Having reviews for your business is a great way for people to learn more about your product or services and decide if that’s where they want to spend their money. Unfortunately, all businesses are bound to get a negative review on occasion. These are not necessary a bad thing for your company if you learn from that feedback and reply to the customer in a sincere way.

Respond to Negative Reviews

Here’s five tips to help you respond to a negative review of your business.

Respond in a Timely Manner

The most important part of responding to a customer’s complaint is to not wait for days, but respond as soon as you can. It looks bad for your business if you respond to a bad review months after it was posted. A prompt reply under the original negative feedback can help deter other customers from worrying about the same issue from your business.

That said, it’s always better to take a little bit of time to craft and perhaps get a second opinion on a well written reply than posting immediately. If you reply within a few hours of the review being posted that is fine. A customer will not expect a response within five minutes of their feedback being posted. It is perfectly reasonable if a review comes in after your business hours for you to respond the next day.

Respond Publicly

If the review was posted somewhere the public can see it, you should reply to it publicly as well. You can go into full details with the users not in the public eye, but need to acknowledge that you’re reaching out for everyone to see. You can say something like “Hi Mary, this is the store manager Sharon. I’m so sorry to hear about the service you received and would like to discuss it with you further. You can call me at…”.

Be sure to identify your role within the company (especially if the response is by a manager or owner) as well. This allows the reviewer to know whom they can follow up with if they have an issue. This also helps other people who see this complaint know that management or your customer service team care about what users have to say.

Apologize Sincerely

Not taking ownership of the issue or making excuses can escalate into a worse problem for your business. Don’t be defensive or argue with the customer in your public response. This can not only upset that reviewer further, but also deter other potential customers who see that response from picking your services in the future. Get another employee or friend to read your response before you post it to be sure you don’t come off sounding condescending or disingenuous.

A recent example of how not to respond to a customer’s complaint is Amy’s Baking Company. In August of 2010, they received a bad Yelp review from a customer who was unhappy with the quality of the food and dismissive service. Instead of apologizing and taking the issue offline, the owners argued with and insulted the customer in a now infamous 8 paragraph tirade. They have had numerous issues with their treatment of customers since then and according to reviews and news sites often have very few customers in their bistro, and the ones they do have often have their cell phones out eager to catch the owners yelling at employees.

Be Brief

You don’t want to go into extreme detail in your response to a negative comment. Because users cannot see your facial expressions or hear your tone online, sometimes your good intentions of a full explanation of the issue may not come out as you had wished.

It’s best to apologize for their concern and ask the customer to contact you privately to help them out further. Depending on your company, you may want to offer them another chance to visit your company with a large discount for their next service. Example: “Thanks for your feedback Ryan, I’m sorry to hear you didn’t like your meal last night. We’d like to show you we’re serious about high quality Italian dishes and if you’d like to visit again please see the manager on duty for a free entree.”

Verify it’s Legitimate

Some negative (or even positive) feedback of your business on common review sites like Yelp, Facebook, or Google Plus may have been added by spammers. It’s also possible that the review was left for another business with a similar name as yours and not your actual company.

If the feedback is inaccurate or seems to be about another company, you should still respond to the review and address that point politely.

In the aforementioned case of Amy’s Bakery Company – who have now been featured in numerous news articles, two tv shows, and countless blogs – their Yelp page is full of a mix of reviews, but it’s hard to tell which are legitimate and which are people trying to get their 15 seconds of fame with the company.

The bottom line to remember when you’re responding to an online customer review – negative or positive – is that the customer is always right.

Need help with online reputation management? Contact the internet marketing and SEO experts at TheeDesign Studio in Raleigh, NC at 919-341-8901 or schedule a consultation.