A negative review is enough to take the wind out of anyone’s sails. You’ve fought hard to establish your business, and any criticisms can feel personally disparaging. More importantly, bad reviews have a real impact on your business’s health and growth. A Harvard Business School study recently found that an increase of just one star in a business’s Yelp rating can boost its revenue anywhere from 5-9%, proving that these ratings have tangible effects on your bottom line.

Fortunately, most consumers are rational people who understand that mistakes can how to respond to negative reviewshappen. They are more likely to judge a business by the way management addresses and attempts to resolve any mistake or issues their customers experience. It’s vital to act immediately, so be sure to respond to every one of these, even if you were able to sort it out with the customer via email or offline. Follow these tips in order to turn negative reviews into opportunities, not only to reengage customers that would otherwise be lost, but also to show off your dedication to customer service.

And if you are still looking for more tips on the subject, watch our on-demand webinar, presented with Weebly on Online Reputation Management.

The first thing you should do is take a few deep breaths and collect your thoughts. It’s never a good idea to jump into a response, especially with reviews you find rude or unfair. Yelp recommends keeping the following in mind when composing responses:

  1. Your reviewers are your paying customers
  2. Your reviewers are human beings with (sometimes unpredictable) feelings and sensitivities
  3. Your reviewers are vocal and opinionated (otherwise they would not be writing reviews!)
Although it might seem impossible to forget, it’s worth mentioning that in addition to these points, even the most unfounded, unnecessarily scathing review has implications far beyond the person writing it. Even if it’s clear that you’ve lost the reviewer as a customer, their words will continue to influence countless others in search of your products or services in your area. While it might be tempting to set the record straight, do keep these potential customers in mind. If you respond in a way that comes across as harsh or rude, you will lose out big on this future business. Start by diagnosing the nature of the review.

Minor Issues:

If the review is primarily positive, but manages to call out a few small issues, it can be tempting to respond to these hiccups. However, according to a recent Cornell study that measured the impact of online reviews on hotels, after a 40% response rate, businesses reach a point of diminishing returns. The researches believe, “managers should focus on making constructive responses to negative reviews rather than simply acknowledging positive comments.”

Calling out specific comments in an otherwise glowing review can be seen as being too nit-picky or aggressive. For other small or overly complicated issues, there’s usually benefits to keeping it simple and concise. Thank them for feedback, apologize and leave it at that. If customers perceive you’re trying to make excuses for poor service or quality it can further alienate them.

Larger Issues:

For larger issues, it is even more important to reach out to the unsatisfied party, directly. Ideally, this should be done behind the scenes and out of sight of the public forum. Send an email, or private message (as is possible on some sites like Yelp), but still approach it with the same sensitivity and consideration as you would in a public venue.

Do everything you can to find a resolution and keep them as a happy customer. 87% of consumers agree that an appropriate management response to a bad review improves their impression of the business, so try to make things right, even if you don’t agree with their arguments. Keep an open mind and look for areas to improve in to avoid future mishaps. 

Don’t Cause Further Damage:

As bad as a negative review can be, things can always get worse. Getting pulled into ugly altercations with the customers you’re trying to win back will serve to further compound the effect of an already-bad review. It will serve as a warning sign to anyone in search of your business’s offering for a long time to come. Some reviewers know this and might try to test your limits. Keep a level head and make sure you don’t do anything to exacerbate the situation. The last thing you want is for them to share your heated response all over the internet, plastering it across review sites, social media and personal blogs or articles.


Contracting and Home Services Month Bonus Tip: Take advantage of longer term (and more substantive) relationships usually associated with contracting projects. Do everything in your power to check in with clients, and make sure they’re satisfied with your progress along the way. If you receive a negative review, reach out via email to attempt to find a solution. For quick house calls or servicing, make technicians more accountable. They are the face of your business, so be sure that they are incentivized to represent your business in the best light. In either instance, you should request feedback via email or SMS following the conclusion of business to gauge their satisfaction, and circumvent negative reviews. Signpost does this for your business, automatically

Don’t forget to check out other Contracting and Home Services posts!