5 Tips on How to Handle a Bad Online Review

We’re not perfect — we’re human, after all — but it’s unfortunate when our customers are witness to it. Thanks to social media, sharing a slip-up with the world is as easy as posting a bad online review on Yelp. The good news is that 75 percent of reviews posted on review websites are positive; the negative reviews are simply part of doing business.

Whether you need to make amends or protect your brand’s reputation, here are five tips for dealing with negative reviews on Yelp (these can be applied to other review sites, too):

1. Don’t be angry; be grateful. You learn more from failure than from success, so think of a bad review as a golden opportunity to get feedback, make improvements to your business and build customer trust. Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said: “When customers complain, business owners and managers ought to get excited about it. The complaining customer represents a huge opportunity for more business.” In fact, 95 percent of unhappy customers will return to your business if an issue is resolved quickly and efficiently. Thank your reviewers for their comments while keeping a cool, professional tone at all times.

2. Be responsive and consistent. Your instinct might be to pretend the bad review didn’t happen, but not responding to the comment is a mistake. Instead, reply to your reviewer’s concerns in a timely manner. Business owners who have claimed the Yelp page for their business (learn more here: https://biz.yelp.com/claiming) can respond to reviewers through a private message or by posting a public comment visible to anyone who reads the review. Responding to reviews is a great way to build goodwill and show how much you care about your customers, your reputation and your business.

3. Offer solutions, not more problems. Negative reviews can feel like personal attacks, but try not to fixate on being right, and don’t get wrapped up in an argument. Instead, consider the customer’s experience and ask yourself if there’s validity to his or her claim. Then focus on creating a solution by being clear with your customer about how you’re going to fix the issue. Most customers are willing to let businesses make things right and give them a second chance. Taking responsibility and owning up to the problem is the best way to move the situation forward in a positive way.

4. Keep it simple and personalized. Yelp allows you to reply to a review just once, so take your time and make it count. Avoid generic replies that sound insincere; instead, personalize your response by being specific to the customer’s experience. Keep your message short and to the point, and be sure to thank the customer for their business and feedback. If you’ve made changes as a result, let the customer know. This information could win back their business. Yelp suggests trying to resolve issues through private messaging first, but if you feel a public comment is necessary to protect your brand, defend yourself as politely as possible without attacking the reviewer.

5. Know when to bring in the experts. Estimates indicate that 10 to 15 percent of online reviews are fake or malicious. While Yelp’s Review Filter does its best to hide those, you can flag reviews that violate Yelp’s Terms of Service for evaluation by a Yelp team member. If the review is a lie and is damaging to your business, protect yourself; untrue comments can cause you harm and you could lose business if they’re left unaddressed.

Remember, the best way to handle bad reviews is by replying quickly and politely. Seventy percent of people consult reviews before purchasing, which means that potential customers are reading the comments. Make sure they’re walking away with a good impression of you and your business.

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