Receiving a bad review online won’t ruin a business’s reputation. How one responds, however, very well could.

Consumers are using online reviews more than ever to guide to their purchases. Nearly 85 percent of consumers say they use reviews when shopping at local business and read up to six reviews per business (2013 Local Consumer Review Survey). Thus, when a business owner is responding to a negative review, they aren’t just communicating with the person complaining — they’re communicating with hundreds of potential customers seeking them out online.

So, when responding to negative reviews online, don’t follow the example of Todd Pedersen at Blue Sky Hostel in Glasgow:

Suffice to say, Pedersen’s antics went viral.

After calling his former guests “retards,” Pedersen commented on the reviewer’s weight in a Facebook thread that saw nearly 2,500 comments and 1,400 likes. Facebook users came to the defense of the reviewer, Lou Taylor, penning damning reviews of the hostel and skewered Pedersen with barbs of their own. Memes even cropped up mocking Pedersen’s poor customer service.

Instead, try something along these lines. This review comes from a restaurant in the United States. The customer complained about an elastic band making its way into their food:

5 Tips for Responding to Negative Reviews

Take Time To Respond: Think of online reviews as a digital extension of a business’s physical location. An owner wouldn’t ignore a customer that brings feedback into their store, would they? Taking the time to respond to reviews is an easy way to let customers be heard and for the business to let them know their feedback is appreciated.

Be Kind and Genuine: There’s no need for sarcasm or a self-righteous tone. Potential customers will be reading this, so a business can’t come across as anything other than professional and considerate. Reviews can lead to likes and shares across social networks, so a business needs to put its best foot forward. No one wants to go viral for the wrong reasons.

Be Specific: Addressing the precise concerns of a reviewer makes you look human, and not like some robot or templated response. If a business hones in on a customer’s needs, it’ll go a long way to rectify why a negative review was posted in the first place.

Remember that feedback and criticism can be helpful: Being cagey and defensive online won’t get a business anywhere. If a mistake has been made, best own up to it and use that insight going forward. Businesses are always looking for ways to understand the customer experience, and there’s no better way than a review.

Offer to take the conversation offline: If the reviewer seems notably bothered by their experience, it’s best to take it offline. Letting an extensive argument play out all over your review page is not good for a business’s image and can lead to a messy situation. Within the first response, direct the customer to a phone number or private means of contact to help remedy the situation. This communicates to the reviewer that their situation will be attended to, while also demonstrating to your online audience that you value them.

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Each situation is unique and should be approached that way, but these five tips can be applied across nearly all verticals and situations. Maintaining your online reputation is not always easy, but it is essential.

As the co-founder and VP of marketing at Vendasta Technologies, Jeff Tomlin is a visionary in the quickly changing world of digital. Jeff sees the landscape evolving and identifies creative and proactive solutions through product development and market research. In 1998, when the gravity of the Internet was just beginning to be felt, Jeff founded a career site where he managed design, writing, SEO and everything marketing. This is indicative of the path he took for years after — always discovering, always pioneering. At Vendasta, Jeff works with media companies to help better the small and medium businesses they serve. Jeff and the team work to grow revenue with digital media solutions, strengthen traditional media assets and develop digital sales strategies. 

About Jeff Tomlin

Jeff Tomlin is the Vice President of Marketing at VendAsta, a company that serves over 350 media organizations, including IYP, newspaper, radio, TV, CMRs, digital agencies and SEO/SEM providers.



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