How to handle negative online reviews like a pro

Every successful business has had to deal with negative comments and reviews on their site, social media, and on review sites. It can be frustrating as a small business when you get these because you are putting everything you have into making your business work and providing the best experience for your customers or clients. It can be easy to let these negative reviews get you down or cause you to blow your top and reply in a way that may lose you more business down the road. That’s why it is so important to know how to handle these negative comments and reviews without losing any future business from anyone. There are many different ways to handle this situation and each one is unique to you, your business, the comment, and the person who wrote it. But, with these tips and tricks, you will have a better understanding of how to respond.

In this blog, we will cover the strategies we use when helping businesses tackle unflattering social media comments, Google reviews, and more. We will show you examples of mean comments, vicious reviews, and straight-up lies and how they were dealt with.

Decide if it needs a response

The first thing you should do when you see a negative review or comment on social media, Google, Yelp, or any other online platform is to decide if it warrants a response. Sometimes this is easier said than done. A major component in making this decision is whether the person leaving the comment is doing it because they truly had a bad experience/service or if they are doing it to be rude and harmful. If they are doing it because they have a real complaint then you should respond. If they are doing it to be mean and harmful then you have to take a deeper look into the possible outcomes from a response. You have to ask yourself if a reply is going to make the situation better, worse, or do nothing to change it. If the answer is to make it better, then you should reply. If you think that engaging with this person is going to make things worse then leave it be. If you think that nothing will change or that a reply will have no impact on their view or the view of others who come across the comment/review then leave it be. This is a difficult skill to learn. It isn’t always easy to know when to interact or not. One way to make this choice easier on yourself is to look at your competitors' reviews to see if they have similar comments and what their choice was. Here is an example of a negative review you would probably want to respond to and one that you should probably leave alone.

Don’t get defensive

Ok, so you have decided that the best way to handle the bad review is to reply and interact with the user. Great. Now what? There are plenty of positive ways to deal with this. There are plenty of negative ways to deal with it as well. One thing you want to make sure you never do is to get defensive. That may sound easy but it can be a challenge and many business owners make this mistake every day. What does it look like when you get defensive? Here is an example: A customer leaves a review for a local restaurant that they visited with their family. They were not satisfied with how long the wait was to get their food and the servers were not as friendly as they had expected. Because of this they take to Yelp and leave the following review:” My family and I came here to celebrate my daughter's graduation from high school. We came in at 1 and didn’t get to order until 1:30. We then had to wait another hour before our food came out. The food was cold and our server was rude. Don’t think we will be coming back.” This is a valid negative review. When they came in they did not receive great service. It happens, especially now with the food industry struggling to find workers. After reading that review you decide to comment and engage with them. Here is how you respond: “Hi, our team is always fast and courteous with customers. We provide a great service and meal here at XYZ cooking.” Why does this type of response not work? Well, you got defensive. Instead of addressing their complaint, you stated that your crew is always on time and nice to customers. Even though that was not the experience that this family had. Now, if you were the family that came into XYZ cooking to grab lunch left a review only for the owner to not address your complaint in an attempt to defend their image, you are most likely not going to be eating there anytime soon. Not to mention that you’re probably going to tell all your close friends about all this. See how getting defensive is not the answer here?

Don’t get into a battle

The only thing that is more harmful than getting defensive is getting into a battle. Battles can be worse for your company than being defensive and be more harmful than just letting the negative review stand alone. When you get into a battle with an online user who leaves a negative review it makes you and your business look childish, unprofessional, and may make people considering shopping, buying, or eating with you think that you are overcompensating for poor service by picking fights with those calling out that poor service. Not only does getting into an online battle guarantee that the person leaving the review will never spend another penny with you, but when their friends see the thread you will lose their business too when people researching your business see that instead of acknowledging the poor service or issue at hand you decided to pick a fight. Now they know that if they shop with you that if they have a poor experience like that person did they are not going to get any help from you to make up for it. They will most likely look at your competition and spend their money with them instead.

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