You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.
That famous sentence was first written by the poet, John Lydgate and later spoken by Abraham Lincoln. Today, we can use that sentence to characterize online reviews.
Sometimes, you’re going to have dissatisfied customers and some of those customers are going to post negative reviews about your business on Google, Facebook, Yelp and other review sites.
Being vigilant to negative reviews and responding appropriately communicates to previous and potential customers that you’re dedicated to customer satisfaction.
In this post, I’m going to share how to respond to negative reviews in a step-by-step guide.
Step 1: Assess the Review
In the first season of The Profit, a business owner would publicly argue and insult his customers online when responding to their negative reviews. Throwing a temper tantrum with every customer complaint is a sure-fire way to destroy a business’s reputation.
Instead, assess negative reviews by asking yourself questions like this:
- Should the review be flagged for spam or abuse?
- Can I respond without provoking the customer?
- Do I need more information from a team member or supervisor before responding?
- How can I resolve the complaint?
Create a list of assessment questions (like mine above) that anyone on your team can quickly reference. Not only does this make responding easier, but it encourages team members to adhere to guidelines and leads to more consistent, professional responses.
Step 2: Respond Quickly and Publicly
Respond quickly — ideally within 48 hours. Customers that review your business, will appreciate a quick response.
By responding publicly, you’re informing previous and potential customers that your business is capable of resolving customer complaints. In some cases, the customer might even update their negative review to a positive review.
Even if a business has several negative reviews, they can show their commitment to customer satisfaction by responding publicly. Potential customers who read their responses will likely consider that when making their buying decision.
Spellcheck and grammar check your responses with a free service like Grammarly. Don’t give the customer anything else to complain about.
Step 3: Apologize & Empathize
Don’t be afraid to admit if your business made a mistake or might’ve made a mistake. Apologize and empathize with customers by showing that you understand and share their feelings. This conveys your willingness to help and relaxes negative emotions.
Try apologizing and empathizing like this:
First of all, I’d like to apologize. I’m terribly sorry that you didn’t have a positive experience at our restaurant. I know you must be disappointed with us.
Just like the list of assessment questions in Step 1, create a list of apologies and empathy statements that anyone on your team can reference. This will lead to more consistent, professional responses.
Step 4: Address and Resolve Minor Complaints
The antidote to negativity is positivity. Address the complaint in a way that would satisfy yourself. Be friendly, but professional and keep responses short, clear and concise. Aim to be a nonjudgemental peacemaker.
Don’t expect customers to read company signage and remember holiday hours, refund policies, etc. Even though it can be frustrating when you put up notices and customers fail to read them — don’t make customers feel stupid.
For these type of minor complaints, address the negative review and resolve the issue in the same response like this:
Our holiday hours should’ve been posted on the entrance door from the day before Thanksgiving until the day after New Year’s. I promise the sign will not be removed again.
For major complaints, address the negative review like the following and then move onto Step 5:
Our team goes through special training and the behavior you mentioned is against our code of conduct.
Be consistent in resolving complaints. For example, if you offer a customer a full refund and a $10 voucher for a double-charged item, other customers with similar complaints or false complaints will expect the same.
Step 5: Transition the Conversation to a Private Channel
Avoid turning responses into a public chat — where you and the customer are messaging back and forth for anyone to read. If a complaint cannot or should not be resolved in Step 4, transition the conversation to a private channel (e.g. direct message, email, phone call) like this:
We’d like to learn more about the experience you had at our store. Please contact me directly at email@example.com or at 555–123–4567.
Anticipate problems in advance by providing a satisfaction guarantee that describes how you’ll address dissatisfied customers. This way, your business will have a standardized process for resolving customer complaints.
Step 6: Resolve Major Complaints
Once the conversation has moved to a private channel, immediately take action to resolve the complaint.
We love our customers.
That’s not a resolution.
Thanks for the feedback.
That’s not a resolution.
You’ll need to speak to my supervisor.
That’s not a resolution.
Find genuine, customer-loving resolutions and do it quickly.
I’m going to email you a voucher for your next meal worth $30. You can use this anytime and for any item. I promise you’ll have a better experience when we see you again.
That’s a resolution!
Sometimes, you might follow all of the above steps to address a negative review, but may still be unable to resolve the complaint. Unfortunately, some customers or even fake customers just want to troll your company. If this happens, flag those reviews. Google, Facebook and Yelp each have their own policies for flagging and removing reviews.
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Follow these best practices for responding to reviews on Google, Facebook and Yelp.
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You just learned how to respond to negative reviews. Follow these steps to communicate with previous and potential customers that your company is dedicated to customer satisfaction.