot-headed or hurt. Wait a beat. Take a breath. When you’re sure you can approach the reviewer with a calm state of mind, you’re ready. And get a second opinion—showing your response to someone before you send it is always a good precaution to take.

Remember who has the upper hand here. Here’s a hint: it’s not you. It’s unfortunate and perhaps a bit unfair, but it’s important to remember that the customer is always right, even when they’re, well, wrong. Make sure you don’t use this conversation as a means to prove a point, or to get aggressive, defensive, or pushy—this is a chance to build a relationship with a reviewer, not reprimand them. At the end of the day, what you’re trying to do here is make them like your business more, not less.

Don’t get defensive. Be humble, honest, and understanding. Don’t play the denial game, even if what the reviewer said may not have happened as they claimed. Saying something like “I know that never could have happened at my company” or “None of my employees would ever do that,” or “It’s ridiculous to think that any of our products could ….” comes off as over-confident, unbecoming, and unrealistic. Instead thank them for their input. No business is perfect, admit any faults and make it clear you’re always working to improve.

Empathize and engage. Be sincere; show that you’re genuinely concerned and upset by their negative experience with or impression of your business. Show that you can understand the frustration or disappointment they voiced in their review. Take a step back and look at the situation from their point-of-view, respond how you’d like to be responded to.

Handle any specifics offline. If you plan to entice a reviewer into returning to, let’s say your restaurant, and giving it a second chance with the aid of a gift card, special offer, or perk–handle any of these details somewhere away from the public eye. You don’t want to set expectations for others, lead them to believe this kind of response is a guarantee, or that certain benefits are standard practice.