The right way to respond to negative online reviews

There are dos and don’ts for dealing with adversity, including public knocks against your brand or business. You can make more than just lemonade with those lemons.

As with everything in life, there’s a right way and wrong way to do things.

Being savvy about responding to online reviews is an uncommon talent. When someone posts something negative about your business, your first reaction might not be suitable for public view. Your position may be absolutely justifiable, but that’s not going to get you where you want to go.

Managing a business’s online reputation has an important goal: to present a clear picture of your business for potential customers. In absorbing what’s being said online, consumers will cultivate expectations of your business. Trust develops once you deliver on (or exceed) those expectations. Your task then becomes accurately conveying those real experiences in your online interactions.

Here are great examples demonstrating the wrong way and the right way to respond to a negative review:

The wrong way

I came upon this review by way of my client. Coincidentally, we’ve been working together on strategies for their online reputation management, and she’s been keenly aware of feedback-her customers’ and her own.

She gave this business a three-star rating on Facebook, and the business responded. Keep in mind, this exchange is there for all to see:

What went wrong?

  • Clearly, the owner or responder did not take a moment to think about what to say. The reactive reply sends precisely the wrong message.
  • Due to the absence of a savvy, helpful response, this business has lost one and perhaps many more customers. When you respond to negative reviews, it’s not just a reply to that customer; it’s evidence for all your future customers to consider.
  • The review was a not-so-bad three stars. Three-star reviews most often convey a disappointment in your business and often can be remedied with simple fixes. You’re given the chance to turn a three-star into a five-star with your response. This business bungled that opportunity.

The right way

Recently, a bar in Hollywood received its first-ever one-star review. The owners’ response:

Well, not everyone is as pleased with our spirits selection as we are and decided to leave us our first ever 1 Star Yelp review.

We know we have to take Yelp with a grain of salt and we welcome all criticisms and promise to work hard to learn and grow from them.

We tried everything we could to please this anonymous reviewer, but nothing worked. So, rather than be upset over it, we decide to embrace it and throw a party and let all of our locals benefit from it.

Their response led to the local media running a story on the bar:

What went right?

  • The owner reached out personally and tried to make things “right” for the reviewer. He earnestly tried to fix it-an action witnessed by all future customers.
  • The business owners embraced the one-star review and seized the moment. Because it was their first one-star review, the owners played up that point authentically.
  • In embracing the reality of a one-star review, they were able to cleverly fold it into an awesome event filled with lots of people who will probably write five-star reviews.

Nothing is black and white when it comes to negative reviews. To mitigate catastrophes, it’s ideal to employ the right person monitoring and responding—someone with empathy, patience and emotional maturity, who is articulate and savvy when dealing with the public.

Social media and all other forms of online reputation management are a mixture of PR, marketing, advertising and data analysis. There is a right way and a wrong way to respond to negative reviews. Make sure your strategies cover all the scenarios.

Kathi Kruse is founder and CEO of Kruse Control. A version of this article originally appeared on the Kruse Control blog.

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