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October 19, 2018
[This blog was updated in 2023]
Reviews can make or break a small local business, but if you're in business long enough, you're going to get some bad reviews.
Getting a 1-star review hurts. But they can actually benefit your business!
You may be tempted to ignore them, delete them, or set the story straight publicly - but these are all mistakes. Responding to bad reviews can turn this negative into a positive!
Research has shown that consumers are skeptical when businesses have nothing but 5-star reviews - the sweet spot is right around 4.7 or 4.8 out of 5 stars!
A few bad and average reviews in the mix can add credibility to the authenticity of all the reviews.
Of course, you’ll want a majority of positive reviews over negative ones, but a few negative reviews aren’t necessarily damaging to your business.
When someone leaves a bad review, you have four choices. You can:
Research shows that engaging positively with dissatisfied customers can lead to repeat business—almost 70% of unhappy customers will give a company another chance after receiving a helpful response to a bad online review.
On top of that, even if the customer who left a bad review is never coming back, your response is an advertisement to anyone who stumbles across it.
So how do you do turn a negative review into a positive? Follow these steps:
It can be upsetting to read a bad review. It is natural to feel angry and want to defend your business.
Negative reviews are inevitable for any business.
Don't let these feelings affect your response. You don't have to respond in the first hour a review is posted—give it a day, sleep on it, or whatever euphemism you like. No matter how right you are, stay professional.
Although you may be upset by what was said, keep your communication professional and polite. Make sure the customer knows you listened to their complaint without making excuses for what happened. In other words, empathize—don’t explain.
Often, reviewers want to see that their opinion makes a difference. By acknowledging their complaint (but not making excuses for it), you’ve given them what they needed most.
This not only helps the person who has left a bad review, but it also shows future customers that any problems they have will be addressed. A thoughtful response could encourage them to reach out to you - because you'll listen - instead of just leaving a nasty Yelp review.
If possible, you can go one step further.
The solution can be whatever is suited to the specific situation—an apology, discount, refund, or policy change. The goal is to show the reviewer and everyone else that you're constantly working to make your business better.
Offering to make amends shows anyone reading the review that you care about your customers and want them to have a positive experience. At the same time, you don't need to share the specifics of exactly how you’ll fix the problem in a public forum, which brings us to the next step.
As quickly as possible, attempt to move the discussion offline. You don’t want to go back and forth with an unhappy customer in a public forum.
Instead, your response should be something like, “I’m sorry to hear that you were not happy with [our service/policy/bill]. I would like to discuss this issue with you in more detail to find a solution that meets your needs. Please call me at xxx-xxx-xxxx or email directly at email@example.com at your earliest convenience.”
Now that you’ve crafted a polite, empathetic, and personalized response and offered a solution, you need to do one more thing: have an impartial person review your answer. It will help ensure that your tone is appropriate, you’ve hit all the right notes, and you didn’t inadvertently say something that might inflame the situation.
When dealing with something highly charged and emotional like a bad review, getting another opinion on your response is always a good idea.
Despite your best efforts, emotion or defensiveness may have crept into your reply. Another person might pick up on this and help you fix it.
Once you’ve posted your response, and assuming you’ve been able to make amends to the customer or resolve their issues, politely ask the reviewer if they’ll consider updating or changing their review to reflect these experiences.
If you’ve done the work to win back their business, they’ll be much more inclined to update their review to reflect this.
Once you get past the emotion, reread the review. Bad reviews can be excellent learning opportunities because they highlight potential problem areas that you may want to address.
Don’t allow emotion to cause you to miss the truth of what a bad review might be saying—it could be invaluable information! Even if the person is being rude or unfair, their review is still a data point that could be insightful.
On the other hand, the review may just be someone who didn't get their way - don't change your business model for someone that you don't want as a customer. Still, don't get into a mud-slinging internet fight with them.
By engaging politely and positively with negative reviews, you’ll demonstrate to the reviewer and other customers that you take reviews seriously and are seeking to make improvements. It will help mitigate the effects of the negative review for everyone who reads it.
Finally, remember that you should be monitoring and responding to all customer reviews—not just the bad ones. It is just as important to thank customers for leaving positive reviews as it is to respond appropriately to negative ones.
Responding to reviews is an important part of Self Storage SEO!
And, responding to reviews shows that your business cares about its customers and reputation.
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