3 Steps to Writing a Courteous Response to a Negative Review

by / Wednesday, 21 May 2014 / Published in Productive Business Tips

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Business owners are not always going to get positive reviews, no matter how hard they try to put client satisfaction first. Sometimes, you will make a mistake that makes your customer unhappy, and other times you will simply get a client that is impossible to please. Either way, should they take the impetus to write a review trashing your business, it’s on you to go into damage control mode and take ownership of your online reputation. An important thing to note when you are responding to provocative comments on the internet is that escalation is almost always a bad idea. Depending on the site where the review was posted, the complaint may be anonymous, or it could be coming from a user with a limited profile. Either way, the person who wrote the complaint is able to be belligerent with little to no personal risk, while your business can be held perpetually accountable for the way that you respond. Here are three steps that can help you create a response to a negative review that can improve your image and your relationship to the aggrieved customer, if possible.

Step one: Identify what is the grounds for their complaint and if it is founded in reality. Don’t just dismiss negative feedback. If your customer has a legitimate complaint about you, you will not look good responding in a dismissive manner. Talk to your staff and figure out what really happened before you attempt to make a response. It may be the case that you find out that the client was acting out of line, and that their complaint is simply an immature reaction to not getting their way. Even in this case, it’s important to respond in a clear and even way without becoming aggressive yourself. Even if you are morally in the right to snap, your other customers will see this and it has the potential to make them uncomfortable, especially if they still sympathize with the offended party for whatever reason. It’s just not worth it to lose your cool.

Step two: Present your interpretation of what happened in as clear a way as possible as well as why you took whatever actions that you did. Remember that trying to actively provoke someone over the internet essentially has no chance of changing anything for the better, yet a very good chance of making you and your business look foolish. Offer your rational explanation for the actions that you took for each offending article. While you are trying to explain to your customer what went wrong, you should be aware that your explanation is valuable also for showing other customers who read the review exactly what happened in your eyes in order to reassure them of the real nature of your business.

Step three: Close with an offer to reconcile. Diplomacy is not alien to the business world, and in fact, some of the best business advice can come straight from the mouths of statesmen. The diplomatic way to end almost every rebuttal (except in the cases where it is obvious that there is no way to smooth things over) is to offer further discussion and explanation to the offended party. Furthermore, ending your recounting of events with a sincere invitation for levelheaded discourse demonstrates to third parties that you are willing to make an effort to meet the needs of even a very difficult client.

Photo Credit to Vancouver Film School on Flickr

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