How to respond to negative reviews

Editorial Team

4 min read
Person holding phone in front of laptop

Receiving a bad review can be a blow to any business owner’s confidence. Sometimes it may happen because of events out of your control (e.g. short-staffed, longer waits, supply chain issues). Other times, negative reviews can come from customers who are simply having a bad day.

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Either way, the impact is the same once those reviews are out in the open for many to see on your social media channels or websites such as Google My Business and Yelp. Negative critiques of your business can make it harder to attract and convert more customers down the road. This is certainly true for established companies. Bad reviews can be especially harmful for small businesses that are trying to grow.

Fortunately, you can use the same review tools that your customers use to manage your online reputation and reduce the impact bad ratings can have on your bottom line.

Below are some simple tips for responding to negative reviews – broken into what to do and what not to do.

How to reply to a bad review

Here are three steps to take whenever you receive a bad review.

1. Always respond

Once a negative review is online, it may become difficult to remove or control, especially if it’s shared across the internet. That means you can’t afford to ignore it and hope it goes away. Even if you disagree with what the customer has to say, it is still imperative to engage with that person as quickly as possible.

If you don’t have the bandwidth to respond promptly, delegate this responsibility to someone on your team. Responding to bad reviews isn’t something that can wait.

2. Be calm and professional

Bad reviews sting. It’s easy to become upset – especially if the complaint isn’t justified. Yet as a business owner, you must always be calm and professional when handling negative reviews. The same is true for anyone on your team who regularly interacts with customers.

3. Solve the issue

If you’re at fault, take responsibility and fix the problem ASAP. If the customer is at fault, resolving the issue is still the best option. Yes, it’s a bit unfair, but the goal isn’t to win that battle. The goal is to protect your reputation and grow your business. In fact, you might end up converting an unreasonable customer into a repeat buyer.

READ: How to handle difficult customers effectively

How NOT to handle negative reviews

While we’re all human and criticism hurts, here are three important tips for how not to reply to a bad review.

1. Don’t take out your frustration on the customer

It might feel gratifying at the time, but responding to bad reviews with anger, sarcasm, or defensiveness won’t solve anything. It may only make the problem worse – probably with an even longer “follow-up” bad review.

2. Customers are always right (even when they aren’t)

Clearly, the customer cannot always be right – but this adage exists for a reason. As a business owner, solving the issue to the customer’s satisfaction is the simplest and most effective way to create a satisfied customer. Offering freebies, gifts, or perks all cost money. That said, letting an angry customer storm off typically costs even more.

3. Don’t be rude or combative

This is just a variation of almost every other suggestion on the list, but it’s worth repeating. Neither you nor your team members can afford to lose their cool when interfacing with customers – even if those people have already lost their temper.

You might not win the battle, but politely responding to bad reviews positions you to win the larger war of protecting your reputation and growing a successful business.

Use this feedback to improve aspects of your operations to help minimize the possibility of other negative reviews down the line.

For example, if your store’s return policy is a sticking point with a lot of customers, consider changing your policy to make it easier for customers to shop and return, but not so relaxed that it affects your bottom line. Once that’s resolved, move onto the next most common complaint you receive from your customers, and so on.

At Clover, our POS systems come with customer feedback management capabilities so that you can get ahead of bad reviews before they ever get published online. To learn more, contact a Clover Business Consultant today.

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