How To Respond To Negative Reviews To Build Sales And Elevate Your Reputation

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Grow your sales and brand reputation by responding to negative reviews the right way

Congratulations you’re up and running, and you find your business receiving some attention online. You have a great product or service, and you’re providing your customers with the best support you can. You have some positive reviews which are helping your sales but, inevitably, with those positive reviews come a few negative ones. Sometimes they’re valid complaints (this is useful), other times they’re just downright nit-picky, and occasionally they’re downright nasty. 

Negative reviews hurt – simple as that. They elicit an immediate response to get defensive and strike-back. We’re human after all but how you choose to respond can either break your business or actually increase sales.

Your response is everything, and I’m going to walk you through it. As you’ll learn, responding to negative feedback is indeed an art form that once mastered can increase your reputation and win you new clients or customers.

Let’s get started!

Always Know What’s Being Said About Your Product, Brand and Business

You’re running a business, so you don’t have time to consistently check every review site online. To stay ahead of the game you’ll want to use a social media management platform that will automatically keep track of comments, posts and feedback for you. You can start with most of the solutions for free including Buffer, Hootsuite and Yext.

You’ll also want to monitor any news or blog posts about your business by using Google Alerts. The service is free and will monitor specific keywords for any mention throughout news sites. When you sign up you’ll want to use your product, company and brand as your keywords. Now Google will do the monitoring for you. When your keywords are mentioned, you’ll receive a Google Alert straight to your email. This lets you respond quickly and immediately manage your online reputation.

Step Back, Breathe and Relax

I know it’s difficult at times but negative feedback, complaints and nasty remarks are part of any business. You can provide the very best product or service coupled with the very best customer service, and you’ll still have some complaints. Some people just like to complain! The most important thing is to take a step back, take a deep breath and catch your thoughts for a moment before you respond. Your initial reaction of anger and hurt is not the reaction you want the public to read. After all reacting from a place of anger never helps any situation. Right now it’s all about reputation management, and you can’t manage without a clear head.

Impartially Examine The Review To Determine If There’s Some Validity To It

Now that you’re in a calmed state take another glance at the review and see if you can track down the associated order or customer service experience. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Is there some truth to the complaint?
  • Was the order late?
  • Could the product have been compromised in some manner?
  • Did the customer service response fail to meet your own expectations?

Try and put yourself in the perspective of the reviewer and be honest with yourself. If there is some validity to the bad feedback you have an easy road ahead of you. That means you have a straightforward opportunity to prove to everyone reading that review for years to come that you responded quickly and made it right. Readers will see that you took the critical complaint and used it to improve. Now that’s a powerful customer-centric message! 

If the review was justified you have an easy response route. You’ll agree with the reviewer, thank the person for bringing it to your attention and detail what was done to prevent a reoccurrence. Of course, you’ll also reach out to the reviewer and offer to make it right. This customer has given you an opportunity to not just improve your service but to prove how much your company values each customer. When this is done right it wins you more customers.


Not All Reviews Require A Response

As your business grows you’ll discover that some reviews are just plain mean, nasty and have no validity whatsoever. People can be mean for no reason. I’m sure a therapist would offer up a list of reasons for why that person posted such mean-spirited feedback. It’s important to keep in mind that none of those reasons involve you personally. Sometimes people strike out with venom for reasons we can’t understand and in those situations it’s best that you don’t respond to it. 

I realize you’ll occasionally feel pushed or required to respond particularly if you notice other people are liking the review. This is where a thoughtful customer-oriented response comes into play. You can respond in an emotionally-progressive manner and show potential customers/clients that you’re responsive to their needs even when their needs are outrageous or impossible. 


