Just as one positive review won't make your business, one bad review won't break it either. But there's no question that it can hurt your pride as a small business owner.
Negative feedback, as with all online reviews, should be on your radar. And that's because about 95 percent of people consult review sites before making purchase decisions, according to the Northwestern University report “How Online Reviews Influence Sales.”
Responding to online reviews—both good and bad—is a great way to show potential customers that feedback matters to you. It helps show that you take suggestions into consideration and you're always looking for ways to provide better products and services.
Negative reviews vs. good reviews, by the numbers
It may feel like unhappy customers are the only ones writing reviews. Where are your happy customers? In fact, research shows that 45 percent of those with bad customer experiences are likely to share on social media compared to 38 percent with positive ones, reports Adweek.
While it may be frustrating, you can take comfort in the fact that even the Great Wall of China only has an average star rating of 4.2.
There can even be an upside to negative reviews. Bad feedback can be informative for potential customers. It can help them understand that, say, that your local restaurant gets busy on weekends but is quieter on weeknights. Businesses that receive too many overly positive reviews may appear not authentic and in some ways, like they're gaming the system.
Responding to negative reviews also shows potential customers that you’re attentive to not only customer service, but how you represent yourself to customers. Addressing negative reviews lets customers see what to expect by reading your previous responses, whether they’re in a positive or negative light.
Getting started with online reputation management
Responding to negative reviews is a two-step process. The first step involves getting access to be able to respond. If you already have access, you can skip ahead to the second step: The best way to respond to bad customer reviews.
Step one: How to get business owner access to respond to reviews
Google, Facebook, Yelp, and Nextdoor (that's us) are among the most popular online directories that business owners should create (or claim) company profiles and listings for.
If your company doesn't yet have a profile on these sites, each has a section for business owners to start creating their listings. On Nextdoor, your Business Page houses all of your recommendations that past customers have left. To see if you already have recommendations, claim your free Business Page.
If your company already has a profile—one you didn't create, you may be wondering, “How did someone create a profile for my company without my involvement?” This type of listing is user generated. That means anyone could’ve created it, such as a customer or employee, without your knowledge. On Nextdoor, you may find that you already have positive recommendations left by neighbors after claiming your Business Page, but only businesses are allowed to create Business Pages on the platform.
Each review platform has its own process for business owners to claim business profiles or create new ones.
Step two: The best way to respond to bad customer reviews
Keep in mind that you're always writing for two audiences.
The first is the customers with complaints who want their bad experiences to be acknowledged (and ideally rectified).
The second is potential clients who will review responses, wanting reassurance that, should they experience any issues, their concerns will be addressed. Here are some tactics for addressing both audiences:
- Reply in a timely manner. More than half of customers expect businesses to respond within a week, according to one survey.
- Keep things short and neutral. The worst way to respond to a negative comment is with more negativity.
- Acknowledge the concern. Above all, people want to feel heard.
- Share the next steps. Let the original poster (and anyone who reads the review afterward) know that you'll be looking into the issue raised and will be following up.
- Take the communication offline (or move the conversation to a direct message). That way you can ask for the reviewer's phone number or email and potentially share other private details.
Here's a sample response that you can modify for responding to negative online reviews of your business:
Dear [first name of reviewer],
I am sorry to hear about your experience. We take pride in providing exceptional customer service and will look into the issue you shared with us here. Thank you for bringing this to our attention so we can improve the customer experience for you and for future customers.
Someone from the team will be private messaging (or calling or emailing) you to follow up.
[Your first name and title]