In Marketing Strategy

One thing a business owner never wants is a bad review. Bad reviews make us want to run and hide. How could someone not love what we’re offering? Shock, betrayal, and confusion run through our minds. The world is coming to end. But wait… it isn’t!! We’re here to say bad reviews are not the end of the world. They certainly aren’t something to look forward to, but the right response to a bad review that can actually strengthen your business.

Step One: Take a Deep Breath

It all starts with taking a deep breath. We’re talking one of those long, slow breaths you learned in that yoga class you took in your early 20’s and never went back to. So, do that now. And then maybe again, and again, until you feel ready to move to step two. You’ll know you’re ready when the red stops flashing before your eyes and you stop dreaming of posting an internet smackdown defensive response.

Step Two: Understand a Bad Review

Now that we’ve calmed down a little bit, reread the review from the customer perspective. Understand what went wrong with their interaction with your brand. It may be that the customer just caught you on a bad day – for them or for you.

Things happen and events are perceived differently by different people, so what wasn’t a big deal to you may be for someone else. It’s important to remember the customer is not always right, but they still have the power to tarnish your brand online. This is why you must understand the review and make a judgment call on the appropriate response. Talk to your employees to get more information on the situation, so you have as complete a picture as possible. Just make sure you understand what (if anything) went wrong, and use that to move forward and correct that in your business.

Step Three: Craft Responses to Bad Reviews

The response to a bad review should be thought out and intentional in every way. Above all it should be professional. Would you be proud to show your peers how you handled the situation? Your response should include, but is not limited to:

  • Offering a sincere apology
  • Addressing the key issues in their review – no need to address each component!
  • Providing an explanation, if applicable
  • Sharing how you’re following up on their complaint, including any policy changes, if applicable
  • Personalizing the response – do not copy and paste the same message for every bad review

If possible, you may want to reach out to the person personally by messenger or email depending on the platform and the type of bad review it was. This allows you to have a meaningful interaction with the customer in a space that no one else will see. This gives them the opportunity to vent or elaborate further out of the public sphere. Some bad reviews require just one response as laid out above, and some require more work. It may depend on your business type and the type of complaint.

Need an example? Check out these 8 amazing examples of how real businesses handled bad reviews with grace. Address, apologize and resolve. You cannot change everyone’s mind but you can sure try and people will notice your effort! Brownie points for your brand await.

Step Four: Implementing a Management Plan

Keeping up with reviews is important – both good and bad. It does not go unnoticed when businesses respond to reviews. If customers are taking time to leave a good review (and–sigh–bad reviews) then it is your duty to spend time thanking them and addressing any issues.

We know you’re busy, so it’s OK to have a template of responses for good and bad reviews! Adding a bit of customization will give you a personalized response while still helping you with a starting point.  Then, make an action plan for responding to reviews. If you get tons of reviews every day, respond to every third good review and every single bad review or a pattern like that. If you only get a few reviews a week, try to respond to them all. Remember to check all applicable review websites. This includes Facebook, Google, Yelp, and Trip Advisor. If there are others that make sense for your business, add those to the list too.

We recommend checking in weekly if you generally get a small number of reviews, if you get multiple daily you may want to check in more frequently to make sure a negative review doesn’t fester. The sooner you can address and resolve negative issues, the less damage customers can do. Remember: bad reviews can extend further than just the one platform it’s left on.

Step five: Go Get ’em!

Put your Oprah hat–and your listening ears–on and use those reviews to your advantage! Good luck!

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