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Reviews are a two-way street. Customers write them, and it’s the business owner’s job to thank them when they’re great and to address the negative reviews in a timely manner.

Sure, it’s very easy to thank a customer for a great review. It’s good for your company’s image. When potential customers see that the review process is interactive through the good reviews you respond to, it fortifies a business’s image as attentive and caring. But the opposite is even more important.

The importance of responding to a negative review

If your business faces a negative review, it’s extremely important that you respond to it. Just responding is not enough though. You must respond properly and not make the situation worse, and certainly not make you or your business look bad.

Case in point, we were working for a holistic health care center. The owner was a bit of a loose cannon. 

They frequently got negative reviews and instead of the owner responding professionally to the negative reviews, she would argue with the unhappy customer and make the situation worse.

Common mistake to avoid at all costs

Some of these responses would make the customers even angrier and they could change their 2-star review to a 1-star review. This would further agitate the business owner, and sometimes the argument would spiral out of control.

Why is this bad? Because to a potential new customer, it just looks like a mess. It looks like a traffic accident, and a potential new customer will immediately avoid this type of situation and go elsewhere, where the traffic is free-flowing.

Never argue with an angry client 

Arguing with a customer that writes you a bad review is perhaps one of the worst things that a business owner can possibly do. I know from personal experience that it’s extremely difficult to remove an undeserved negative review. I know how painful it is to try so hard to please an irrational customer, only to be rewarded with a 1-star review. But arguing with them is only going to make things worse.

Thank the customer for his time

That’s why when a business owner gets a bad review, they must immediately address the customer. The first thing they should do is thank the customer. I know it sounds crazy, but if an upset customer was motivated enough to write a bad review, a smart business owner would be wise to thank them for their time. This is because unhappy customers, like all of us, consider their time valuable.

Apologize but don’t admit the wrongdoing 

The next thing a wise business owner should do when responding to a negative review is apologizing that they’re unhappy. It’s important not to admit any wrongdoing, even if there was wrongdoing. Simply thank the customer, apologize that they’re unhappy, and ask them if there’s anything that can be done to satisfy them.

Your response is the reflection of your business

The important thing to realize when considering your response is how you will look as a business owner to potential new customers. It’s not only about the unhappy customer who wrote the bad review. That’s small potatoes compared to the larger picture. Your response and your company’s reputation in handling unhappy customers is on the line.

A bad review can cost you a lot 

You would be wise to bend over backwards and offer a free service, or anything else that might make the customer feel better, even if you’ve already bent over backwards to help them. The cost of a free gift, service, or product to appease the customer will always be less than the cost of lost business from the negative review. 

Professional customer service is all you need

The chances of the customer actually removing the review or changing it to a positive review may be slim, but what’s important is that new potential customers will see that you are a responsible business owner and that you care about your business enough to do whatever is necessary to make a customer happy. In this way, a negative review is your chance to shine, and to show new potential customers that your customer service, especially when things go wrong, is top-notch and second-to-none.

Robert Portillo, founder of Nimbus Marketing, and his family.

About the author:

Robert Portillo is the founder of Nimbus Marketing. Nothing satisfies him more than expressing his thoughts well. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two sons. He can often be found at local farmer’s markets, hiking trails, and the beach.