How to Respond to Negative Online Business Reviews

Even if your organization is focusing on quality customer service, sooner or latter you are going to receive a “less than favorable” review on the web. What you do next is critical to your bottom line!

Online reviews aren’t really about “customer service.” They’re a part of the sales process. Consider this: A review’s purpose is to give potential new customers an idea of what to expect if they decide to do business with your company. Third-party party information and experiences can be very influential in the buyers decision making process. That’s exactly what a review is — third-party information. The likelihood that the negative reviewer will ever return to your business to spend money is low, so the purpose of any response is to mitigate the negative impact that review may have on potential new customers.

The first step is knowledge. You need to know when negative reviews are put up about your company. Don’t wait passively to discover the comment months or even years down the road. In the meantime, countless customers may be turned off and turned away by that review. Response time is key! You can easily monitor your brand name and website domain in real time using Google Alerts. Properly setup, Google will notify you in real time, any time your site or business name is used online. Read our article on Setting Up Google Alerts.

Now you need to determine if you can respond. Some sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp have a “Business Owner Response” gateway. Other sites like Google Maps do not provide a method to directly respond. The crew over at SEO Igloo has developed a list of site interaction options which you can find out about in their Respond to Reviews article.

Next you need to decide if intervention is necessary. Some reviews are too general or abstract to get involved in the response process. Non-specific comments should be ignored (in my opinion) for the most part. There may be a some nuggets of information that you can use as a business owner to improve your customers experience, for example if the same complaint keeps surfacing, but responding to generalizations is counterproductive.

If you find a specific complaint that is a good candidate for a response, remember to check your ego at the door. This is part of the sales process, so you need to think of that review as if it were any other sales objection or concern. Nothing has ever been sold by telling the potential prospect that they were “wrong or stupid,” even if that’s the truth. Instead you need to demonstrate that you care, and turn the review is a non-issue. Maybe even sprinkle some “sales pitch” into the response if you have a creative writer!

The “caring resolution” approach utilizes a time honored method to answering sales objections called the “Feel, Felt, Found” method. The twist is that I have added “Fixed” to the formula. Here is what the response structure looks like in practice:

FeelWe understand how you feel about this; product, service, treatment, quality, or price.

FeltIf any other customers have felt this way, please contact us directly and immediately.

FoundWe looked into your complaint and here is what we found out about our business.

FixedThanks for bringing this to our attention, this is how we Fixed it so that it never happens again.

Of course you will need to camouflage the words so your sales tactic is not obvious to the consumer. This approach has a strong psychological impact on potential clients as it completely dilutes the complaint. In addition, I have seen this method turn the original complainer into an advocate, getting them to update the review with a more positive slant. Always strive for a win-win solution.

On a final note, make sure to read the rules and terms of service for each particular review site. They all have unique engagement rules, and violating them could cause your response to not appear on the site. If you need help getting started, please contact us.