How to Address Criticism in a Negative Review

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We all know that stomach-sinking, heart-stopping feeling that happens when we see a negative review pop up somewhere online that has less than kind things to say about our businesses.

If you don’t, you almost certainly will at some point in your business’s lifespan. For one reason or another, there will be some client that’s unhappy with you at some point, and they’ll voice their opinion online.

Don’t panic, though, because while negative reviews aren’t fun, they’re also not the end of the world. Depending on how you handle the situation, you can even turn a negative comment into a rescued customer experience in a very public way. This is true whether it comes in the form of a comment on one of your blog posts or a verified buyer review on Amazon.

In this post, we’re going to look at how to respond negative reviews in a way that will benefit your business instead of hurting it, harnessing that criticism to your benefit.

What Not To Do

Before you actually respond, pause for a minute. This will keep you from reacting on instinct, which almost never turns out well. These reactions may be emotional, and they’re not often well-thought out. It’s better to cool down and take a more systemized approach to negative reviews.

Here’s what you don’t want to do when a negative review pops up online:

  • Delete the comment. Other users will see this, and the original customer may come back with a vengeance, because now they’re really mad. It will look like you have something to hide, and the loss in authenticity you’ll suffer will be a lot harder to overcome than just a single bad review.

 

  • Argue with or try to discredit the customer. Some businesses try to play the blame game, but that doesn’t work when you’re the business. It’s a little like when your preteen screams “I HATE YOU” in your face; you can’t scream “I HATE YOU TOO” right back, because you’re the adult in the situation. If you were at fault, own it; it’ll look better than trying to pin the mistake on a paying customer or a third party, even if it was a third party’s fault. And please never, ever be rude, even if it wasn’t your fault.

 

  • Ignore the comment all together. Ignoring unhappy customers is pretty much telling all potential customers everywhere that yeah, you did that and no you don’t care. You may not have a big blow up because of it, but you’ll risk quietly losing plenty of customers in the background.


  • Copy and paste responses. This reeks of laziness, and it frustrates customers that you don’t care enough about their individual situation to resolve it personally. Because trust me, they’ll notice. Instead, you can use a template response for negative reviews, but make sure to customize it appropriately. 

It’s important to note that responding to online criticism lets you get a voice in the conversation, taking a small part of control back. You get to defend yourself (if appropriate) and show users that you are invested in your relationship with your customers. You can’t afford to pass up that opportunity.

How to Respond to Negative Reviews Online

We’ve covered what not to do, so now let’s take a closer look at how you should react when you see a negative review pop up online. What I recommend my clients do is to follow three simple steps.

  1. Look into the situation. Look up that customer in your CRM. Did they try to get their situation resolved with your customer service team? Are they telling the truth about what happened? Did your business make a mistake?
  2. Respond publicly. Respond to the review as soon as you can following your research. Apologize that they’ve had an unpleasant experience, and apologize for the specific grievance they have if your business actually made it. You can be firm without being rude, but also apologetic. Stand your ground if needed but don’t dig yourself deeper into the hole.
  3. Ask users to reach out to you privately. Within your public reply, let the customer know that you want to do what you can to make the situation right, and ask the user to reach out to you privately on a specific channel so that your team can resolve the issue if possible. This can be a contact form on your site, a private message on social media.

What this does is it shows both the customer who left the review and all other users seeing it that you are invested in your customers and that you always want to try to strive for customer excellence. This is important because it can actually turn that negative comment into a selling point for your business.


Not sure what this looks like? You can use the following as a template:

“[Name],

We’re sorry to hear that you had that experience with us. We apologize that it took so long to respond to complaints while we were training our new customer service team. We’ve got the team back up and running, so if you could send us a private message through our site, we’d like to resolve the situation for you.”

What If the Review was Fraudulent?

Unfortunately, sometimes there are people in our lives who just want to make things more difficult. Maybe it’s an angry ex-employee, or a difficult ex-boyfriend or girlfriend who is feeling up to a little sabotage. Either way, sometimes people who are not actual customers of yours will leave very public and even very convincing negative reviews.

If you know for a fact after investing that a review of fraudulent, there are steps you can take to protect your business.

First, you can go ahead and address it directly in your response. If someone is accusing your business of stealing from them but you have proof that you refunded the money, go ahead and say that, and then invite them to contact your customer support for more clarification if needed.

Second, some platforms do let you get reviews removed, though their takedown process can be a little fickle and doesn’t always work.

Facebook lets you “report posts” on reviews, though this doesn’t automatically have them taken down; instead, it gives you a chance to inform Facebook of what you believe to be a fraudulent review. Facebook may or may not oblige depending on whether it violates their terms of service.

Google also has a system in place to let you request to have a fraudulent review removed. To do this, click on the flag next to the reviewer’s name and you’ll be taken to a form that you can fill out flagging the violating review. Make sure to specify how it violates Google’s terms of service; this is the key.

If that doesn’t work, you can always file a legal request to have the review removed, which you can do here.

Conclusion

When you’re deciding how to respond to a negative review, remember that all businesses will get them at some point. Keep your cool, look at the facts, and respond to each situation in a personalized way. The more authentic and genuine users perceive your response to be, the more impact it will have. By doing this, you can turn a negative review into a tool to help you build your positive reputation.

Ana Gotter
Ana is a content marketer, copywriter, and ghostwriter specializing in business management and social media marketing, though she's written in a variety of other niches. She can be contacted at anagotter.com
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