How to respond to negative reviews

In this 4-minute read:

  • Does responding to negative reviews matter?
  • Can I remove or hide bad reviews?
  • How to deal with negative reviews online
  • How reputation management software can help

Has your business ever received a negative review? It will. Every business gets a bad review once in a while–hopefully not too often, but negative reviews are unavoidable. In fact, most customers would be suspicious of a local business with a long list of only positive reviews, as it doesn’t seem realistic in our increasingly online world.

Having trouble with negative reviews? Lean how reputation management software can help. Learn more, plus get free reputation monitoring and customer insights when you sign up for Womply Free!

Still, it can be difficult not to take a negative review personally. After all, you’ve worked hard to create a good business based on exceptional customer service. How dare someone post slander about you and your hard work, right? Relax. Once you learn some key tips about how to respond to negative reviews, you can turn this opportunity into into a key win for your business.

Before we share those tips, it’s important to clarify just how important your online reputation is.

Does responding to negative reviews matter?

You might ask yourself: do bad reviews even matter? The answer is an unequivocal “Yes!” Whatever kind of business you run, customers now use the internet to find you. Over the past decade, online review sites like Yelp, Facebook, TripAdvisor, and Google my Business have replaced traditional word-of-mouth and outdated resources like the Yellow Pages or local “mailers.” Today 97% of people read online reviews for local businesses, and 88% trust these reviews as much as recommendations from friends and family.

Some negative reviews can be particularly harmful, as one study found that a single negative review can cost your business up to 30 customers.

But don’t worry. No single bad review, no matter how scathing, is enough to permanently damage your online reputation. And by following just a few simple practices in how to respond to negative reviews, you can often turn that bad review into a net positive for your business’s online image. Plus, recent research from Womply shows that businesses that regularly respond to their online business reviews earn up to 49% more revenue.

Can I remove or hide bad reviews?

We get this question from business owners all the time, and who can blame them? A bad review can often feel unfair and personal, and when it’s up for the world to see, it’s only natural to want to take it down at all costs.

The short answer to this question is that it’s complicated. You can flag reviews that violate a review site’s policies, but in the vast majority of cases, a bad review of your business is probably there to stay. For more information about this, read our article on how to remove Google reviews.

In addition, Womply’s data shows that negative online business reviews aren’t necessarily as harmful as you might think. Businesses with between 10 and 25% negative reviews make the most money!

You might also like: How to fix your online business reputation.

How to deal with negative reviews online

The majority of negative reviews your business receives won’t be those that violate a site’s review policies. Most bad reviews come from a genuine customer who, for whatever reason, had a negative experience at your place of business.

Local businesses who are experts at managing their online reputation know that the most effective approach to negative reviews is to have an established plan.

1. Claim your business listing

First things first, you need to claim your business listing in order to manage and respond to your reviews. If you haven’t yet claimed your business listing, don’t worry, it’s free and fairly straightforward. In addition, new research from Womply shows that businesses that claim their listings on multiple online business reviews sites make 58% more money! We’ve gathered links to help guide you through claiming your pages on some of the major sites:

We’ve also written helpful how-to articles on claiming your business pages on Google, Yelp, and TripAdvisor.

2. Respond to all your reviews

People saying bad things about businesses is nothing new. But the internet has give those people a much broader and more permanent audience. The good thing is, today you get to join the conversation. Whenever you respond to negative (or positive) reviews, you show that you are responsive and concerned, and you increase the odds that an unhappy customer will return.

We recommend responding to all reviews, not just negative ones, because it sends a message that you value customer satisfaction and are involved in the success of your business. Read our article on how to respond to Google reviews to learn more about how important this practice can be.

Plus, a recent Womply report shows that businesses that regularly respond to their online business reviews earn up to 49% more revenue!

Respond to every single review on every review site might sound overwhelming, but it’s definitely worth it. And with solutions like Womply’s reputation management software, you can make things easier by replying to reviews from all review sites in a single location.

3. Respond to negative reviews following the R.E.S.T. model

You should approach responding to bad reviews online in the same way you would respond to a customer delivering an in-person complaint. Many upset customers are simply looking to be heard and understood, and a well-written response to a bad review goes a long way. Not just for the customer who left the review, but for any curious customer searching for your business as well.

Whenever your business receives a bad review, we suggest you follow the R.E.S.T. model:

Respond quickly: A single negative review could cost your business 30 customers (especially if left unanswered). Reply ASAP to show you care about all of your customers.

Eliminate emotion: Stay calm and be the adult in the interaction. Keep in mind that prospective customers will be reading your reply. This is your chance to show you are reasonable and civil. Instead of responding emotionally, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. You’re not just replying to a single upset customer, you’re sending a message to thousands of people who will evaluate your business based on your behavior online.

Say you’re sorry: You don’t have to admit wrongdoing. Even saying, “Sorry you had a bad experience!” can go a long way towards taking the reviewer’s guard down and helping prospective customers see you in a positive light.

Take it offline: Up to 70% of complaining customers will give you another chance if you resolve their concerns — don’t miss out on that repeat business! If a customer is really upset, try to take the conversation private. Provide an email address or phone number and ask them to contact you to resolve the issue.

Remember, all reviews are useful feedback that can help you improve your business and services!

4. Get more reviews

One of the most effective ways to counter negative reviews is to get more positive reviews from your best customers, and increase the ratio of positive to negative reviews. Here’s some food for thought:

  • 7 in 10 customers will leave a review if you simply 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

All local businesses should get into the habit of requesting customer reviews (never ask for a “positive” or 5-star review… just mention that you appreciate feedback and ask them to leave a review). As you get more positive reviews, your online business reputation will begin to reflect more accurately your actual customer experience, and any negative reviews you get will be less harmful.

Read our article on how to get Google reviews for more tips and tricks.

Save time responding to negative reviews (and positive ones) with reputation management software

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

With Womply’s reputation management software, you can:

  • Claim and manage all your business listings on popular review sites
  • Read and respond to reviews from multiple sites–all in one place and with one login
  • Get more reviews from your most satisfied customers

Learn more, plus get free reputation monitoring and customer insights when you sign up for Womply Free!

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