Handle Negative Online Reviews With This Simple Four Step Process

Written by Nick Leffler | 1 Comment | 7 min read

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Eventually, your business will receive a negative review online. It may come from Yelp, maybe Google Business, or even Facebook.  Don’t fret, though, it happens even to the best. This simple four-step process will help you handle negative online reviews.

Even if you go above and beyond to make sure every customer has an exceptional experience, managing expectations can go wrong. When expectations aren’t managed properly, a negative review is possible.

You provide a service or product. Customers come to you with an expectation of what they’ll get from your service or product. If what a customer receives doesn’t match what they were initially expecting, a negative review is possible.

Even if you give exceptional service, there will eventually be a customer whose expectations were even higher. Possibly unrealistic expectations.

Negative reviews happen when the customer experience doesn't meet customer expectations. Click To Tweet

The problem is when you may not hear about a customer’s negative experience until the negative review. Yup, all the sudden you have a 1-star review and no idea why.

Yikes!

What do you do then?

It’s your first time hearing about it and the customer’s description of their experience doesn’t sound anything like what you provided.

Don’t get defensive.

So what do you do now?

Almost every directory website and social media network gives you as the business owner the opportunity to answer those negative (and positive) reviews. It’s important to answer wisely and with empathy, though.

This simple four-step process will help you handle negative online reviews. Be sure you refer to this article and follow each step carefully. Don’t skip one!

Better yet, download the quick guide that you can print out and refer to.

Step 1 – Wait

The first step to handle negative online reviews is simply to wait. Sit back, kick your feet up and wait. Or you could keep yourself busy working on something else. Whichever works for you, do it, just don’t answer the review right away.

Emotions are high and defensiveness too when you first read that negative business review.

Take a day and think about what might have gone wrong. Where did the communication break down?

So, the first thing you should do is do nothing. A well thought out answer rarely comes at the spur of the moment when emotions are high.

The worst thing you could do is answer right away when you’re worked up from a negative review. When emotions are high from a bad review, a thoughtful answer is impossible.

Before you answer a negative review, sleep on it at least one night. Click To Tweet

No, you’re not special, either. You don’t have the amazing ability to answer with a level reasonable head even if you think so. No matter what amazing skills you think you have, don’t answer until you’ve at least slept on it one night.

After you’ve slept on it, proceed to the second step.

Step 2 – Get Clarification

Once you’ve slept and have had some time to think about your negative review it’s time to answer. Don’t try to resolve the negative review on the first shot. There had to be some miscommunication going on so it’s going to take some time and understanding.

Some companies try to throw money at a negative review or negative customer experience. That can help some in the short term but what really helps is to ask questions.

You’ll want to respond to the negative review by trying to understand where the problem arose. Mainly what step the customer’s experience got so bad they felt their only option was to write a negative review.

Understand there is a good reason the customer wrote a negative review. It’s your job to understand why they had the reason to.

By asking a question about their experience you’re focusing on your customer’s experience first without focusing on yourself just yet. Just try to understand the customer’s side of the story.

Understand your customer first, resolve the negative experience second. Click To Tweet

Your job is to understand first, resolve second.

If you’re able to understand where the customer’s experience went wrong, you’ll be able to take the discussion offline from the review site and resolve their concerns. That brings you to step number three.

Step 3 – Take It Offline

Now it’s time to try to take the conversation offline. Don’t try to ask too many questions on the review site. One message with a two-part question will suffice.

You can apologize for the bad experience, ask for clarification, then ask if they wouldn’t mind emailing your customer service email or private messaging you.

Hopefully, the customer is receptive to your questions about their service. Sometimes people aren’t if their experience was too negative but most will be.

With a complete understanding of your customer’s experience, you’ll be able to resolve it on your side and for the customer. It will either take changing how you set expectations for customers or improving the service your customer received.

Taking a loss on one customer is most cost-effective than accepting a negative review. Click To Tweet

If you can, do whatever it takes to resolve the issue even if it means losing a bit of money. A negative review can do major damage to your business. Taking a loss on one customer won’t be as costly as a negative review will.

Sometimes you won’t have to rely on money to make the issues better, though. Sometimes there’s something more simple you can do. It’s your job to figure out what the customer’s problem was and offer a fitting solution to their problem.

You’ve taken it offline and solved their problem (I hope). Now it’s time to move onto the fourth and final step.

Step 4 – Ask For An Updated Review

If you want something, you have to ask for it.

That’s why the final step in the process to handle negative online reviews is to ask the customer to update their negative business review.

If you’ve followed each of these steps and the customer was receptive to you fixing the problem, they’ll probably be willing to update their review.

On a rare occasion, you may run into a person that just wants to be negative. These people won’t accept you trying to make it better and will leave their negative business review. Either that or the issues was so bad they don’t have trust in you fixing it.

Sometimes you just have to move on the best you can. In time a lot of positive reviews can counteract a negative review.

In either of those are the case, the only thing you can do is treat the customer with compassion, learn from the experience, and move forward. You should focus on not letting the same thing happen again.

I hope you have the best experience getting an updated review. If you can pull off an updated review then you’ll come out with a new review and a positive or neutral one, that’s great!

Just to be sure you step through each step one at a time, don’t try to rush it. Time to recap.

Handle Negative Online Reviews Recap

Now it’s time to look at the steps again, this time really fast.

  1. Wait: Don’t answer right away. Take a day, sleep on it, answer tomorrow.
  2. Get Clarification: Get the customer’s side of the story, don’t try to explain yourself.
  3. Take It Offline: Take the first opportunity to take the conversion with the customer offline.
  4. Aks For An Update: Asking for an update to the review once their problem is resolved is the only way you’re going to get it fixed.

That’s it! Hopefully, with each of these steps, you’ll have resolved your negative business review. There’s nothing that can harm your business more than public recognition of lackluster service.

If you put every customer through a feedback process then you’re more likely to stop public negative reviews before they’re ever public. Our online review management solution helps you not only get more good reviews but also stop bad reviews before they make it public.

Do whatever you can to resolve it as quickly as you can (while still waiting a day of course!)

I created an easy guide that you can print out and use to help remember the steps to handle negative online reviews easily. Download it and print out the quick guide.

Download the Handle Negative Online Review Quick Guide

Along with the printable quick guide, this infographic makes it easy to handle negative online reviews.

Handle Negative Online Reviews Infographic

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Author Bio:

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Nick Leffler

Nick Leffler is the owner of Exprance, a Sacramento web design and digital marketing agency which helps businesses reach their customer online. Nick has grown his online presence with a small marketing budget by blogging, organic social media posting, and email marketing.

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