3 steps for dealing with negative online reviews

So, your business got a negative review. Now what?

It’s tempting to let your emotions take over. After all, you’ve worked hard to build a great business and take pride in offering stellar customer service. It’s hard to not take negative feedback personally.

But instead of responding emotionally, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. You’re not just responding to a single upset customer, you’re sending a message to potentially thousands of customers who will evaluate your business based on what they learn about you online.

It’s almost impossible to remove negative reviews, so you need a strategy for dealing with them. In this post, we’ll outline 3 steps for doing just that. In addition, we’ll show you how to attract more customers from online review sites like Yelp, Google, Facebook, and TripAdvisor without spending a dime on advertising.

Why do online reviews matter?

First off, let’s get the big question out of the way: do negative reviews even matter? The resounding answer is yes. Here’s why.

First, no matter what kind of business you run, people use the internet to find you when they’re looking to spend money. In the past few years, online review sites have replaced window shopping, Yellow Pages, and old-fashioned word-of-mouth. In fact, today 97% of people read online reviews and 88% trust them as much as recommendations from friends and family.

Second, negative reviews scare away potential customers and distort the perception of your business. In fact, a single negative review can cost your business up to 30 customers.

Let’s say you run a small, local restaurant and someone posts a 1-star review of your business online. According to our State of Local Restaurants report, the average independent restaurant in America has 48 customer orders per day, so that one review could reduce patron visits by two-thirds!

Thankfully, you have options. Follow these 3 steps to neutralize negative online reviews.

Salon negative reviews Every business type, from salons to tire shops to cafes and everything in between, needs a plan for dealing with negative online reviews.

Step 1: Claim your business listings

Every business, even brick-and-mortar shops, has an “online business presence,” which refers to how your business shows up on your website, social media sites like Facebook, review sites like Google and Yelp, and more.

Sites like Google and Yelp create listings for local businesses no matter what, but you can take ownership of your business listings for free. If you don’t claim your business listings, you can’t update critical information, like your contact information or hours of operation, and you can’t respond to customer reviews.

Claiming your business listings should be a no-brainer considering online review sites are the #1 channel for local businesses to acquire new customers. Still, according to a national study by Brandmuscle, only 33% of all Yelp listings and 44% of Google My Business listings have been claimed.

Claim your listings. It’s the prerequisite to neutralizing negative reviews. Plus, new research from Womply shows that businesses that claim their listings on multiple online business reviews sites make 58% more money!

auto mechanics online reviews

Step 2: Respond to all reviews

People have always said negative things about businesses. They’ve just never shown up on the internet until recently.

Today, at least you get to join the conversation. Every time you respond to a negative review, you increase the odds that customer comes back, and you send a positive message to anyone else who reads your response.

Up to 70% of complaining customers will give you a second chance if you resolve their concerns. Even if the customer’s review is inaccurate or unfair, take the high road and keep your response short and sweet. Post your contact information so you can take the conversation offline.

At Womply, we talk to hundreds of business owners every day and we routinely hear that this approach works. Nathan Stuart, owner or Seafood Kitchen in Florida, deliberately seeks out negative reviews so he can turn those complainers into repeat customers. It works.

We recommend responding to every review, especially negative ones, because it sends a message about how much you care. Plus, recent research from Womply shows that businesses that regularly respond to their online business reviews earn up to 49% more revenue!

Woman standing outside florist

Step 3: Get more reviews

The final step in dealing with negative reviews is to get more reviews from your best customers. Consider these facts:

  • 7 in 10 customers will leave a review if you ask
  • 90% of consumers reach less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion
  • 73% of people say reviews older than 3 months are no longer relevant

In other words, you can bury that negative review by swarming it with positive reviews. Every local business should get into a regular pattern of requesting customer reviews. If you do, your online business reputation will start to more closely resemble the actual customer experience and negative reviews will lose their punch.

Save time with technology

We know that small business owners and operators are some of the busiest people around. At Womply, we help more than 150,000 small businesses in all 50 states take control of negative reviews with simple, easy-to-use software solutions.

With Womply, you can:

  • Claim and manage all your business listings on popular review sites
  • Read and respond to all your reviews from multiple sites in one place
  • Get more reviews from your happiest customers.


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