Customer Service / Customer Experience

Turning Bad into Good: Handling Bad Reviews

Twila Grissom & Brian Lindamood

Updated: Sep 21, 2022 · 4 min read

Toolkit for download in this article

tips for responding to bad customer reviews

When a customer isn’t happy—and then goes a step further to post their complaint on a site like Yelp, Google, or Facebook for all the world to see—it can be hard not to take the criticism personally.

However, online reviews are here to stay. A recent Search Engine Land study found that 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations and 72 percent of consumers say positive reviews make them trust businesses more.

Bright Local customer trust

While you can’t completely prevent or fix bad reviews, you can respond to them and mitigate their impact to protect your company’s online reputation.

When you receive a bad review, your initial reaction will likely be one of three things:

  • Get defensive
  • Profusely apologize
  • Spit in the face of criticism

But before you do any of the above, it’s important that you take a moment to assess the review before taking action.

Tips for responding to bad customer reviews

Consider if it’s a product or service vs. experience

The majority of negative reviews are based on the customer’s experience. If the negative review was based on the experience, not the product or service, there are a couple directions you can go.

If someone gives a bad review that and you have an active solution for resolving the customer’s issue, it is much easier to deal with the review in a positive way with the response: “We can solve this.”

Making amends can be challenging (especially if the review is opinion based) but more often than not a simple email reaching out to the person and thanking them for their constructive feedback will go a long way.

Additionally, responding with “this is great feedback,” acknowledges an opportunity to improve your process. For example, without the negative review, you may have never known that our return policy was misplaced and poorly received. Sharing this may help fix bad reviews.

How to manage bad reviews

Respond quickly

Deliver the results in a timely manner. You aren’t done with this process until you deliver on what you promised. Make sure you follow through is timely enough that they can still remember the initial interaction.

Make sure you set up notifications on your profiles with major review sites and create a Google Alerts notification for your company name so that you receive an immediate alert whenever a review is posted.

Remain calm and courteous

Demonstrate your professionalism by being gracious in your response; thank them for the feedback, post a sincere apology and offer to look into their concern and make it right. Do not post a response that’s defensive, and do not get into an argument with a customer on a public review site.

Be specific and thorough

You want the customer to know that you have read their review and you’re taking the time to write a personalized response. Don’t cut-and-paste a short, generic answer that ignores their concerns. Instead, use the customer’s first name in your response and include specific details from their reviews, such as product names or service details.

Take the discussion offline

Do not air everything publicly but do respond publicly so anyone who sees it doesn’t think it was ignored. Post a note in response to the review, such as: “I am very sorry to hear about your bad experience, and I want to do what I can to fix it. Please email or call us so we can make this better.”

Ask for a follow-up review

Reassure your upset customer that you will be fixing the problem. Be as specific as possible. You want to make sure that you set up their expectation in a way that you can deliver on and over deliver.

No one wants to see all their hard work reduced to a few complaints on the internet. But you can take control and demonstrate to reviewers—and their readers—that you’re an attentive business owner who cares deeply about customer satisfaction.

How to Fix Bad Reviews

With the right response, you can even turn a negative review into something positive for your small business by taking the opportunity to demonstrate great customer service.

In the end, if you continue to prioritize quality service and quickly diffuse negative feedback with the right responses, the number of positive reviews you receive will far outweigh the occasional bad review.

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