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Best Practices for Navigating Negative Reviews

Everyone loves a 5-star review, but what happens when you receive less-than-ideal feedback on a public platform? If you’re a business owner, dealing with negative reviews online is usually out of your direct control and can be stressful, overwhelming, and frustrating. However, if they’re not addressed, it can leave a permanent mark on your reputation and sometimes even have a devastating effect on your business. No one wants that!

Luckily, there are things you can do to help navigate reviews, along with best practices to follow when it comes to crafting a response to the reviewer. Let’s dive in!

Managing Your Reputation on Google & Facebook

Be timely with your response

Time is of the essence! Business owners and managers often find it difficult to respond quickly because, well, they’re running the entire business, but also because they want to make sure they’re prepared and taking time to offer the best response.

Since most reviews are date stamped, one of the most important aspects to managing your online reputation is to monitor regularly and be efficient when responding to reviews. Not only does this show your audience and community that you’re effectively managing all moving parts of the business, but that you also care about their opinions. It’s also an effective way to ensure important issues are addressed efficiently.

Pro tip: make sure that you have notifications toggled on for all of your online platforms that offer customer reviews (Google, Facebook, Yelp, etc) to ensure a quick turnaround time.

As far as turnaround time, a best practice we recommend is to reply within 72 hours or sooner. This allows time for any kind of escalation directly to the customer and/or with your team.

Never argue, rather apologize, take responsibility, and thank them for their feedback

There’s no hiding that a bad review popping up out of the blue can put a damper on your mood and trigger a flight or fight response. While businesses do everything they can to promote a quality customer experience, there are always a few customers who may have had a less than stellar experience that ends up affecting their rating.

Since it can be difficult to determine the root cause of the issue from such a short review, we always recommend avoiding defensive language and insead, acknowledge, apologize and say, “thank you.” Yes, we recommend you apologize, even if you feel your company was not in the wrong. You’re apologizing at the fact that this customer feels they did not get the level of customer service that your company aims to provide and that in itself, is unfortunate. And, a little compassion goes a long way.

Example: “I/we are very sorry to hear that we did not meet your expectations. We are known for our exceptional customer service, and we sincerely regret that we missed the mark here. We can assure you we are looking into this specific case with our team member(s) and hope to resolve it promptly and accurately as well as take the opportunity to learn and be better because of it. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.”

Take the time to deal with it offline.

Often, there are a lot of feelings towards negative feedback that can ignite a long-winded response from management to explain the full story. Unfortunately, there usually isn’t a quick solution and reasonable conclusion after the first interaction with a review. Always avoid this quick “fight” response when possible and instead, offer an offline resolution to the problem. Whether that’s a phone call or email, this will offer a personal touch and provide the opportunity for you to look further into the situation and of course, to learn from it.

Example: “I/we are very sorry to hear that we did not meet your expectations. We are known for our exceptional customer service, and we regret that we missed the mark here. We value your business. In our effort to better understand and resolve this matter, we have reached you directly via the contact methods we have on file. Please give us a call back so that we may have the opportunity to make this right. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.”

Follow-up after resolution.

Usually when a negative review is submitted, the customer is coming from a place of complete frustration and looking to vent, but not necessarily expecting a response. After the mistake has been corrected or resolved in some way, we empower you to follow-up directly in the original review feed to demonstrate your genuineness and willingness to personally resolve the issue.

Respond To All Reviews Regularly

Always make sure to respond to all of your reviews, whether they’re glowing or negative. This shows your audience that you care about what they have to say and will set a tone for future reviewers when they see that you are always open to resolving issues.

As a best practice, we recommend thanking the customer for their business and for taking the time to submit their review as well as specifically acknowledging any key value or service offerings they mentioned. Why not take the opportunity to acknowledge and reinforce the positive aspects of your business or a key value offering in your response to a happy customer’s glowing review? I also prefer to mention them by first name in my reply to provide a more personalized response.

Example: “Quick response, transparent pricing, professional, and punctual”- just a few of our favorite things! Thank you, Jerry, for taking the time to submit this glowing five-star review. We value your business!

Pro tip: We recommend making sure your review notifications are turned on and assigning a specific person to monitor, respond, and manage these platforms at least weekly.

Outsource Your Reputation Management

We understand that there are dozens of moving parts when it comes to owning and operating a business, and adding reputation management into the mix is just another task to assign to an already overwhelmed team member.

Let us take the pressure off of your internal team. SLW Media offers professional reputation management services for Facebook, Google, and more to ensure you never miss a review response opportunity. We practice what we preach and use best practices to craft an appropriate response to both positive and negative reviews, and work with you to administer a proper path to resolution.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to navigate negative reviews, grow your brand awareness, social media and/or utilizing other forms of content marketing to grow your business, we’d love to chat through your ideas and see if we’re the best team to help you achieve your goals.

SLW Media is an award-winning social media and content marketing agency led by Sara Wright. Sara and her talented team of word wizards partner with company owners in the design+build, trades, and luxury home services industries to completely remove the burden of social media and content marketing from their task list with quantifiable results – freeing up their time and resources to focus on other key profitable areas of the business.

The team at SLW Media is top-notch. I know because I tried two (or three?) other agencies before meeting Sara. She and her team captured my "voice" in their deliverables, understand my audience, and have exceeded my expectations in all that they provide. Not to mention, the time I got back by letting these badass professionals do what they do best.

- Michelle Lynne Pant, Owner, ML Interiors Group, Dallas, TX

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