Negative reviews are an unavoidable part of life, which doesn’t make them suck any less. But the truth is, it is impossible to please everyone all the time even when you are trying your very best. You’re not Nutella.

Bottom line: bad reviews happen to good businesses.

Instead of letting bad reviews plague you, learn to respond to them in a way that will take them from negative to positive. We don’t mean that you will be able to turn your one-star reviews into fives, but there are actually more benefits to bad reviews than meets the eye.

It all starts with learning how to embrace the haters. Ignoring bad reviews is the first mistake many businesses make. We will go over how to handle negative reviews, but first, let’s talk about their benefits. 

Why negative reviews are important for your business 

We all want to be the best at what we do, but try as we may to please everyone, there are always going to be a couple of unhappy campers along the way. 

A glaring one-star review can feel like cause for panic. But don’t start searching for a new career path just yet!

Negative reviews actually lead customers to trust your businesses more than they would if there were no bad reviews. Customers appreciate transparency and when they see negative reviews (in moderation) they get the feeling that your brand is being honest. 

For this same reason, customers are wary of brands or products with only positive reviews. A study done at Northwestern found that shoppers are less likely to purchase a product or service if the average star rating is above 4.5. 

This may seem counterintuitive but think about it, nothing is perfect. So if a brand only has rave reviews, a customer is likely to become suspicious and feel like the reviews are probably too good to be true.

In fact, research shows that customers seek out negative reviews to help them make more informed purchasing decisions. If there are no bad reviews, the customer can’t complete their research. 

By looking at the negative reviews, buyers can determine if they would rather find a business that is a better match for them, avoiding additional unhappy customers; OR if the bad reviews are based on concerns that are irrelevant to them, customers can go ahead with the purchase and feel confident in their choice.

Bad reviews can also help you recognize areas that might need improvement in your business. Listen to what your customers have to say!

How to handle negative reviews

Bad reviews aren’t necessarily a death sentence for your businesses, but responding to negative reviews in the wrong way can make an already sticky situation even worse. 

To avoid additional damage let’s talk about how to respond to negative reviews.

Respond quickly 

The natural response to criticism might be to ignore it and let it blow over. But that is exactly what NOT to do in the case of bad reviews. 

Leaving an angry customer without a response for an extended period of time will definitely add flame to the fire. Responding quickly can help repair your relationship with the customer before your bridges have burned. 

Be authentic

Responses to bad reviews should be as heartfelt as possible. Sending out a generic response that doesn’t actually address the issue probably won’t get you very far and might end up doing more harm than good. 

Instead, the best responses to negative reviews should be authentic. Specifically, address whatever the person wrote about in their review and come up with a relevant response and if possible, a solution.  

Apologize if necessary 

It is not always easy, but it’s better to swallow your pride when responding to bad reviews. Defensive responses can be worse than no response at all. 

Instead, recognize when an apology is necessary, and don’t be afraid to say sorry when you need to. Sometimes it is okay to be the bigger person, especially if you really messed up. 

Be kind

Your response to a negative review could mean the difference between forever losing a customer, or repairing the relationship. Show the customer that you truly value their opinion by responding in a nice way.

A little kindness goes a long way. 

Be thankful 

Remember that negative reviews are helpful when it comes to improving your business. Thank the customer for shedding light on an area that needs work. 

Without feedback, you would have no way of knowing what needs to change and what doesn’t. By thanking your customer as part of your negative feedback response, they will feel validated. 

You also want the customer to know you appreciate their business and want to keep them as a client. 

Respond personally

Sometimes a negative review will warrant a personal message sent to the individual. If you don’t need the general public to witness the entire interaction, commenting on the negative review that you will take it up personally with the angry customer might be in your best interest. Then, you can message the person who left the negative review individually and find the best possible solution to their problem.

Again, make sure to address whatever their concern is directly and do not send out generic responses to all bad reviews.

Respond publicly

By responding publicly, you are showing all your past and potential future customers that you value their opinions and are committed to providing the best possible services. 

When customers see a public response to a bad review, they can be confident that even in the unlikely case that they are unhappy with a purchase, they will receive a response to their problems. 

Ask reviewers to update reviews  

While negative reviews are not all bad, multiple bad reviews can begin to stack up and make your business look bad. One way to combat this is to politely ask your reviewers to update their negative reviews. 

You will need to approach this delicately because you want to make it clear that you truly respect the customer’s experience and are not just chasing 5-star reviews. 

Consider offering either a free or discounted service to help make up for the one that led to the bad review. This offer gives some more legitimacy to your request to update their review after their second experience.

Offer a token of gratitude 

Again, you want to take this opportunity to try and salvage the relationship with the customer. If relevant, perhaps offering either a partial or full refund could be one way to handle a negative review. 

You could also offer a coupon or discount for a future purchase with your business. Hopefully, this token of gratitude will be enough for them to return to your business to take advantage of the gift. 

If they do return, this is another opportunity to provide the customer with a positive experience that will hopefully replace the negative experience in their mind.

Encourage more reviews

Every review counts, but online reviews are also a summary of averages. Meaning, that unless you are looking at individual reviews, you are usually seeing one averaged number. 

So one of the best ways to handle negative reviews is to get more positive ones to balance them out.

The easiest way to make this happen is by reaching out to your best customers directly and asking them to leave you a review if they haven’t already. This might sound like a long shot, but you might be pleasantly surprised. Customers are more willing than you might think to put in a good word for a business they know and love. 

Use software to help 

What if we told you there was a way to proactively prevent negative reviews? Sounds nice, but unrealistic, right? 

Well, there is a way and it boils down to two simple words: internal reviews. 

This is where the software comes in handy. On the vcita platform, you can set up automated review requests to be sent out to clients after they make a purchase. These review requests ask your clients for feedback, all of which is INTERNAL. 

These reviews will not be displayed anywhere publicly, they are to be used to help you improve your services and your client experience. 

But, wait there’s more! The software can also be set up to recognize which clients responded with high reviews on the internal rating system and automatically send them a follow-up email. 

So, every customer that rated say 4-5 stars on the internal review, will then receive another email linking either your social media, or whichever public platform you use, and asking them if they would like to post a public review sharing how much they love your business. 

Remember, the software makes this process fully automated! 

You can also use the vcita software to respond in different situations. For example, anytime you get a one-star review, you can trigger an email campaign to go out to your highest rating customers asking for a public review. This damage control will help balance your average rating.

Be fearless in the eyes of negative reviews

You should have a good damage control system in place to help prepare your business for any crisis, one of which is bad reviews. Once you know how to respond to negative reviews, they become less scary. 

Another part of handling bad reviews is about taking preemptive steps to balance the inevitable. After all, the best defense is a good offense!