8 Guidelines for Online Brand Managers When Responding to Negative Reviews

No business likes to get negative feedback. But if you’re an online brand manager, you need to be prepared to respond to negative reviews, and respond quickly, if one gets posted. From Yelp to Facebook and Google Listings to Glassdoor, social networks and online reviews are opportunities for brands to shine. Responding shows that a business is active and wants to hear its customers’ praises and concerns.

Responding to negative reviews in a timely manner requires a combination of strategy and creative thinking; here are eights guidelines to follow in that challenging situation.

  1. Thank the writer for their review. No matter how many or few stars a review is, showing that your brand is receptive to feedback is incredibly important. And if a customer took time out of their day to share their experience, beginning the response with a simple “thank you for your feedback” can help increase customer advocacy.
  2. Not responding IS responding. Current customers and prospects make fast decisions about how engaged your brand is with customers and how much you really care about their satisfaction. People will notice if you don’t respond to complaints, particularly if you’re quick to acknowledge only positive reviews.
  3. View the response as an opportunity—possibly to win one customer back, but also to show you’re engaged. It has become common practice for reviewers to update their review once a new interaction with the brand has swayed them to do so. Every bad review is an opportunity for a good review. But even if you don’t change that person’s mind, remember that countless other people will see it. Responding to a negative review in a timely matter and acknowledging the concern is much better than giving the impression you don’t care.
  4. Look for a fix. Was their favorite product removed from a store? Was a particular employee rude to them? Ask yourself, “What steps can I take to help make this situation better for this customer? Then, let the customer know the steps are being taken.
  5. Get a second opinion—particularly when in a sticky situation. Care should be taken when responding to negative reviews, particularly if it involves personal or financial information. In those scenarios, explaining you can’t go into detail due to the sensitive nature of the complaint (while offering to deal with the matter more privately) is often the best approach.
  6. Also respond to the positive reviews! This is the fun part. Connecting with customers on all levels is incredibly important. If a customer sees that a brand is responding to reviews, they may be more inclined to leave one.
  7. Ask for reviews from satisfied customers. Particularly if a social page goes through a rough patch of reviews, there’s no shame in asking for one, especially from someone who wants to share a positive experience.
  8. Go to the source. Mistakes happen, particularly online, and sometimes a review may end up on your business page that was meant for a different company. In that situation, don’t let it linger. Contact the platform it is posted on and ask to have it removed. Every website will have their own guidelines to doing so. For example, here is Google’s and here is Yelp’s.

Whether it’s responding to negative reviews or writing effective website copy, at SCG we are consistently working with brands to ensure their online presence supports their goals and objectives. If you would like to learn more about our process, please reach out to me.

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Dana Farmer

Dana creates compelling content for clients and gets it in front of the right eyes. She has managed public relations and social media for dozens of brands. With a background in Journalism, she’s a firm believer that getting the story right yields big results.


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