How To Respond To Bad Online Reviews For Your Business In 2021: The Ultimate Guide
It’s 2021 and by now, we all know that good customer reviews are a godsend in helping businesses attract new customers. But just like everything else in this world, reviews also have a mean, devil-horned side: A bad online review!
Whenever a negative review appears, you panic, you get angry, you try to not feel bad about it, but do you actually know how to deal with it?
To be honest, most of us don’t!
As solopreneurs, you are often wearing too many hats at once and constantly juggling between growing your business and running it. So obviously, having a well-laid-out plan to respond to bad online reviews is not something you can afford to jump up in your daily to-do.
And that’s why we are here to help!
Based on insights from Appointy’s 200,000+ customers and extensive research on the best practices, we have put together an in-depth guide to help you navigate the tricky waters of dealing with bad online reviews.
Trust me, we’ve got you covered and this is the last guide you’ll need on handling negative reviews posted for your business online.
Is it really worth spending time managing online reviews? 🤔
Yes, it is. Having a good online reputation is crucial in today’s world of tech-savvy consumers. And this is backed by research and statistics.
Here’s the proof!
1. Good online reviews get more customers through the door
A study published in Harvard Business Review explains why some people choose your business while some don’t!
Your customer’s decision to pick or not to pick your business among all the available options is influenced by three things:
- What they already know of your business. (From friends, relatives, etc.)
- What you tell them in ads and marketing. (Via your website, social channels, flyers, etc.)
- What they learn from your good or bad business reviews. (Good or bad online reviews on Yelp, Facebook, etc. are as strong as word of mouth reviews)
What this means is that while marketing your business and creating a brand value is important, having a good online reputation is equally important.
In fact, a good online reputation may even cover up a little bit for lack of marketing and brand value too! This is an example of the influence mix: a situation where multiple variables affect a conclusion and different factors balance each other’s effect.
Think of it like this: If you’re wearing a fabulous dress to a party, it might be okay if you don’t have the perfect hair-do. The other guests might just miss your hair and still think that you look great!
So, even if you fall short on the other two factors, one way to easily make up for them is by having a lot of great online reviews about your business.
Here are a few numbers from Moz stating the importance of good online reviews:
2. Bad online reviews can drive potential customers away!
These numbers validate what we already know: Customers will tell!
They’ll tell others about their customer service experiences, both good and bad, with the bad news reaching more ears. It is famously known as the Multiplier Effect.
Americans say they tell an average of nine people about good experiences, and nearly twice as many (16 people) about poor ones — making every individual service interaction important for businesses. We might not be the ones to kiss and tell, but we’ll absolutely rant about a bad business.
3. Online reviews will matter more in 2021!
With the increasing popularity of Reserve with Google, an online search and book platform for services, reviews have become even more important. Customers can now search for a service and see business listings with their reviews and book a service right from Google search.
So, you have a bad review. Now what?
Yes, online reviews are important, but before you do anything, remember:
It’s okay. Having a negative review isn’t the end of the world!
Don’t take it personally and try to think from the customer’s perspective.
Maybe the negative review was because the customer was simply having a bad day. Roger Gil, MAMFT, a behavioural scientist, suggests that one of the most common ways that stress in people manifests itself is displaced anger.
Or maybe your business wasn’t a good fit for the customer. In case it was, negative reviews transform into very precious feedback. Learn from it and take it as constructive criticism. Try not to repeat the same mistake again. Customer satisfaction should be your preference.
In fact, it *just might* be a good thing: The positives of a negative review
A negative review means not having a shining 5-star rating. But that’s actually a good thing. People don’t expect businesses to be perfect. They expect them to be real. And real things aren’t perfect!
Here’s what Greg Stewart, a Digital Advertising Pioneer and president of the leading local-search marketing company- 15 miles, has to say about this.
Businesses screw up. It happens. But when it happens, an interesting opportunity opens up: if you handle the bad reviews well, you can actually build stronger relationships with customers (Learn how to do this later in this blog).
A few bad reviews online in the mix are simply more realistic.
Let’s get started: Your step-by-step guide to respond to negative reviews
1. The Absolute NOs. 🚫
Trying to take them down
Why? Because it seems a little, well, rude. Moreover, consider this: those who are savvy enough to write a negative Facebook review likely know of the myriad places where they can write another bad review online including your website, Yelp, Twitter, and many others. If you take it down from one place, there is no guarantee that they’d stop.
Apart from that, it’s actually unethical and illegal. Reputed platforms like Yelp are really sensitive about it.
If we allowed companies to pay to hide their bad reviews, our users would catch on pretty quickly and eventually stop using the site. They would wonder why the highest rated mechanic was ripping them off. Or why the five-star dentist routinely bungled their insurance. Or why the top restaurant had horrible service and even worse food.–Laurence Wilson, Deputy General Counsel at Yelp
On SiteJabber, businesses that respond to reviews have an 86% higher rating compared to those that ignore them. Also, negative reviews on social media can go viral pretty fast. This means that companies have to get on board fast or risk the wrath of their unhappy customers’ complaints and criticisms going viral.
Being rude or impolite
Never take the ‘I’ll show you!’ approach; The one where you feel that the complaint in the negative review is unjustified or, for whatever reason, it makes you angry and you can’t help but respond with an angry or defensive comment. Hold back! Don’t do it. Reactions like these are far from how you should manage bad reviews online. They will only worsen the condition and for obvious reasons, enrage an already angered customer.
