Recently stumbled upon this interesting Q & A thread on Slack as I was scrolling through casually.

“I have a question about responding to reviews in a bit of a tricky situation. I have a client (a restaurant) who had to ask a group of patrons to leave after they were rude and disrupting other tables. Their meals were comped, but they were not allowed to stay. They left a negative review on Facebook. Does anyone have any thoughts on the best way to respond to that review.”

Now, regardless of whether you’re in the restaurant business or not,  – a negative review – justified or not – isn’t something any business hopes, dreams or aspires for.

Here’s an interesting stat from reviewtrackers.com –

94 % of consumers say that a bad review has convinced them to avoid a business.

Staggering, yes. Surprising… no.

Social proof is the HUGE motivator when it comes to my buying decisions – online or old school.

So let’s talk about handling such situations with grace instead of being dismissive.

Here are a few ways to respond to tricky negative reviews.

1. Acknowledge and thank the reviewer

When responding to unpleasant reviews, it’s important to come from a place of understanding and let that reflect in your choice of words. Get your mind in the right place before you sit down to respond, else step away from the keyboard.

This may sound trivial, but it’s a stepping stone to making your customers feel heard. Often, even acknowledging hurt or pain has the potential to open minds and change hearts.

So make sure you start out on the right footing.

2. Apologise and empathise

For example, saying something like this could go a long way –

“I’m so sorry we made you feel rushed. No one likes an aggressive salesperson and I’m disappointed it came across this way.”

The other question that comes up often – ‘Can the customer really get away with bad behaviour and is the customer always right?’

Of course, the customer IS NOT always right.

And anyone who thinks otherwise may have serious boundary issues in their business.

But here’s the essence of the “customer is always right” quote.

It’s that; even when the customer is wrong, you don’t need to come from a place of animosity.

Bashing and pointing fingers is neither good for you nor for the potential customer reading your response to the original reviewer. My mother always reminds me that it takes two hands to clap. So when there’s a mistake, it’s likely you had a part to play – even if it was trivial.

All you are doing is apologising for your part in the problem and not taking responsibility for their words or actions.

3. Acknowledge and hold yourself accountable for your part of the problem

In some instances, poor customer experience issues can be traced only to isolated events. Regardless of these one-off occurrences that may crop up without anyone’s fault, negative feedback in these areas can help you spot the not-so-visible cracks and crevices in your delivery process and help you fix them.

When you hold yourself accountable to a higher standard – you stand to gain as you go miles ahead of your competition by delivering enjoyable experiences to future customers. It also shows that you’re serious about providing value and that you’re in this business for the long term.

4. Communicate any corrective measures taken and take the convo offline

Words have tremendous power. Words can hurt and heal at the same time. Mysterious is the power of language, I daresay!

But words backed by actions take it a step ahead.

While action backed responses might not be appropriate for every negative review… If the problem called out in the review is an easy fix, communicating any rectification measures taken when responding to the original reviewer is a big YES.

Also, on a per case situation, it may be wise to end the conversation with a quick note to resolve the problem offline via direct chat or phone.

Anyway,

Like everything else in life – if we develop the vision to see opportunities in problems, we stand to grow as individuals and businesses.

What are your thoughts on dealing with negative reviews? Anything I missed out on that you’d like to add?

Cheers,
Arnab