Address the Reviewer
Your customers want to be heard individually and addressed personally. So don’t forget your salutations and, if possible, avoid the generic “Dear guest,” or “Dear customer.”
Consider the following customer reviews data: 76% of all reviews are either on Google and Facebook. This means you can usually get the name of the reviewer, and use it as a way to further personalize your response.
Say Thank You
Show customers that your business appreciates and values candid unsolicited feedback, and always remember to say thank you in responses to reviews (even the bad ones).
Here are some variations where saying “thank you” goes a long way:
- “Thank you for your review. I’m sorry to hear you had such a frustrating experience, but I really appreciate you bringing this issue to my attention.”
- “Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We’re sorry you had a bad experience. We’ll strive to do better. ”
- “Thank you for letting us know about this. Your feedback helps us get better. We are looking into this issue and hope to resolve it promptly and accurately.”
Apologize and Sympathize
Saying sorry shows that you care about your customers and that you’re not too proud to own up to your mistakes.
Even if it’s not your fault, say sorry anyway. This is a great opportunity to establish and strengthen trust between you and the customer. Besides, people can turn away from businesses that are too perfect or too proud to apologize.
Just like the rest of the response, keep you apologies short and sweet:
- “We apologize that our service did not satisfy your expectations.”
- “We’re so sorry that your experience did not match your expectations. This is on us.”
- “We set a high standard for ourselves, and we’re so sorry to hear this was not met in your interaction with our business.”
Don’t make excuses. Even if what happened was an uncommon instance, an isolated case, an unfortunate incident, an off day — acknowledge the customer’s experience. At the same time, provide reassurance that you hold yourself to high standards.
Some things you can say:
- “I’m so sorry. We’re normally known for our exceptional attention to detail, and we regret that we missed the mark.”
- “We always aim to deliver a great experience, and we are gutted when we don’t meet expectations. Thanks for taking the time to bring this to our attention. We will use the feedback to make us better and to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
- “Thank you for posting a review and we’re sorry to hear that your experience was not up to standards. We would like the opportunity to talk and investigate your feedback further.”
Make Things Right
When dealing with negative feedback, try to avoid cookie-cutter responses that do not resolve or address any specific issues raised in the review. Include details about the customer’s experience in your response (when relevant), and communicate any changes or improvements you have made or will make as a result of their feedback.
If there’s nothing you can do to fix what happened, here’s a compelling way to respond to the reviewer, take ownership, and promise to make things right in the future:
- “I apologize on behalf of everyone at [Company Name]. Please know that your situation was an exception. As you can see on other reviews, we are known for taking ownership and caring deeply about our customers. We can’t fix the past but you have my personal commitment to improve the way our staff serves every customer. Until then, please accept my sincerest apologies on behalf of everyone on the team.”
Take the Issue Offline
It’s always best for you and your customer to talk directly about the problem they had and take the issue offline. This saves any further embarrassment on your side of the issue and prevents interference from outside sources. For this reason, you should provide direct contact information for customers in your review response.
Here are some things you can say:
- “We would like the opportunity to investigate your feedback further. Please could you contact me at [Email Address] or call our team at [Phone Number]? We’ll work with you to resolve any issues as quickly as possible.”
- “We are sorry that your experience at [Company Name] didn’t quite match your expectations. We would love to know why, so that we can deliver a better experience next time. You may reach us anytime at [Email Address] or [Phone Number]. Again, thank you for your feedback!”
Ask for A Second Chance
Don’t slam the door on negative reviewers. Instead, extend a (digital) hand. Invite them to come back and when they do, welcome them with open arms.
Not only does this create an opportunity for you to change the conversation; it also establishes confidence in your ability to deliver an experience worth raving (instead of ranting) about.
Some things you can say:
- “Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. I’m very sorry we failed to meet your expectations. I would appreciate another chance to earn your business. Please call me or ask for me next time you’re at [Company Name].”
Real-World Examples of How to Respond to Negative Reviews
It’s evident that there isn’t one perfect way to respond to a negative review. The fact that numerous brands have found different ways to create great review responses show the opportunities available to winning back an unsatisfied customer. As you read each example, notice that they all use elements of the response best practices listed above.
Responding to a Negative Restaurant Review
Restaurateurs know that delicious food doesn’t always guarantee a 5-star review. Take notes from this heartfelt response to a review that commented on other aspects of the dining experience.
