Practice the art of responding to negative reviews

As a business owner in the internet age, you know a negative online review can discourage people from using your business. Research from Mintel indicates 70 percent of Americans go online to seek out reviews before making a purchase. Data from BrightLocal suggest 84 percent of people trust an online review as much as a recommendation from a friend.

There’s a distinct art in learning to respond to negative reviews in a way that can help, rather than further damage, your reputation.

Here are some general guidelines:

  • Cool down: Take time to compose yourself and collect your thoughts. Never post in anger. If emotions are running at all hot, ask a colleague to review your response before posting.
  • Respond promptly: After giving yourself time to cool down, post a prompt response. A quick reply demonstrates you care about customer experiences.
  • Personalize your response: Make sure you understand the customer’s concerns and respond appropriately. You don’t want to come off as though you’re providing a canned answer. Do not copy and paste the same response to multiple disgruntled customers.
  • Use the magic words: Say “thank you” and “I’m sorry,” and explain what you’re doing to make it right. Thank the reviewer for taking the time to offer feedback.

When appropriate, outline the actions you’re taking to resolve the issue. You may mention new technology, new training or additional staff.

You want to promote, tactfully, a positive image of your business. In tandem with the apology, you can express that the customer’s experience, although highly regrettable, was out of the norm for your business.

  • Challenging fake reviews: Unfortunately, your business may occasionally receive a fake review, possibly from a competitor, a disgruntled employee or an angry customer.

If you believe the review is fake, contact the review site. Most mainstream sites have policies to help you remove fake reviews, assuming you have sufficient evidence that the review is fake.

If you can’t get the review removed, provide a brief response expressing that the review is not accurate. Keep your comments factual and respectful.

Finally, if you believe a review is fake and defamatory, consult a business attorney. You may have legal recourse if the reviewer made factually incorrect claims.

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