Ask What You Can Do To Make It Right

You’ve determined that the reviewer has a valid complaint, and you want to correct the issue and win him or her back. Here’s how you’ll respond:

    • Respond quickly preferably within 3-5 business days but the sooner, the better. If you’re responding to a negative review from a year ago you’re only going to succeed in putting a spotlight on that individual’s negative experience. 
    • React in a personal and direct manner to the author of the review. Can you track down the customer or order associated with the review?
    • Always start with a heartfelt thank you and try not to copy and paste from your previous responses. People notice that quickly and find it infuriating and impersonal. 
    • Remember to apologize in a clear and direct manner.
    • Include a solution that you already created or enacted. Explain the exact changes you’ve made to your order process, shipping, product quality or customer service to prevent a similar experience from happening again. Don’t tell them what you’re going to do – tell them what you did. Act quickly and share it.
    • If you know the client or customer and can track down the order include the fact that you emailed or spoke to the person or have attempted to call him or her. You’ll want to mention that you look forward to speaking with the individual to make this disappointment right and to turn around their negative experience. And remember to state plainly that you’re also very disappointed and this type of customer experience is unacceptable. Always include the fact that you’re going to do everything in your power to prevent this from happening again.

Be Kind And Professional No Matter What

You’re the professional here. You’re the adult, and you must always remember that. Now this angry customer may be acting like a child in your opinion but he or she can. As the business owner the burden to be always professional is on you. You may not be able to satisfy this particular customer. Some people want to be angry and don’t want the issue corrected. 

It’s important that you always remain calm, kind and professional in your responses no matter how horrific, unfair or childish the customer review or response. Always remember that these days an angry and defensive response from you at 3am will stick with your brand for years and can even potentially go viral. It’s your job to prevent that.

Typically, the customer or client was angry and worked up when he or she posted the negative feedback. A quick cooling-off period of 48 hours usually sees the person has calmed down and regain a more practical perspective. Usually the formally enraged customer realizes that the mistake wasn’t intentional and unfortunately does happen from time to time.

You’ll notice that by maintaining your professional attitude, and customer-centric composure you can deescalate the situation and help the customer calm down. You’ll take full responsibility for the valid issue (or even the only slight valid issue in some cases) and you won’t get defensive.

As much as you may want to you’re not going to correct the customer. You’ll need to let the customer save face by reiterating how unacceptable their experience with your business was and what you’ve already done to correct it. Not only that, but you’ll explain exactly how you’re going to turn around his or her negative experience into a positive one. Please remember to thank the individual for giving you the opportunity to make this right.

When You Have To Engage Reputation Management Mode

Unfortunately not all interactions with angry people will always go well. After all you don’t know this person and for all you are aware the individual may have personal troubles or mental health issues. In the event that no matter what you do you realize you can’t satisfy the individual, you must take a different approach. When you find yourself in this situation it’s time to engage reputation management mode.

In these situations you’re going to respond to the angry person but not for the same reasons as we discussed above. You’re going to respond to create a chain of polite offers to help, so it’s obvious to everyone that you care and tried. This is where a touch of reputation management strategy comes into play. 

Most of the people reading reviews can tell the difference between an upset customer who was wronged and an angry person who is unwilling to be satisfied.

You just need to show anyone reading the review that you tried in good faith and wanted to help. Readers recognize when a business has done everything possible to remedy a bad experience. And every reader has someone in their lives that are impractical and downright mean and uncooperative, so they can relate.

Let’s review the most important things you should do when you see a negative review:

1. Take a step back and breathe.

2. Analyze the review for validity.

3. Give yourself at least 24 to 48 hours to respond if you notice you’re still angry or feeling defensive.

4. If the reviewer made some valid points embrace them, make changes and show gratitude for the opportunity to improve.

5. If the reviewer is just out to be mean and impractical, take another deep breath and respond professionally but focus on reputation management and not satisfying the reviewer. Remember not all customers want to be satisfied, some people just like being mad for awhile.

If you’re a ServerWise client and find yourself struggling to respond to negative reviews please open a ticket and a reputation management and customer service expert will help you.

Picture of Annika Doroshenko
Annika Doroshenko
Annika is the ultimate remote employee spending much of her time traveling with her husband and friends. When not traveling or working with her digital marketing clients Annika and her husband call a little town outside of Copenhagen, Denmark home.