Posted On
December 19, 2017

Is There a Good Way to Respond to a Bad Review?

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One of the most frustrating things that can happen to a business owner who is actively managing their online reputation is the occurrence of a bad online review. This is an unavoidable reality, much like the fact that it’s close to impossible to please 100% of the people who do business with you no matter how hard you try. Whether or not you feel that the bad review is fair, fake, or ridiculous, it isn’t a good practice to simply ignore a negative review or post an emotional knee-jerk of a response that reflects badly on your business or practice.

“Is there a good way to respond to a bad review?” is one of the most common questions we get, especially since we specialize in helping our clients get positive and truthful reviews that enable the quality of their business to be portrayed accurately online.

The short answer? Yes, there is a good way to respond to bad reviews – no matter their nature – online so that you can turn a negative situation into one that can show reviewing clients that you take feedback to heart.

Responding to Reviews is Important – Period

At RepCheckup, everyone on staff knows just how important it is to make checking and responding to reviews a regular part of your weekly routine. Whether the business owner is the one who tackles this responsibility, or a designated person takes on reputation management, responding to your reviews is a way to differentiate yourself from competitors who may also have a good strategy for bringing reviews in.

You see, there are tiers to involvement that play into what prospective clients and patients are able to gather about your business while they’re doing their research and reading your reviews. The first tier, in our opinion, is whether or not you have reviews in the first place – bonus points if they’re recent reviews and if there are a solid number of them. The second tier is where you can take your business to the next level to stay a step ahead from competitors with a similar review profile. This is when responding comes into play.

Taking the time to respond to each and every review with a thoughtful thank you is important. Some of our most successful clients are able to manage their reputation online with a great review gathering strategy and the personal responses their leave when someone does leave a review. Not only do these responses make the reviewer feel good, but prospective clients can feel good knowing your business is communicative and cares about the overall experience people have while working with you.

And the third tier is the way you respond to bad reviews. There’s absolutely a good and bad way to handle these situations, and simply ignoring a negative review falls into the latter category.

Tactfully Responding to Bad Online Reviews

A few years ago, the story about a restaurant whose owners loved arguing with patrons both in-person and online went viral thanks to an entertaining episode of Kitchen Nightmares. The problem? The business owners were unable to handle feedback and responded with emotionally charged comments that sabotaged the reputation of their business. Eventually, the business itself shut down without much of an explanation, but it’s safe to say that the infamy of “business owners fight with patrons online and offline” may have played a role in their closing.

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So, there is definitely an art to tactfully responding to bad online reviews without insulting the reviewed, bringing your business down to their level, ignoring it, or admitting to wrongdoing on your review platform. Here’s how you can toe the line:

Find the bad review quickly

The longer you let a bad review sit on your profile without evaluating and responding to it, the longer that reviewer has time to definitively settle their opinion and the longer people online only see that reviewers side of the story. This is why you must have a plan to locate bad reviews quickly and respond to them as soon as you can.

For some business owners, responding to a negative review quickly and with concern is actually enough to get the reviewer to change their opinion! If a patron at a restaurant has a negative experience with one of the staff members and immediately leaves a bad review, getting a personal response from the business owner wanting to discuss and improve their experience could draw them back in as a patron and could inspire them to update their review.

Find out if they have worked with your business

If you work at a medical practice, hotel, car dealership, or other business with a detailed CRM, the second step you need to take is finding out whether or not the reviewer is a real person who has used your business.

Be aware that some people choose not to use their real name on review sites like Google, opting for their middle name, a nickname, or a completely made up name to avoid instant recognition. If possible, search for related names in your system. For example, if you see a bad review left by a “Betty R.,” look for a person in your system that would appear under Elizabeth R. If a profile appears, it’s possible that this is the reviewer.

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The second step to this process is to double check whether or not that ‘Elizabeth R.” has used your business within the relative time frame of that negative review. If Elizabeth was a patient who came in once 4 years ago, it’s unlikely that they are the true reviewer.

If you have been led to a dead-end when trying to identify whether or not the reviewer has worked with your business, this will impact the actual response that you post.

Construct a response to all of your online reviews

When you start the process of responding to reviews, positive or negative, you will want to come up with outlines for what’s acceptable and what isn’t. This means the language and sign-off you’d like to use just as much as the tone the message will contain.

Positive reviews are easy: send them a thank you and perhaps a personalized note as part of your response.

Bad reviews can fall into two categories: known clients or unknown/fake reviewers.

Known Clients: If you have found a bad review that can be linked to a specific individual with great certainty, you will want to construct a personalized response that appeases their concerns, lets them know that you take their comments seriously, and invites them to discuss the situation privately.

