How to Respond to a Bad Review

Published on May 13, 2021

How to Respond to a Bad Review

Online reviews and comments are the digital versions of ‘word-of-mouth,’ and they can make or break a business. For example, a study by the Spiegel Research Center verified that reviews have a significant and quantifiable impact on purchase decisions and 95% of customers read reviews before they consider making a purchase.

So with reviews having such a powerful impact on the bottom line, it can be incredibly disheartening when those reviews are less than complimentary. Not only are bad reviews disheartening, but they can also drive customers away. 

Indeed, research published by the software company BrightLocal showed that a single negative review could discourage 22% of customers from purchasing a product and cost a business around 30 customers.

However, it is not just the negative reviews and comments alone that can potentially harm your reputation. The way you respond to those reviews is equally important. 

How Not to Respond to Reviews

Angry woman watches a screen

Never get sucked into an online argument in response to a bad review

However, before we get into how to respond, let’s briefly discuss the things you should avoid. One of the biggest challenges many business owners face is they often do not know how to respond to a bad review. 

Although it may sometimes be tempting to post a scathing response to a bad review, such an approach is nearly always counterproductive. Instead, it is better to acknowledge, empathize and offer to make things right.

Indeed, while we’ve all seen examples of great responses to negative reviews, the internet is littered with terrible examples too.

Take this example from the owner of an Italian bistro restaurant below. 

Restaurant owner's response to a bad review

restaurant owner responds to a bad review

Never be tempted to get into a heated argument with a customer online.

Insulting customers and getting involved in a game of cat and mouse is always a bad idea. In the above example, sarcastically saying a customer is ‘adorable’ before calling them a clown is a terribleidea. Another prospective customer may read that response and assume they will not be welcome either. 

It would simply have been better to acknowledge the complaint and politely request that the customer gets in touch with you directly instead. 

1. Never Badmouth Customers

While it is tempting to criticize bad reviews, this is unlikely to win you any brownie points from prospective customers. One of the biggest measures of a business is not how they behave when the going is good, but how they react to customers when a problem occurs. 

2. Never Ignore Customers

Another terrible response to customer reviews is to simply ignore them. Failing to respond at all makes it seem as though you are oblivious to customer concerns. While some bigger corporations may not respond to all reviews due to the sheer number of reviews, replying to customer concerns is essential for most SMEs. 

A survey by ReviewTrackers showed that more than half ( 53%) of customers expect a business to reply to their online review within seven days. Furthermore, 22% of customers said that it made a company seem more trustworthy when they replied to reviews. The research highlights the importance of responding to reviews constructively.

3. Don’t Get Personal

It is natural to be upset about a negative review that is unfair or lacks context. But some businesses have responded to negative reviews in the worst possible way. In 2018, a theme park called Bigfoot Strip sued a father and daughter over a negative review they posted on TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor theme park review

Bigfoot fun park proved not to be so ‘fun’ after all when it sued a customer over a bad review.

The theme park claimed that the review was defamatory. In 2019, a federal judge rejected the lawsuit

Not only is this tactic highly ill-advised, but it may also even spark further bad publicity and negative reviews as a consequence. 

How to Respond to a Bad Review

Woman types on a laptop screen

It is important to respond professionally and politely to a bad review

So just how should you respond to comments and reviews? 

When responding to reviews, it is important to keep the tone professional, polite, and measured – even if you feel the review is unfair. If you do feel that the customer has taken things out of context, then avoid getting too emotional when replying to reviews. 

1. Stick to the Facts and Be Proportional 

Instead, it is better to stick to the facts when explaining the situation, without getting defensive. Ideally, you should also finish up by politely encouraging the customer to get in touch with you offline to help resolve the situation. 

Consider the example from the plumbing company below. The reviewer complained about the prices they were charged, and the owner politely provided more context about their interaction with the customer.

Online review

It is OK to provide more context as long as you are professional

The above example from GetJobber shows that it doesn’t always hurt to demonstrate that a review doesn’t align with the facts, as long as you can be fair about it.

2. Apologize

Apologizing is important because it shows the customer you care and that you are willing to learn from your mistakes. Even if it is not your fault, it is always better to apologize anyway. An example of how you might do this is by saying something like: “Firstly, I am sorry that your experience did not match your expectations.”

Keep apologies concise and straightforward. Don’t make excuses and take responsibility for the problems the customer experienced.

Refusing to apologize may turn potential customers off and leave a bad taste in the mouth of the reviewer.

3. Offer to Make Amends

In some cases, an apology is not enough. Customers want to know that you are taking their concerns seriously when responding to reviews and that you will take steps to make things right. 

