Almost every business has experienced the panic of opening up their Facebook or Yelp page and realizing they have been left their first bad review. It is important to realize that businesses are run by people, and all people make a mistake every once in a while. Your company is not alone, and you should not feel discouraged in this situation. A bad review does not mean you own a bad business.

The key to resolving this PR problem is all in how you respond. In fact, a Harvard Business Review study shows that responding to your customer’s reviews, rather than ignoring them, will ultimately lead to higher ratings in the future. It has also been found that out of consumers who read reviews, 97% will read the response as well. Being aware of this information and understanding the importance of addressing a review, it is time to learn how to craft your response.

Respond Publicly

You can turn this negative situation into a positive by taking it as an opportunity to showcase your stellar customer service to the world. By responding to the review publicly, directly on the platform it was posted on whether that's Facebook, Yelp or Google, you are showing transparency and engagement with your audience. This in turn can increase trust with the readers and even attract new clients when they read your response and learn that you are a company who cares.

Address and Apologize

The first sentence of your response should be to acknowledge the complaint and apologize, even if you believe that your business is not in the wrong. Every customer’s experience is different and their review reflects their emotions from a situation with your establishment. This is why the apology is vital as it deals with the emotions of the reviewer, and sometimes not the facts. As the brand it is your job to surrender and be the “bigger person”. Simply including a “We are sorry to hear about your experience” should check this box.

Ask Questions

It is common for a frustrated person to leave a one star review with zero to no explanation and leave it at that. Even though this customer did not give you much to respond to, it is still important to address every single review. Posing questions to points that aren't clear or what exactly the problem was and how you could help shows that you are actually willing to implement changes for customers. Once the problem is found, then you can take your next steps into the response.

Be Slightly Specific

Another sentence or so speaking directly to the customer's point they brought up will earn you some points and show that you are not copying and pasting the same response to every review. Adding originality to the response will make your customer feel heard and respected in their particular case. This can be a great moment to include some of your company's values by stating a sentence similar to “We value the dependability of our products, and we apologize that we did not perform to the best of our ability here”. It is important to keep it short here, because if you back up every point it can appear that you are turning the response into an argument.

Offer to Move Offline

Once you feel you have followed each of the steps above publicly, you can then offer extra contact information for the reviewer such as a phone number or email. This additional step demonstrates to your audience that your company wants to continue this relationship with the customer until their issue is completely resolved. It is rare that a solution will be reached in the online chat format, so this step also provides convenience for both parties.

Sign your name

This short yet important step to your response will do a great deal when it comes to humanizing your brand. Once the reviewer realizes a specific person is responding to their issue, they may be gentler in their reply and grateful that someone has taken the time to help them. Doing this also provides proof that you value customer service by showing you have employees available specifically to resolve customer issues.

Although a negative review can feel disheartening to a business owner, it is important to understand every company will receive at least one bad review in their lifetime. Responding and acknowledging these reviews is key to taking control of the situation and could also potentially attract new customers. By keeping the response professional, understanding, and empathetic you are sure to make an impact on the 97% of people reading that reply as well as the reviewer themselves. By following the steps above, your business will be equipped to tackle any negative review that could come its way.

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