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5 Steps To Take When Responding To Negative Reviews

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5 Steps To Take When Responding To Negative Reviews

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It’s inevitable, your business may be new or maybe it’s been around for years, but it will happen – eventually someone will take to the Internet and type those haunting words about their bad experience that you just can’t shake from your thoughts (or review sites).


It may be that they didn’t get a warm greeting at the door or maybe a dish wasn’t served to their expectations? No business (or customer) is perfect, so breathe a sigh of relief and cut yourself a break. As long as reviews matter to you, you’ll be armed with the right strategy to handle them and do the right thing.


Safeguarding your reputation by being on top of customer complaints before they rear their ugly head on Yelp, Facebook and Google should be a priority for your business.


There are many companies offering their reputation management services to cure your bad review woes. Be sure to do your research before entering into one of these relationships. Many of the times, these companies will attempt to clog the Internet with new directory listings, blogs and press releases that bring little value to your business. Although blogging and sharing stories with the media are excellent ways to boost your reputation and Google ranking, the work needs to be done strategically and authentically, not via a mechanical process of pushing out random keywords and fuzzy content.


There is great value in paying attention to these reviews and comments, and as a publicist, I always recommend responding. They may even help you to make changes within your business that address core issues you already knew you needed to handle.

A little goodwill goes a long way. According to a recent Harris Interactive survey, of the customers who received a response from a company after posting negative feedback, 33% turned around and posted a positive review of the brand, and 34% deleted the original negative review.

For business owners who are dealing with negative reviews right now, let’s review a few steps you can take to respond appropriately and lift your spirits and reputation just in time for the New Year.




1. Regroup.

Before typing away, you’ll first need to meet with employees to discuss the complaint, hear from the key staff involved in the incident, and draft a response that takes the reviewer’s concerns / complaints into account.


2. Respond.

Address the complaint politely and with facts. Keep it short and sweet as people can become overwhelmed by a long response. Have a few proclaimed editors in your life review your response for grammar, punctuation and tone before posting.


3. Reach out.

If possible, attempt to contact the reviewer by email or phone if you have their information and offer them a reimbursement or ask about how else you could rectify the situation. They may even be appreciative enough to remove the negative review.


4. Rally.

If a review is completely false, you should try and resolve the issue through private messaging first. If you feel a public comment is necessary, present your case as simply and politely as possible, and do not attack the reviewer under any circumstances. Remember that potential customers will be reading your comment and you want to leave them with a positive impression of your business.


5. Reward.

You can also thank the people who left positive reviews. A simple “thank you” and “we look forward to having you back again soon” will suffice. Many review sites advise against telling a reviewer that you have a gift for them as a way to acknowledge their kindness. Note, however, what you do offline is your own prerogative and will be surely appreciated by your loyal customers.


On the flip side, asking your customers to leave reviews is good practice as well. Sometimes a simple ask is all it takes to motivate a loyal customer to take action. Just don’t run after them with your laptop asking for the review on the spot. You will come off as aggressive and desperate.

If you think you don’t have the time to respond to reviews, here’s a stat that may motivate you to find the time:


5 Steps To Take When Responding to Negative Reviews

Graphic: Help Scout


Now let’s review how to respond to negative reviews on Yelp and Facebook:




Responding to reviews is a great way to learn from and build goodwill with one of your most vocal customers. Yelp allows businesses to respond publicly and privately to user reviews. Yelp recommends keeping your message simple: thank the reviewer for the business and the feedback. If you can be specific about the customer’s experience and any changes you may have made as a result, this could go very far in earning trust. Public comments are a way for business owners to add a helpful comment to a user’s review. Responding to reviewers’ concerns shows that you value their feedback, you’re always striving to improve, and that you are hands-on in the daily operations of your business.

Note: Yelp requires business account users to upload a real photo before messaging customers in order to make the message personal. Photos should clearly show your face (no sunglasses please) and not include too many people.

Go to the “Reviews” tab after logging into your business account. From there you’ll be able to add a public comment to any review of your business. Your comment will appear directly following the review that you’ve commented on.




You can report reviews that don’t follow the Facebook Community Standards or focus on the product or service offered by your business. Facebook will review your report and may remove reviews that don’t follow the guidelines. You cannot delete a rating or review from your Page. You can like and comment on reviews on your Page. To like a review, go to the review and click Like and leave a comment. The reviews that show on a Page may be different depending on who is viewing the Page. The order is based on a number of factors, such as when a review was posted, how much engagement it received, and whether someone visiting the Page is friends with someone who wrote a review.


Page’s star rating is the average of all public star ratings that the Page has received. Keep in mind that when someone posts a rating, they can select an audience. For example, if they post a star rating and select Friends as the audience, only their friends can see their rating. Only star ratings that are shared publicly are included in a Page’s overall rating. To see the breakdown of a Page’s star ratings, go to the Page and hover over the stars.


Facebook recommends you handle negative reviews by responding privately and immediately. Handle negative ratings with compassion and brand integrity, no matter how upsetting the situation might be. Respond publicly after every attempt has been made to clarify the issue and resolve the customer complaint. Make a public response in the form of a comment on the star rating.


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Cover photo: Robyn Lee

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Co-Owner, Marketing Rival. I enjoy nurturing the exciting relationships that grow a business or nonprofit. At Marketing Rival, we create, package, and share marketing and public relations campaigns that attract and engage audiences.