Not only is this good practice, but it can also in some cases, change a negative review into a positive one. It may also make you seem more trustworthy among prospective customers too. 

The following example from Dominion Pest Control Services demonstrates this well. 

pest control reviews

responding to reviews

The owner of the pest control company responded by apologizing for the situation and offering to make amends.

customer reviews

The offer to make amends from the pest control company, clearly made a good impression on the customer.

responding to a review online

Dominion Pest Control Services later updated their reply after the customer changed their sentiments

The above is just one example of how to respond to a negative review and actually use it to your benefit.

4. Take it offline

Have you ever heard of the saying ‘don’t air your dirty laundry in public?’. Well, the same principle applies when you are responding to reviews too. Always encourage a customer to email you or contact your company to give you a chance to make amends for the mistake. This prevents any further harm to your reputation and prevents interference from others too. Of course, you should provide your contact details to enable the customer to get in touch.

5. Ask For a Second Chance

Once you have apologized and offered to make things right, it is always good practice to invite them to try your services again and give you a second chance. 

For example, you could say something along the lines of: “Thank you for choosing [NAME OF YOUR BUSINESS]. I apologies that our services did not meet your expectations. Please note that we take all reviews very seriously and will do everything in our power to make things right. If there is any way to earn your business, please let me know.”

How to Respond to Positive Reviews

A woman holds a mobile phone which shows reviews on the screen

Showing your appreciation for positive reviews shows customers that you care

However, knowing how to respond to a bad review is only one part of the equation. Responding to reviews from satisfied customers is equally as important. It shows customers that you are interested in their opinions and that you are not just getting on the defensive when things go south.

So how do you respond to good reviews?

1. Personalize The Response

A personalized response will stand out much more than a generic one. Sending a standard, cookie-cutter “Hi, thank you for your review” can make your response seem lazy and insincere. 

Personalizing your message can be as simple as addressing the reviewer by name if it is available. This simple step should not be underestimated. A customer is much more likely to take note of your review when you address them by name.

In fact, research conducted by Brain Research showed that parts of a person’s brain light up when their name is used.

Another simple way to personalize your response is to respond to specific points in their review. Not only does it serve as further proof you have taken the time to read their review, but it also emphasizes the aspects of your service that they were really pleased with, similar to a testimonial.

2. Thank Them

The first step should always be to thank the customer for taking the time to write a review. Indeed, you should ideally do this for bad reviews too. Thanking customers for good reviews also encourages more satisfied customers to write reviews.

A report published by Bazaar Voice revealed that 41% of people claimed that when brands reply to their online reviews, it makes them feel the company really cares about their customers.

3. Include a Subtle Call-to-Action

One of the ways you can capitalize on the power of positive reviews is to invite them to take action. For example, you could ask them to refer your business to a friend, take advantage of a special deal, or sign up for a newsletter that could give them more cool information.

An example of a call-to-action within a review could be something like: “Hi Emma, thank you for taking the time to write a review! Glad to hear that you enjoyed our service. Would you consider us spreading the word about our services to other people who can benefit or referring us to a friend? We’d love to continue providing great service to awesome customers like you. Thanks again!

4. Share The Review

Last but not least, share the review. After all, sharing is caring! Positive reviews are essentially impromptu, mini testimonials, so make the most of them and share them on your website and social channels.

The more customers that see the positive reviews, the higher the likelihood that you will attract more customers. A study published in the Harvard Business Review showed that businesses receive a 5-9% increase in revenue, for every one-star rating increase they receive.

Final Thoughts on Responding to Reviews

Knowing how to respond to a bad review can be challenging for many businesses, especially if the reviewer seems unreasonable or difficult. However, think of it more as an opportunity rather than an attack. Bad reviews can help us identify areas in our business or customer service we need to improve.

In some cases, your response to a negative review can even serve to help your business and win the customer over if you take steps to put things right. Indeed, research shows that seven out of ten consumers changed their opinion about a brand after the company replied to a review.

Even if a review is somewhat unreasonable, it is still important to keep your cool and respond in a fair and polite way. Doing this can win other prospective customers over. You would be surprised how many people can see through unfair reviews. 

Let Us Help You Manage Your Brand Reputation

Managing your online reputation can be a daunting task at the best of times. Reviews can have a significant impact on your business, and this is why it is important to have a robust online marketing strategy. Pacific54 can help you take control of your online reputation by helping you to build your content strategy, manage your online presence and get the results you need. Call or email today and let’s start the conversation!

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