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A happy customer tells three friends; a disgruntled one – at least 15 people. But it’s even worse if they leave a one-star review for everyone to see. On the web, it can reach millions of people.

There’s one thing you can do to ensure that public negative feedback is kept at the bare minimum. You have to learn how to respond to negative customer feedback in a constructive way.

How to Respond to Negative Feedback

Negative feedback is good for you. It helps your company improve and grow better than the competition.

However, if a disgruntled customer takes it to the web, everybody on Facebook, Google My Business, or Yelp can see the one-star rating and their poor experience with your business.

That doesn’t have to ruin your branding on the web. A bad review can become a good opportunity to show you care about customer satisfaction.

Here are 7 proven steps to respond to negative feedback and turn an uncomfortable situation into something constructive for customers and your business.

1. Address the Customer by Name

It’s just a little psychological trick, and you may think that there’s no need to do this. Sure, you can start your response with a quick hello, or a “Dear Sir,” but it’s not as potent as writing the person’s name.

Unless you’re running anonymized surveys, the name of the person is stated in the review, so it wouldn’t take a lot of effort to find it out. By saying their name and referring to their feedback, you show that it’s not an automatic scripted response, and they’re talking to someone who’s going to take care of their problem.

If the issue they have with your business can be solved at all, the reviewer can be more cooperative if you start the conversation in a friendly way. This restaurant owner did it the wrong way.

Example of negative feedback online
Source: Kung Food/Yelp

2. Apologize to The Customer

You may be thinking that this customer knows nothing about the business and is not right for putting up a review. You may think they were in a bad mood and you couldn’t do much in terms of service. You may think it’s a competitor, not a genuine reviewer.

Either way, you have to say sorry to them to get their attention. Take a look at how this restaurant owner handled a one-star review on Yelp. He disagrees with the reviewer but apologized nonetheless.

Response to negative feedback
Source: Lokma/Yelp

3. Sympathize with Customer’s Problem

Just as in the previous step, you don’t have to agree with the customer to understand their frustration. Imagine yourself in their shoes. You come expecting a great service, but it’s far below your expectations. It can potentially ruin your day.

This is why a person who left a negative review deserves your sympathy. Make sure you tell them you understand their feelings to ease up the following conversation. Here’s how this hotel manager does this.

Example of negative feedback
Source: Millennium Biltmore/Tripadvisor

If the experience at your business ruined someone’s day, they may be writing the review in anger. Words of sympathy are the least an angry person expects. When they hear them, they may be more willing to understand you as well.

4. State You’re Solving the Problem

In some cases, a reviewer who doesn’t like your company is only guided by preferences.

Negative review – example of negative feedback
Source: Marlowe/Google My Business

In many others, there was a problem with your business. Your customer service rep. was rude, shipping took longer than expected, or the product came damaged. Basically, the customer created a review instead of talking to support.

If that’s the case, you have to help the reviewer. But taking the matter to your customer support team doesn’t cut it. The review is on display now, and you have to put your reaction on display as well.

Example of an unflattering negative review and response
Source: Searchdispensary

From the perspective of someone who wants to buy from you, finding you respond to a random review offering help is a good sign. A potential customer learns you care about your users and can sort things out if something goes wrong.

Mention reaching out to the reviewer to solve the problem, and the impact of a negative review will be minimized.

5. Offer a Gift

Another way to try to give a reviewer a more positive impression of your business is by asking them for a second chance. If the problem they’ve had is out of ordinary, get the client to come back by offering a gift.

It can be a discount, or free shipping, depending on your type of business. However, the problem they complained about can be a regular one. If this is the case, asking them to come back before you fix it is just counterproductive.

6. Ask the Customer to Change the Review

Did you fix the problem the reviewer had? Did they come back for a discount and loved your business? It’s time to ask them to change the review.

Don’t ask about it publicly, and don’t be too pushy. If the person liked your business after they gave it a second chance, they will be willing to do it themselves.

If they don’t change it, after all, it’s okay. You’ve done the bulk of review-related PR already.

7. Put up with Negative Reviews

Some reviewers just don’t like your business. It’s the price, the style, or one negative experience they’ve had with you. This customer took it against a restaurant even though she liked the food.

Example of negative feedback
Source: LaLe/Yelp

You can’t do anything to change their opinion. The good thing is you don’t have to. Respond with grace, apologize, and focus on getting more positive reviews instead of changing negative ones.

How to Gather Positive & Negative Customer Feedback

It can be daunting to scan social media to find feedback about your business. Getting feedback on your own social media page or on specialized websites is easier to monitor, but it’s still on the reactive, not proactive side.

Monitor your performance by gathering feedback yourself. This will make sure many negative reviews online never appear in the first place.

Gathering feedback from your clients is easier than you may imagine it. It can boil down to sending your customer a CSAT survey in the channel that they use the most often.

It’s non-intrusive and doesn’t ruin customer experience by asking to spend time to complete a full test. It might also show you whether you have a problem with your website or internal processes.

Focus on dealing with customer problems early on, use a variety of customer satisfaction metrics, and you may have to deal with public negative feedback significantly less.

Easy Way to Ask Happy Customers to Review

If you just had a nice encounter with a customer in person or online, simply ask them to review you online. Even better if you have their email address as you can then send them an email survey.

A common way to do this is to ask for their satisfaction on a scale from 1 to 10 or 0 to 10 (like in Net Promoter Score surveys). For instance, if they click 9 or 10 they will be asked to leave a review on a site like TripAdvisor. If they give you fewer points, they will be directed to a feedback form of your company.

Final Thoughts

Customer feedback is important. Keep in mind that in the age of the internet, your reputation is shaped mostly by what customers are saying on your business across social media, online review websites, etc.

By responding to negative feedback, you can make a positive impact on your brand reputation, get to know your customers better, increase their engagement, loyalty, and even boost financial outcomes.

Ready to start collecting feedback? Set up your free Survicate account right now and have your first survey up and running in five minutes!

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