How Small Businesses Should Respond to Negative Online Reviews

Before you react to a negative review about your company, read these tips

If your business has an online presence, you’re bound to receive some feedback from customers and clients.

Ideally, that feedback will be positive, in the form of glowing reviews on your Google My Business page and elsewhere online.

Positive feedback isn’t guaranteed, though. The internet can certainly be a double-edged sword: Patrons that love the business will talk about it… and so will those who had a bad experience.

That’s why every business owner and social media manager should read up on the art of responding to negative feedback. 

Tips and best practices for responding to negative online reviews

Your first negative review can be jarring and off-putting. No one likes criticism, after all. 

It’s not uncommon for businesses and staff to have an emotional response to poor feedback. They take it personally and want to defend their business, which is understandable.

So, before anyone starts typing, take a breather. It’s rarely a good idea to react immediately.

Instead of quickly posting a response, think about what the writer is actually saying. Are they upset about a bad experience? Did they reach out for help and not get a response? Are their complaints reasonable?

Once the cause is determined, it’s time to craft a response. A response should be:

  • Positive: Don’t respond negatively or accuse the customer of wrongdoing. Do not get involved with name-calling or an online rant.
  • Considerate: Thank the customer for contacting the organization regarding the situation. Say that the company is working on improving ____ (the food, the service, or something else). Businesses can even ask the customer for their ideas on how to improve or resolve the situation. 
  • Genuine: The reason that most consumers complain online is that they didn’t get an adequate response from the company in the first place. They just want to know that they’re being heard. If a business shows that it’s genuinely interested in the problem and wants to help resolve it, this could provide an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive. Plus, other consumers reading the response will appreciate the business for trying to work with the consumer.
  • Sometimes taken off-line: If a person insists on going back and forth online, invite the person to contact someone at the organization directly to talk it over.

One final tip: Never reply to a complaint in all caps. Ever.

How your small business can defend its online reputation

If you don’t already have a disaster plan for negative online reviews and other bad press, it’s time to create one. 

Your plan should include:

  • A suggested timeline: Aim to respond to complaints within 24-48 business hours.
  • A few canned responses: Many complaints have similar elements. Brainstorm a few of the most common complaints and pain points that your customers have and create templates that you can use to respond to negative reviews. You can also look at how other businesses in your industry have responded to criticism online for real-world examples. Just be sure to personalize your final response to the person.
  • Who is responsible for responding: The person who sees the message online may not be the person responsible for responding to it. Put one or two people in charge of responding and make sure the rest of the company knows who those people are. 

Additionally, schedule a regular review of all the negative feedback your business has received each quarter. See if you can identify any similarities or opportunities for improvement and growth. 

Then, focus on getting happy customers to leave more positive reviews using these tips and strategies.