How to Respond to Negative Reviews of Your Local Business

Marketing | Business

Reading time: 5 minutes

The good, the bad, and the nasty. Online reviews are great when they’re glowing, but when they take a negative turn, not so much. Too much bad feedback will damage your small business reputation and ding your local SEO rankings.  

But negative reviews don’t necessarily need to leave permanent black marks on your business reputation. In fact, a savvy response can help you patch up valuable customer relationships and generate trust with prospects reading the reviews.

Why You Can’t Afford to Ignore Bad Online Reviews

Consumers read about 7 online reviews before trusting a business, according to BrightLocal’s 2017 Consumer Survey. Make it as easy as possible for them to build up that trust before they click over to a competitor--and addressing bad reviews helps you do that.

Reviews online also factor into search results. They’re among the top 5 factors that determine if a business appears in the local SEO pack, or that set of 3-5 businesses that appears at the top of a page one search listing. The more positive reviews you earn, the more relevant your business looks to search engines working to give consumers the answers they want.

Tips to Respond to Bad Online Reviews

Acknowledge you’ve heard the complaint.

Show the customer and people reading the review that you’re a responsive local business focused on client care.  Good responses to negative reviews might read: I’m sorry our work didn’t meet your expectations. I’ll contact you directly later today to discuss your concerns.

This also takes the discussion out of the public space, where, if tempers flare, the interaction doesn’t become part of your permanent online reputation.

Mind your manners.

Most people are reasonable and want the best for their home, family, or money. But let’s face it, some folks are less than pleasant. No matter how inconsiderate or rude a customer’s review seems, always maintain a professional tone online because your reply will stay there for future prospects to review. Avoid name-calling or typing in all caps (the written equivalent of shouting).

When in doubt, grab a second opinion on your response before posting to make sure it doesn’t come across as unintentionally snarky or rude.

If a consumer’s review goes over the top by using hate speech or language that’s lewd or threatening, you may be able to report the review for violating the site’s community standards (like these on Facebook and Yelp).

Look for patterns.

As a busy small business owner or manager, you might no longer have time for hands-on quality control like you did when the company was smaller. So, online reviews can be the first indication there’s an issue with the company’s product or process.

Look into recurring issues that pop up in customers’ online reviews. Fixing those problems will help minimize or avoid repeat complaints down the road, helping you strengthen your reputation as a responsive, reliable company.

Create a client-first company culture.  

The customer’s experience is woven into every touchpoint with your brand. One of the single best strategies for preventing bad reviews is to build a culture driven to provide stellar service, before, during, and after the sale.

Ask satisfied customers to write online reviews.

The more good ratings and high-satisfaction reviews your business is attached to, the harder it is for one or two bad reviews to damage your online reputation.

Be proactive--offset negative reviews by asking satisfied customers to post their unbiased comments on sites like Angie’s List, Facebook, or Yelp. Create a process for the request that makes sense for your company, whether that’s attaching a note asking for a review to the final invoice or sending automated emails that go out when the job’s completed.

Managing online feedback matters when you’re marketing a local business, whether it’s a kids karate studio or a luxury real estate agency--and learning how to respond to negative reviews is part of that strategy.