Why it works: In the response, the restaurateur acknowledges that the guest’s experience “could’ve been better” and offers ways to deliver a better or more satisfactory experience next time — all while keeping the tone polite and professional. By highlighting the upstairs seating, the response not only offers a solution to this diner, but also offers a tip to prospective diners who may be reading this review in the future.
Responding to a Negative Hotel Review
When a loyal customer expressed her disappointment with her anniversary stay at the Stamford Plaza in Brisbane, executive assistant manager Dale John wrote a pitch-perfect response.
Why it works: The response addressed the reviewer and started with a “thank you.” It was also very specific about the customer’s experience and provided detailed information on how the hotel planned to resolve certain issues and maintain its standards.
Responding to a Negative Healthcare Review Response
For healthcare providers, it’s a little bit trickier to craft responses to negative patient reviews.
With the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which is designed to safeguard patients’ health information, healthcare marketers must be able to respond without referring to any specifics about medical care or the patient’s identity, which could be construed as “patient data.”
You can read more on how to respond to reviews and meet HIPAA compliances, but here’s a great example in action:
Why it works: The review response addresses specific issues without breaking confidentiality. It also communicates the provider’s concrete plan to make things right (“We recently hired a consultant…”). The response also wisely offers to take the conversation offline — demonstrating the provider’s genuine desire to engage with the patient and solve the problem.
Responding to a Negative Financial Services Review
Negative reviews can also hit banks and financial services providers. By replying in a timely manner, you minimize the possibility of other potential clients being swayed by the experiences of an unsatisfied customer.
Why it works: This review response feels sincere instead of defensive. Sometimes, simply thanking the customer for their feedback and apologizing can go a long way. Take note, again, of the offer to take things offline and discuss the issue privately.
Responding to a Negative Review of a Veterinary Clinic
Here’s another example of a response to a negative review; it’s from a veterinary clinic, a business in an industry in which emotions can run high, especially in times of a pet’s health crisis.
Why it works: Pet owners can be extremely vocal and opinionated. In response to the negative Facebook review, Forest Grove Veterinary Clinic posted a classy and professional reply that highlighted the company’s values while also directly addressing the customer’s experience.
Travel and Hospitality Negative Review Response Example
JetBlue Airways’ Twitter account serves as one of the company’s main customer service channels. When a customer named Esaí Vélez complained (politely) about his backseat TV not working, JetBlue responded within minutes.
Why it works: The swiftness with which JetBlue responded is impressive. While it’s a response to a tweet instead of to a review, the short reply effectively displays sympathy while also offering a solution (or at least a genuine attempt to make amends).
Creating a Plan for Responding to Negative Reviews
With templates and examples in hand, it’s time to put your own review response plan into action. Before solidifying your own response methodology, it’s important to keep three things in mind.
Respond in a Timely Manner
Remember the valuable customer reviews data: 53.3% of customers who have written reviews expect a response in seven days or less. Set up review alerts so you are notified of new reviews as they come in to your listing. Also, you definitely don’t want to be manually logging in and out of business review sites — so utilizing a comprehensive review response tool may be useful when handling multiple pieces of feedback.
Remember: the clock begins ticking once reviews are posted, and customers are waiting to hear back from you.
Assign Ownership of the Process
It’s important to identify people in your organization who will be directly involved with responding to bad reviews. This is actually complicated, because reviews live at the intersection of marketing, operations, social media, and customer service. There are plenty of stakeholders at this stage.
Typically speaking, we see that branch or location managers, social media teams, marketing teams, and customer service staff are typically the people who are put in charge of review responses.
Whoever steps up as the head of your review response program should understand the guidelines of each review site, transform the collected feedback into valuable insights for your company, and — perhaps most important of all — display the right tact needed to address complaints and represent the brand well.
Flesh Out a Review Response Policy
If you operate in multiple locations, chances are more than one person will be assigned to respond directly to online reviews. This makes it crucial to have an organization-wide policy that guides how your company should proceed whenever new customer reviews are posted online.
Your policy should cover things like what language and tone you should use, what the timeline is for getting back to customers, with whom the reviews will be shared in your organization, when do escalations become necessary, what the ideal response rate is, and other items that may affect how your company handles reviews.