When customers take the time to write Google reviews, it’s often because they feel they’ve had a memorable experience (either good or bad). If managed properly, reviews are where your company’s customer service skills and processes can shine.
Unfortunately, just about every business receives a bad review from time to time. Most of the time, we have to learn to live with the negative reviews online. Fortunately, there are some strategies we can employ that can help mitigate the impact of negative reviews. Even if you aren’t successful in getting people to take down their bad review, your approach and conversation might make them speak differently about your company in the future. Your reaction will also help shape what other readers’ think of you and your business.
Every review is situational and should be dealt with individually. We believe that all reviews are an opportunity to stand out for attention to detail and service. That is as true for negative ones as it is for positive ones. It’s important to remember and understand that people often leave reviews because they just want to be heard and acknowledged.
To start, make sure you are able to respond to reviews. Google Reviews are among the most influential, so let’s begin there. If you haven’t claimed and verified your business using Google My Business, you’re not going to be able to respond to reviews. Other online review platforms will have different protocols for verifying that you are authorized to respond.
Next, establish a review response protocol and assign roles. Someone will need to monitor the page, draft and post responses, and conduct follow-ups. You may need several people to approve the responses. Figure out who those people are in advance so you can respond quickly. The faster the response, the better. We recommend aiming for a response within three days.
A general tip about writing responses: vary the responses so it doesn’t look like they were a copy/paste job.
In terms of best practices, don’t ever pay for “review generation services” (e.g. artificially generated reviews) or get your employees or family to leave reviews. If anyone ever catches this, it won’t look good no matter how you justify it. Online testimonials are already hard to trust, don’t add to the deception under any circumstances.
The hardest thing about positive reviews is getting people to write them! Here’s a great article on the Shopify blog about encouraging customer reviews.
When responding to positive reviews, acknowledge the client’s feedback and use it as an opportunity to invite your customers/clients to come back. All you are doing at this point is reinforcing this person’s opinion of your customer service.
Tailor the language to fit your brand. If you are more fun and playful, there’s no need to use stiff language in your responses.
“Thank you so much for taking the time to write a review! We appreciate the feedback, and we hope you’ll come back.”
“Thank you kindly for taking the time to leave a review. We welcome feedback, and it is always nice to hear when we have surpassed a client’s expectations.”
Responding to bad reviews is more nuanced. There can be a number of reasons for a customer or client leaving a negative review. The main one we are going to focus on today is when a genuinely dissatisfied customer is upset because their experience didn’t measure up to their expectations.
Remember that if a client is angry enough to leave a negative review, they are likely also telling friends, family and colleagues about their experience. Reviews live online forever, so don’t slough it off.
Looking into the situation to see what happened and taking responsibility is key. Placing blame internally isn’t helpful here — employees might be tempted warp the retelling of the situation to shift blame to the customer. Focus on reinforcing company best practices and other values so in the future the same situation doesn’t happen again.
At the end of the day, “it’s a learning moment,” as our Adam Dooley likes to say.
Depending on the situation, reaching out to the client over the phone or by email is important.
Your company should have several goals when dealing with negative reviews:
- Calm a complainant down by reaching out to them personally.
- Try to learn from the experience and review internal protocols and practices when appropriate.
- Make the customer/client feel heard and understood.
- Reduce the chance of the reviewer speaking negatively elsewhere.
- Show the customer/client you care.
- Show others that your business responds to negative reviews professionally and maturely.
- Mitigate the impact of negative reviews on prospective clients and customers in the future.
If the negative review is going to stay online, we recommend responding to it in the same venue. In some cases, adding a bit of clarifying information makes sense (as long as it doesn’t breach confidentiality), but the last thing you need is a hostile back and forth in the comment section of a Google Review.
Try a response like this:
“Thank you for the feedback. We are so sorry your experience didn’t live up to your or our standards. We take your complaint very seriously, and we’ll be reaching out to investigate further.”
Leave responses like this as much for prospective future clients as we do for the complainant.