Respond to Negative Reviews Like a Pro

Posted by Miriam Robinson

Miriam was a Marketing Content Specialist for SpeedLine Solutions from 2019 to 2020, and was always on the hunt for great topics to share with restaurant entrepreneurs all over the world.

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The Opportunity of a Negative Review

Receiving a negative customer review online is never a good feeling. It’s natural to feel like the review was unjustified and to respond defensively. Although it’s great to receive positive reviews, getting a negative review on your social media page or on a review site is not the end of the world. On the contrary, when responded to in the appropriate way, it can actually become an opportunity to attract new customers. 

Scott Weiner, founder of Scott’s Pizza Tours in NYC, explains that review sites don’t just get visited by the post authors; a large portion of views actually come from individuals browsing restaurant reviews before making a dining decision. In fact, research shows that 89% of consumers read businesses' responses to reviews. This means that when you’re writing a response to a review, you’re not just replying to a comment, you’re writing to potential customers. This creates the perfect opportunity to showcase the kind of experience people can expect from your restaurant.

There is also an opportunity (as unlikely as it feels in the moment) to win the disgruntled individual back and see them return as a loyal customer. Since only 1 in 25 unhappy customers will complain to you, this customer is actually providing you with a golden opportunity to understand the issue and rebuild your relationship.


6 Tips to Help You Respond to Negative Reviews Online

The following tips will help you respond to the inevitable negative reviews that come your way:

1. Respond Quickly

If a customer is upset enough by an experience to leave a bad review, they will likely leave it soon after the incident. This also means that they are likely to expect a prompt response in return. Responding swiftly will help limit the damage, and show your commitment to your customers.

2. Answer Calmly and Professionally

Avoid the urge to respond defensively. Remember, you represent the face of your company. It doesn’t look good for a business to stoop down to any level of unprofessionalism, regardless of how nasty or unfair a review was. Try not to take it personally, and instead focus on de-escalating the issue. Answering the complaint calmly in your brand’s voice and avoiding a spiraling conflict shows company character and professionalism.

3. Address Issues and Apologize

Attempting to “parent” or blame the customer makes the review worse. It may feel good in the moment to make them feel small, but it will actually hurt you more. A negative response can quickly turn what could have been chalked up as just a whiny review into a presentation of your company’s insensitivity. Instead, apologize genuinely to the customer by name for failing to leave them with a positive experience, and address their concerns. Be polite, and avoid excuses. By the end of the reply, the customer should be left feeling not only heard, but understood.

The following examples given by Scott Weiner shows how much more constructive a positive reply can be.

Negative Review #1:

Handling Online Reviews - Bad Review

Company Response: (Poor)

Handling Online Reviews - Bad Response

Negative Review #2:

Handling Online Reviews - Bad Review

Company Response: (Excellent)

Handling Online Reviews - Good Response

4. Start and End on a Positive Note

As illustrated in the above example, start on a positive note. If the review mentions anything positive about your restaurant, start with that! A potential customer browsing will read that first and be reminded of your best qualities. After addressing the issues they describe, end on another positive note. This can be done by thanking them for bringing it to your attention, or by expressing your commitment to remedying the situation for future guests.

5. Personalize Each Reply

As tempting as it may be, avoid using templates to reply to negative reviews with the same response. Template responses tend to depersonalize the encounter, which can make the reviewer feel unheard. Instead, make sure each reply is customized to the comment and the issues contained in it. It may take more time, but it will show your customers you care and want to help.

6. Report Fake or Misleading Reviews

If any reviews are fake or misleading, they can be removed. For example, reviews left by former employees or the competition are against most terms of service agreements, and when reported on the platform, can be removed. There are also similar ways to deal with spam comments and fake reviews on Google. 

This is not to say, however; that you should be removing all negative reviews across social media and your website. Although reviews and comments may not always be positive, social media is about developing relationships and staying in touch with your customers, even when they are not full of glowing praise for your restaurant.

Interested in learning how to notice and respond to positive customer reviews as well? This article will help you put your best foot forward online.

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Posted on Wed, Jun 10, 2020 @ 07:06 AM.
Updated on November 19, 2020 @ 8:04 PM PST.

Tags: Listening to your Customers, Online Marketing

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