I know sometimes it’s going to be hard, but believe me, it’s better (and a lot easier in the long run) to be the bigger person in instances like these.
Responding right away
Shama Kabani, author of The Zen of Social Media Marketing and CEO of The Marketing Zen Group says responding hastily is a bad practice for one simple reason: Your immediate impulse is to return fire. Don’t do it. Back slowly away from the keyboard and collect your thoughts. Getting a negative review is a sensitive situation and has to be dealt with a lot of caution and strategy. There are more chances of getting things wrong if your customer thinks his review isn’t being acknowledged well.
2. The Do’s
Keep Yourself calm.
Relax. Go back to the previous section of this blog and remember why is it okay to get a negative review. Repeat. Don’t take it personally.
Don’t respond instantly.
Plan your strategy. This probably sounds straightforward, but to avoid an emotional and less effective response, it’s helpful to create a plan before taking any action.
If possible, respond within 48 hours. When a business responds in this time frame and addresses the customer’s concerns, reviewers will often either delete their reviews or even bump you up to a 5-star rating if they are really happy with the outcome.
Reply publicly and professionally.
Show everyone your side of the story. You should respond publicly, whether on the review platform where your customer posted, or in a comment on their blog, or in response to their social media posts.
This will leave an impression on your other customers that you care. Also, highlight your opinion on the problem in the reply so that everyone can look at the review from a different perspective.
Once you apologize, the customer might even update their review. Sometimes all they need to know is that your business cares.
Be polite and don’t make excuses or defend. But that response should be an apology for how they feel, and a request for an opportunity to make things right.
Here’s a one-star review from a customer clearly unhappy about his purchase:
And here’s Gary’s response (note the complete lack of defending himself or his book):
Send a private message too.
Many customers only want to communicate via private messages and will refuse to respond to you publicly, so it’s important to respond to them both privately and publicly. Your private message can elaborate on more details than you may want to discuss publicly, especially if your company deals with confidential information or services.
Bonus: A Famous Walt Disney approach to handling bad reviews: H.E.A.R.D.
This technique was (was) pioneered by the Walt Disney Company, a business that hosts 135 million people in their parks each year, many of them angry parents that have to answer to even angrier five-year-olds. As mentioned in this blog, here is how this technique works:
- Hear: Let the customer tell their entire story without interruption. Sometimes, we just want someone to listen.
- Empathize: Convey that you deeply understand how the customer feels. Use phrases like “I’d be frustrated, too.”
- Apologize: As long as it’s sincere, you can’t apologize enough. Even if you didn’t do whatever made them upset, you can still genuinely be apologetic for the way your customer feels (e.g., I’m always sorry that a customer feels upset).
- Resolve: Resolve the issue quickly, or make sure that your employees are empowered to do so. Don’t be afraid to ask the customer: “what can I do to make this right?”
- Diagnose: Get to the bottom of why the mistake occurred, without blaming anyone; focus on fixing the process so that it doesn’t happen.
3. Do damage control once you’ve replied to the review 🔧
Drown the negative reviews into positive ones.
Groove, which is an industry leader in providing a platform for customer support, believes in this approach.
After a negative review is posted, they immediately address the problem and work towards making their service better. This leads to more people writing better reviews for the business impressed by the good response.
Every positive review will take the sting out of a negative one that you might have. Ten positive reviews and one negative review might give a customer pause, but with 100 positive reviews, even ten negative reviews aren’t such a big deal.
How to get a lot of positive reviews for your business?
Wondering how to get so many positive reviews that drown out the bad ones? To do this, you’ll need to run a successful online reputation campaign and ask for reviews from the right customers at the right time. You can choose to do this manually or automate it with Appointy’s review management feature.
Leverage the power of other social media sites.
The idea is not to stop just at leveraging the power of just one social media site. Broaden your horizon from the site where the review was originally posted.
Here’s an interesting reference of how a chef did this for his restaurant:
Cute Chef’s Awesome Youtube Idea
The chief of Seastar Seafood Restaurant and Raw Bar, after getting a bad review is able to expand their reach and show not just Yelpers, but YouTubers too, just how much they value their customers’ comments and feedback.
Check it out by clicking the link below the screenshot
By adding a video element to the responses, Seastar Seafood Restaurant and Raw Bar are also able to humanize their brand and lend a face – a personality – that existing and prospecting customers can identify or at least engage with. Having the chef himself respond to the reviews, moreover, establishes the credibility and authority of the responses.
Being real is the key
People are not looking for perfection online. What they’re really looking for is humanity and a genuine response, so a negative review can be a great opportunity to respond in a positive and transparent manner. And that has a good impact on all your customers.
Focus on the problem, not the result
Moreover, a negative review is nothing but an impact on the real problem. Rather than focussing on getting the review deleted or amended, take action to solve the underlying problem. This will help you deliver a service that your customers will love.
We at Appointy, help business owners grow and run their businesses with our online scheduling software. This blog was a part of our ‘Manage your Business’ category, where we provide expert tips, resources, or simply talk about the challenges that small and medium businesses face every day.
If you have any thoughts on this blog, or would like to chat about your business struggles and achievements, let us know in the comments below.
We love a good talk!
This post has been updated on February 19, 2021, and was originally posted on September 17, 2017.