Unknown/Fake Reviewers: Getting a bad review left by someone who you can’t identify as a client means that you’ll have to craft a response that both lets the reviewer feel like they are being heard (if they are, in fact, real) but also lets readers know that you cannot verify this as a real review.

Some business owners prefer to simply leave a note that says “Hi (USERNAME), we take your comments very seriously and would like to investigate the situation further. While we cannot verify you as a client of ours, we’d like to discuss your experience.”

Others prefer to answer with a straightforward message along the lines of: “(USERNAME), we were unable to verify you as a client of ours and your experience does not fit in with the experience we provide to our clients. Please reach out to us by phone at (NUMBER) if you’d like to discuss your the contents review.”

And it is always possible that a user has made an honest mistake and confused your business for another, where they actually did have a poor experience. Some business owners make that assumption in their responses and reply with a message like: ‘Hello (USERNAME), we haven’t been able to verify you as a client of ours. Is it possible that you meant to leave a review for another business? Please reach out to us as we’d love to provide you with an excellent customer experience at our location.”

The overall goal? Be respectful, represent your business appropriately, and avoid emotional responses.

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What’s a “Bad” Response to a Review?

Many people ask us for examples of what exactly a bad, or good, response to a review is. While we are happy to provide templates for responding to reviews, your response should always be adjusted to address the specific points mentioned in the review.

Canned responses, which we encourage, should always be reviewed prior to posting to make sure the message matches what the reviewer is saying. The response below is a great example of a good canned response that was posted to the wrong type of review.

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See what we mean? Why would a 2 star review warrant a response talking about how “wonderful” the review was? Make sure each and every response you post is appropriate not only in tone but in topic.

Mastering the Right Review Response

Whether or not someone is leaving you a positive review, there’s a good way to respond to either kind of customer feedback so that you are ultimately portrayed in the best light possible.

If a customer leaves you a good review, you can leave a response like the one below:

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We wanted to highlight this example because of how personable the doctor’s response was. Not only did they thank the reviewer, but they added a personal touch by saying that staff will love this review and that they couldn’t wait to share it with the team. If you’re Jessica, seeing a response like this would compel you to come back to the office. If you’re a potential customer, this type of response would show you just how much the office cares about their patients.

How You Can Respond to a Negative Review

If you’ve received a negative review, there are a few things you can do to expand upon the template we shared earlier. In this case, a patient has left a negative review over a billing error that was handled incorrectly. Instead of leaving a short response, this office has expanded their apology to include information about their processes and an invitation to discuss the problem privately.

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This response also does a great job of balancing out the negative review by matching the length of the customer’s post and maintaining a professional tone while avoiding minimizing what the reviewer was concerned about.

“Can I remove a bad review?”

After business owners understand that responding to bad reviews is an integral step, the next follow-up question that we most often receive is: “Can I remove a bad review?”

While we’re written blogs on this topic before, we wanted to do a quick recap here.

It is possible for a bad review to be removed – but only under very specific circumstances. Many of these review sites take the sides of the reviewer in the interest of keeping information and ratings as unbiased as possible. This means that they understand a bad review may upset a business owner, who will then want it removed, but they also have to keep in mind that bad experiences do exist at otherwise good businesses.

These scenarios are the reasons why review platforms make it exceedingly hard to have a bad review removed. In many cases, a resolution will not be reached as the review platform simply will not take down a negative review unless you have overwhelming proof that the reviewer was not a client of yours or if the review breaks one of their rules of use by containing a threat or foul language within the review.

So, the best solution to bad reviews is to have a good system in place to find and respond to them as well as a strategy to constantly gather new reviews that offer some “padding” against the occasional negative review that happen.

For more information, don’t hesitate to contact us to learn more about our tool or check out the rest of our blogs for information that can help you manage your reputation online:

  • Removing negative reviews on Facebook: If your business is has a profile on Facebook (which it should!), it’s important that you understand how to remove negative Facebook reviews if one were to be left on your profile. To help you out, we’ve put together 3 steps that you can take to effectively manage reviews on Facebook.
  • Did you know that following the golden rule also works when it comes to responding to negative reviews left for your business? If you’d like to learn more about how to best respond to reviews, make sure you read this post.
  • If your business has received a negative review that specifically names an employee of yours, don’t panic. Read this blog to find out about the 6 simple steps you need to take to handle situations where an employee is called out in a review.
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Garrett Smith
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RepCheckup is an online reputation management software that helps businesses enhance and protect their online reputation.

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