Tuesday, April 23, 2024

How to Write Responses to Negative Online Reviews

The other day I saw a Reddit post from an apartment dweller who wanted to know why the overwhelming majority of online apartment reviews were so viciously, blisteringly bad. I answered that most tenants who are satisfied (or at least not too disappointed) with their apartments don't bother to post reviews at all, while the few genuine rave reviews are often dismissed as something the staff cooked up. You have to get pretty enraged to want to spend the time and effort typing up a bad review. Unfortunately, negative publicity tends to spread much more rapidly than the good stuff.

Has your business gotten a bad review or two? Maybe you made a mistake that infuriated a customer, or maybe the customer got steamed up over something and unjustly decided to blame it on you. Either way, you can't let that poison pollute your social media channel or website unchallenged -- you must clean up the mess quickly, cleanly, and professionally with the right response. So let's look at a few basic rules concerning this important form of reputation management.

Don't Let Your Emotions Dictate Your Response

That initial flush of outrage may compel you to grab your keyboard and hammer out a similarly insulting reply -- the worst thing you could possibly do, since it only fans the flames higher and makes you look like a hothead. Do not stoop to the primitive tactics of the reviewer. Stop, take a few deep breaths, and compose yourself before you compose your response. Taking the high road doesn't just cool the emotional temperature, but it also makes the reviewer look like a caveman by comparison -- which can go a long way toward invalidating the review itself.

Take Responsibility

I learned this lesson second-hand many years ago, when a friend and I were dining out and the waitress kept getting his order wrong. The waitress made excuse after excuse about the kitchen being short-staffed, the waitstaff having problems, the manager being a big meanie and so on. My friend listened patiently and then said: "Yes, but why are you making these things my problem?" You may have the most valid defense in the world for whatever went wrong, but it still went wrong, didn't it? Hold yourself and your team accountable instead of publicly trying to duck responsibility.

Make Gentle Corrections

What if you didn't do anything wrong at all? What if the reviewer simply misinterpreted the situation and decided to blame you for it? You certainly don't want to apologize for an error you didn't make, especially if it leaves the false impression that you offer substandard products or services. In your response, gently point out the truth of the matter without making the reviewer out to be stupid or a liar, noting that you can understand how such a misunderstanding might occur.

Conclude Your Response the Smart Way

If you don't want your response to escalate into a war of words with an aggrieved customer, wrap it up with care. If you accept the blame for what happened, offer to make things right with a refund, a discount on a future purchase, or other such reparations. But don't end the response with an open-ended question such as, "Would you like to discuss the matter further?" This approach invites the reviewer to leave another salty reply for all to see. Instead, encourage the reviewer to contact you offline so you can iron the situation out peacefully.

When in Doubt, Outsource Your Response

Regardless of whether or not you actually fumbled the ball with an angry customer, you don't want to fumble it in your response to a bad review. If you don't trust your ability to reply with a calm, cool, positive tone, hand that task off to a professional copywriter. Business owners facing this dilemma have hired me to craft gracious, constructive responses on their behalf -- and I can do the same for you, so contact me today!