One of the many things we do as a marketing agency is help our clients manage their online reputation. The fact is, having a good reputation brings you more customers and grows your business. Having a bad one (deserved or not) can be so harmful that it puts you out of business.
Yes, that’s scary, and it’s why it can be so stressful dealing with bad reviews. However, when you have a proven response plan in place, it gets easier. And you’ll know you’re doing everything you can to keep your business healthy.
In this article, we’ll lay out exactly what to do and NOT do when responding to a negative review on Facebook or anywhere else.
Let’s start with your first question: Is it really worth responding to negative comments on social media when most of your reviews are good?
The answer is almost always YES. (I say almost because there is an exception which I’ll explain below.)
DON’T be tempted to ignore a negative review
Here’s why it’s absolutely essential to respond to a negative review on Facebook, Yelp, Google, Trip Advisor, and any social review platform that your customers and prospects might find when evaluating your business:
- If you don’t respond to a negative review, people assume the complaint is true and reflects the way you typically do business.
- What’s worse, they think you don’t care that a customer had a bad experience. This reflects poorly on your customer service and business values.
- You lose an opportunity to win the customer back and get them to change or take down the review.
- When you respond regularly to both positive and negative reviews, your ratings can improve. According to a study conducted by Harvard Business Review, businesses that begin responding to reviews see their ratings get better. (You can read the HBR article to learn more about why that happens.)
Keep reading to learn best practices for responding to negative reviews.
DOs and DON’Ts for how to respond to a negative review on Facebook or Yelp
DO get prepared
In the heat of the moment (and especially when you’re upset about an unfair negative review), it can be tempting to say the wrong thing in a hasty response to negative comments. It helps to have some “canned” responses prepared ahead of time, which you can adjust to fit the specific situation that arises. Because, sooner or later, it happens to everyone.
DON’T take it personally
Or at least try not to! I know it’s not easy when it feels like someone is attacking you with their negative review. But remember the age-old advice: while you can’t control what someone else says or does, you can only control how you react.
Keep your cool: take a deep breath, take a quick walk, eat some chocolate if necessary! Then put on your sympathetic hat and your professional courtesy, and get to work to fix the situation. That’s the best way to deal with the stress that comes with negative feedback on social media.
DO act quickly
I’d like to give you a formula for how quickly you need to respond to a negative review on Facebook or Yelp, but it depends on your industry and how upset the customer is. As a general guideline, it’s great if you can respond within a few hours, and never wait longer than a week.
One thing you can do to make sure you never overlook responding to negative social media posts is to set up an autoresponder to send a canned message if you don’t respond personally after a set period of time. I would not recommend using this as your regular response strategy, because with a canned response you can’t make it personal.
If your business gets a lot of reviews on a variety of platforms, using a social media management tool can make it easier to keep an eye on your reviews.
DON’T tolerate inappropriate content
When you find a negative review, remember that it’s not okay for a reviewer to use offensive language, threaten you with harm, repeatedly harass you online, or otherwise post negative reviews on social media that are against the rules established by the platform. If you feel that’s the case, report the review to the platform (Facebook, Yelp, etc.) and ask that they take down the review.
Since it can take some time for a review to be removed, you may want to respond with a short statement so other viewers can see that you aren’t ignoring the issue.
Here’s the exception I mentioned earlier. You may want to avoid responding to negative social media posts if you’ve been threatened or you’re concerned that the person may be dangerous. In that case, alert the appropriate authorities and certainly don’t give the reviewer your contact information!
DO apologize, the right way
Start by addressing the reviewer’s primary compliant:
“I’m so sorry to hear that you are unhappy with the service at our restaurant last night.”
Whether the fault was yours or not, you can sympathize with their feelings. Next, you want to convey that theirs was not a typical experience:
“We’re known for exceptional customer service, and I’m disappointed to learn that we missed the mark here.”
Thank the reviewer for giving you the chance to improve:
“Thank you for bringing this situation to our attention so we can do better.”
If the problem was truly your fault, you can include a few words about how you plan to make things better.
Here’s an important tip: don’t include the name of your business or product in your response. If you do, it’s more likely that the negative review will come up when people search for your business online.
On the other hand, you should include your business name in responses to positive reviews, since you do want searchers to find those reviews.
DON’T hash it out online
Here’s another important tip for handling negative feedback on social media: don’t ask for more information or offer too many explanations in your response. If you do, you encourage the reviewer to post more negative comments in reply.
Instead, encourage the reviewer to contact you offline to get to the bottom of what happened and find a solution:
“I’d like to discuss your experience and make things right. If you’re interested, call me at (your business phone number) at your convenience. I look forward to speaking with you.”
DO work it out with the reviewer
Many times, people post negative reviews on Facebook and Yelp because they want to get your attention to fix their problem. When you do manage to fix the situation to the customer’s satisfaction, you can often get the reviewer to modify their comments or take down the review entirely.
Of course that’s good for your online reputation, but don’t forget that you also have a chance to keep a customer who may refer you to others (both online and through word of mouth).
DO bury the negative review… the right way
No, we are definitely NOT suggesting that you go out and get your friends to post fake positive reviews to bury the negative one. Never mind the ethics of that, you’ll never get away with it. Yelp and Google are very good at spotting fakes and taking them down.
One thing you can try is asking people to rate your performance on your own website, and give them the idea to cross-post their review on other social platforms.
However, the most important thing you should be doing is growing your positive reviews organically. How? By actively seeking out feedback about customer experience, and doing everything you can to fix problems BEFORE they lead to negative reviews.
Many businesses make the mistake of assuming their customers are happy until they find out otherwise (through negative reviews or simply by declining sales). Don’t wait for that to happen to you.
Want to know the best way to find out what your customers really think of you? And use that intelligence to transform your customer experience (and prevent those upsetting and damaging customer reviews)? HELLO Marketing can help. Get started with a free 20-minute consultation that will help get you on the right path.
Call Lauren at 973.214.5942 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.