A How-to Guide for Responding to Negative Client Reviews and Comments
Many practitioners fear negative client reviews or comments without realizing these types of comments can actually have a positive effect on their practice. Bad reviews are a fact of business- it’s tough to please all your clients all of the time. Even the world’s best companies get the occasional bad review; it’s just part of doing business. The trick is knowing how to respond.
Many practitioners assume that negative responses are always bad for business, but in reality, they’re a unique opportunity to show humility, responsiveness, and loyalty to your clients. When done correctly, responding to a negative review can actually generate beneficial effects.
Plus, if you think about it – if there were no negative reviews, how would your clients ever believe your customer reviews were genuine?
If and when you get a negative review, the most important thing to remember is that it doesn’t mean your service is bad. Likely, the review was a result of mismatched expectations or simply a bad day on the part of the reviewer (or you).
In this article, we will outline a proactive process for responding to negative reviews and discuss ways negative reviews can improve your practice operations.
You received a negative review. Now what?
Here is a positive step-by-step process to respond to negative reviews.
- Answer Quickly. If someone is upset enough to leave a negative review, they usually do it pretty quickly after the negative experience takes place. They will expect a fairly prompt response back. It is the right thing to do, and it also helps to limit the damage done. Keep your response to the point and fairly short.
- Be Kind. There’s no doubt, some reviews get downright hurtful and ugly. Regardless, you should never stoop down to this level of unprofessionalism in your reply. Be thoughtful, positive and give a unique response (not copied and pasted) and address the person by name if possible. Resist being defensive and certainly don’t ever attack or retaliate. Avoid using all CAPS and strong punctuation!!!! Keep the same attitude you would use if you were talking to this person.
- Stay Calm. When you get a bad review it's hard not to give in to your first instinct of reacting emotionally — but nothing feels worse than later regretting an extreme reaction to a situation. The worst thing you can do is let your emotions take control of you. Something said in the heat of the moment can ruin a reputation for life. Something as simple as breathing can help calm you down and allow you to make better decisions.
- Acknowledge the Issue and Apologize. Just like in real life, most customers who complain on the Internet simply want to be heard. Before you try to get to the bottom of the problem, it’s crucial to empathize with them and apologize without blaming them. Demonstrate that you genuinely regret that a customer didn’t leave your business on a positive note. By apologizing, you show your customers that you not only care about their experience, you respect their opinion and you also listen to their feedback.
- Be Thankful and Appreciative. All feedback is useful feedback. Be grateful someone took the time to give you criticism, even when it’s harsh, and appreciate the fact that they are still offering you the chance to make it right. Negative reviews can actually be a good (and free) way to keep customers coming back. It is how you handle the negative comments that can turn a problem into a positive outcome for you.
- Offer a Solution Even more important than the apology is offering to fix the problem. Show that you’ve really put some thought into the solution by responding with a thoughtful message. Take the extra step to show that you’re not only sorry, but that you want to make it right and earn the person’s trust. Offering a gift of peace could be the first step in that direction. A gift card or flowers could certainly make an impact. But it also doesn’t have to be something expensive to win over a once-upset negative reviewer. Get creative and think about what would matter to you as a customer.
- Take it Offline. Offer to speak to the reviewer privately and refer them to someone who can remedy the situation. It is easier and more personal to communicate over the phone or text than going back and forth over review platforms. Don’t try to make the unsatisfied customer reach out to you. Get their contact info, ask for the best way and time to communicate, and apologize for their displeasure with your product or service. This will make sure the problem is solved as quickly as possible.
- Know When to Stop. Some clients will never be satisfied and will want to continue the argument. On public platforms, you will need to decide when it’s best to agree to disagree. If you find yourself needing to repeat statements you’ve already made, it’s time to walk away from the conversation. Nothing good can come from a constant circle of arguments. You’ll be more respected for handling a situation with the maturity to walk away.
- Follow Up with Negative Reviewers. Always follow up with negative reviewers. Make sure their issue(s) has been remedied and that they ended up a happy customer after the experience. If they can, ask them to remove the negative review if they haven’t already. It won’t always happen, but more often than not, a person will take a bad review down because they felt as if they were treated in a fair way and reached what they considered to be an acceptable resolution.
Don’t fear the negative reviews.
If there’s one thing you take away from this piece it should be this: Negative reviews are not that bad. If you handle each bad review with care and efficiency, you’ll win client trust and loyalty. Take negative reviews as an opportunity to showcase the human side of your business; continuously develop a strategy to monitor deal with these reviews. The best thing you can do is take care of your customers, and if they do write a negative review, reach out. Consider it an opportunity to learn and improve rather than be embarrassed by it.